The nostalgic sitcoms of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s were a consummate mix of family-oriented comedy and drama. These classics, including TGIF shows like Full House and Home Improvement, as well as other popular sitcoms like Friends and Saved by the Bell caught the attention of many viewers, and continue to stay fan favorites.
But what was it actually like to work on these popular nostalgic sitcoms? Actors' firsthand accounts of their time on-set are truly eye-opening. Vote up the ones you find most insightful.
Patricia Richardson busted on to the scene when she scored the role of Jill Taylor on ABC's Home Improvement. The popular sitcom ran from 1991-1999, and throughout that time, Richardson's real life changed as she gave birth to twins. Although she felt body-shamed from the tabloids and public because of her changed looks, she remembers it was quite the opposite on the set.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Richardson recalled how she was allowed to be herself by the producers:
This [was] my first experience with tabloids. Oh man, did I have an education there. They said, for instance, that the producers made me keep the weight on, and I was just like, "How are they making me keep the weight on? Do they come to my house and force feed me?" What was great was that the producers [said] "We don't care." I was like, "I am working hard to try to lose the weight," and they were like, "[L]ook like whatever you like; you look real."
- Photo: NBC
Premiering in 1991, then 15-year-old Mayim Bialik played Blossom Russo on teen sitcom Blossom. It centered around Blossom and her life, and for the time was groundbreaking because it focused on a female lead. Bialik remembers feeling secure on the set, as she got along well with the cast and crew. As she explained in an interview with ABC:
It was a safe environment to grow up in. We were each other's social group. We were each other's junior high and high school. It was very positive experience and I’m grateful for a clean set where we didn’t see drugs and alcohol and grew up as normally as we could.
- Photo: Nickelodeon
Melissa Joan Hart was just 15 when she starred as Clarissa in the teen sitcom Clarissa Explains It All. On-screen, Hart's character is a young teenager making her way in the world, and off-screen Hart was doing the same.
She looked back on her time filming the show with The Ringer, saying how connected she felt to her role:
...I don’t take a project unless I know I’m going to be proud of it. With Clarissa, it was interesting because I was the same age as Clarissa. As she was growing up, I was growing up. And we did have a lot of the same temperament, a lot of the same no-nonsense attitude. If a boy can do it, I can do it. I wasn’t as tech savvy. I did learn a lot from her. And vice versa. I put a lot of me into the character.
- Photo: Fox
Malcolm in the Middle followed gifted teenager Malcolm as he dealt with his crazy, dysfunctional family. A 13-year-old Frankie Muniz scored the part of Malcolm, and remembers it being his "lucky forever after."
Years after the show ended, Muniz discussed his love for the show with Simon Bland from Independent:
I never thought of [being the lead] as pressure. That’s a good factor of being a child actor: children are fearless. You’re just happy to show up and do it. I was excited to be there. I’d go through things with Linwood [Boomer, the show's creator]. I don’t want to say I just said the words - but the writing was good; I didn’t have to do much, I just had to remember the lines and it worked.
After the show aired its last episode on May 5, 2000, Boy Meets World star Ben Savage reflected on his time on the family sitcom. In a 2021 interview with US Weekly, he discussed how much he loved the show:
That was a tough scene for us to film because, in a way, that was someone closing the door on our childhood, and it signified a lot. It was very emotional for all of us. I had spent seven years on the series. I’ve been working on it since I was 11, and so when [Mr. Feeny] said, "Class dismissed," it signified a lot.
I knew as soon as they wrapped that day, a few months later, I was off in college at Stanford, and it really signified the end of your childhood. I think those tears that you see from a lot of the cast members were very genuine. I don’t remember the table read as much as I completely could stage and lay out, exactly in detail, the last night, and how we were all acting and where we were all standing.
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On-screen, Danica McKellar was America's sweetheart as she portrayed Winnie Cooper on the hit sitcom The Wonder Years. Just a teen at the time, McKellar remembers being focused on school and her family, completely unaware of how the world felt about her. In an interview with Closer Weekly, she reflected on her time on the show:
It was a really great experience. It’s funny, I didn’t have any perspective on what my character was when I was doing it because I was so focused on school, and my parents always emphasized education and health and family above Hollywood, which is why I never went to Hollywood parties or did any of that crazy stuff.
I remember someone told me on set, "Did you know you’re America’s sweetheart?" And I was like, "What? Huh? What are you talking about?" No perspective at all. Years later, people say, "Oh my gosh! Winnie Cooper broke so many hearts."