From the late 1980s to the end of the 1990s, ABC ruled Friday nights with its TGIF programming block made up mainly of sitcoms. Shows like Full House, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Family Matters drew in big audiences, made breakout stars of at least some of the cast members, and stayed on the air for years.
But not every show in the TGIF lineup became a hit, no matter how hard ABC might have promoted it, what type of gimmick the show tried to use to hook viewers, or how many different time slots it inhabited in an attempt to get better ratings. Comedies about a teenager-turned-guardian-angel, a talking baby, a time-traveling TV "family," an updated version of I Dream of Jeannie with a gender twist, and a mismatched pair of grown brothers forced to live together were just some of the sitcoms that had "blink and you'll miss it"-length runs as part of ABC's TGIF schedule.
Which of these old ABC shows do you remember watching on Friday nights some 20+ years ago?
What Was The Setup?: A teenager named Marty loses his life after eating a months-old burger on a dare and becomes a guardian angel to his best friend, Steve. Marty has a mentor in the shape of a disembodied head named Rod, who identifies himself as God's cousin and often talks directly to the audience. Maureen McCormick (of Brady Bunch fame) was cast as Steve's mom, but left the series about midway through its run.
How Long Did It Last?: One season, 17 episodes
Why Did It Fail?: Teen Angel was one of several series in the '80s and '90s with angels as main characters, and the concept was starting to wear thin. Although ABC tried to capitalize on the show's fantasy elements by pairing it with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, few viewers tuned in.
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- Actors: Tim Curry, Maureen McCormick, Conchata Ferrell, Yeardley Smith, Ron Glass
- Premiered: 1997
What Was The Setup?: Two of a Kind was an attempt to capitalize on the mega-popularity of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the twins who became stars on Full House. The last show produced by TGIF denizens Miller-Boyett Productions, it focused on a widowed college professor trying to raise his 12-year-old identical twin daughters with opposing personalities with the help of a quirky babysitter who the twins thought could be the perfect girlfriend for their dad.
How Long Did It Last?: One season, 22 episodes. However, it had a long life in syndication, both in the United States and overseas. It also spawned a popular preteen book series, with around 40 individual books being written.
Why Did It Fail?: While the series premiere had very good ratings, the numbers dropped off quickly. Evidently, the preteen Olsen twins were not as appealing to a television audience as they had been when they were babies. The show's failure barely put a dent in the Olsens' burgeoning media empire, as they embarked on a series of direct-to-video films in the late '90s and early 2000s.
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- Actors: Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Christopher Sieber, Orlando Brown, Sally Wheeler
- Premiered: 1998
What Was The Setup?: The idea behind Muppets Tonight was to make an updated version of The Muppet Show, which had been a hit in the 1970s. Kermit and his friends are offered a spot on ABC's TGIF lineup if they can quickly come up with a variety show. But while The Muppet Show is set in a theater, Muppets Tonight takes place at a television studio.
How Long Did It Last?: One season, 10 episodes (it moved to the Disney Channel for a second season)
Why Did It Fail?: Instead of focusing on established characters like Kermit, Fozzie Bear, and Miss Piggy, Muppets Tonight introduced a bunch of new ones like Clifford, who filled Kermit's role as host for the variety show, and Pepe the King Prawn. But these new Muppets didn't have the same appeal for viewers, as shown by the low ratings. Some of the show's problems may also have been tied to the fact the Muppet franchise had not yet recovered from the loss of Jim Henson (who passed in 1990).
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- Actors: Dave Goelz, Kevin Clash, Brian Henson
- Premiered: 1996
What Was The Setup?: An attempted modern twist on the hit 1960s show I Dream of Jeannie, but in this case the genie is male, while the reluctant "master" is a single mom.
How Long Did It Last?: One season, 13 episodes
Why Did It Fail?: This was another attempt by ABC to find a show with fantasy/magical elements that could duplicate the success of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The producers tried to boost ratings by coming up with a crossover episode involving both Sabrina and Boy Meets World, but even that failed to draw viewers. It was the last episode that aired before You Wish went on a six-month hiatus. The poorly reviewed show was finally canceled in the summer of 1998.
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- Actors: John Rhys-Davies, Harley Jane Kozak, Jerry Van Dyke, Alex McKenna, Nathan Lawrence
- Premiered: 1997