It’s a debate that’s lasted since the dawn of time...well, at least since the late ‘90s. “What is the definitive TGIF series?” The original run of the Friday night block known as ABC’s TGIF ran from Sept. 22, 1989 to Sept. 8, 2000. Thirty different series premiered during the time, and those series are all in contention on this list.
There was a second attempted run at TGIF from 2003-2005, with shows like "George Lopez," "Life with Bonnie" and "Hope & Faith." And since this past 2018-2019 television season, there’s been a third run — including (the since-canceled) "Speechless" and "Fresh Off the Boat." In fact, on the debut night of this third run, the "Speechless" and "Fresh Off the Boat" season premieres both featured Ben Savage and Jaleel White, respectively. "Speechless’" season premiere even featured a very ‘80s sitcom era opening credits sequence (as the fake series "Living Under One Roof," with theme sung by Cedric Yarbrough and Minnie Driver), while "Fresh Off the Boat’s" opening credits sequence cribbed off "Full House."
But returning to the definitive era of TGIF, it’s worth noting that this isn’t necessarily a list based on which was the best series. It's more like which show most captured the feeling of TGIF and which show comes to mind first when you think of TGIF? It’s probably not "Aliens in the Family," you know? And there’s also the point of taking into account that some TGIF shows ultimately changed nights or changed networks altogether. It’s definitely not an easy science to work through.
When you think of "Making the Band," you probably think of at least one of five things: Diddy, Fonzworth Bentley, the "Chappelle Show" sketch, the bit where Da Band have to walk over 12 miles to Brooklyn to get Diddy a slice of Junior’s Cheesecake and Danity Kane..that is, unless you were one of the few million to watch the original "Making the Band" with O-Town. (And if you remember that, you might remember how that first season kept having them rehearse and sing their song “All For Love”...only for the infamous “Liquid Dreams” to be their debut single.) While there were two more seasons of this original iteration of "Making the Band," only the first season aired on ABC — as the only non-sitcom to air on TGIF, which was honestly a big deal — before the series (and its further iterations) moved to MTV. Not only is "Making the Band" not even close to synonymous with TGIF, but it’s barely even synonymous with O-Town anymore.
A series with a manchild complex (Matthew Perry’s Matt Bailey)? Check. A somewhat depressing premise (recently divorced sister needs to start over with her two kids)? Check. Of course it was a failed TGIF series. But it was also not originally or even technically a TGIF series: It was a Wednesday show that aired between "The Wonder Years" and "Home Improvement" before being pulled off the air after five low-rated episodes. It was actually then canceled at Upfronts in May (it premiered in March), but at the end of May, it was decided to burn off the series on TGIF. So it counts!
This was an odd couple-type sitcom, with Phyllis Yvonne Stickney and Sheryl Lee Ralph as sisters (one more outgoing than the other, more conservative one, of course) and business partners at their beauty shop, New Attitude. The series also starred Morris Day (yes, of The Time) and Larenz Tate. There's really not much more to say about the show, other than the fact that only six episodes aired.
It’s truly disturbing how depressing most of the premises for TGIF series were. Especially since, besides "Full House," these depressing premise-based series all failed. Here, in getting by: “The show was about two best friends and single mothers, one white and one black, who decide to split the mortgage on a new home in suburban Oak Park, Illinois, and live there with both their families. The women, widowed Dolores Dixon (Telma Hopkins) and Cathy Hale (Cindy Williams), whose husband ran off with another woman, were also co-workers, as they were employed as social workers for the Chicago Department of Social Services.” Social Services is the stuff of comedy gold, no? The second season saw "Getting By" move to NBC— and paired with "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" — as ABC wanted to move the series to Saturday (along with the other “black series,” "Where I Live") to make room on the TGIF line-up for "Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper" and a new series called "Boy Meets World" and Miller-Boyett knew (based on what had happened to "Perfect Strangers") that moving the show to Saturday would only kill it. However, paired with "Saved by the Bell: The College Years," the tanking ratings led to NBC moving the series to Saturday. Whoops.
"Billy" was a spin-off of "Head of the Class," specifically Billy Connolly’s (or as he is known now, Sir William Connolly) character Billy. In the series, Billy entered into a green card marriage with a single mother (with one of the children played by Johnny Galecki), and well: “The series follows Billy's misadventures as he adjusts to life in California while staying one step ahead of immigration officials seeking to prove his marriage is a sham.” The series also only lasted two months on TGIF, before moving to Saturday night to close out the 13-episode season.
Created by Andy and Susan Borowitz — better known as the creators of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" — "Aliens in the Family"lasted only two weeks before it was pulled from the TGIF (and ABC, in general) lineup. Eight episodes were produced, and ABC eventually aired the other six that summer on the Saturday morning block, which at least made sense, as the series was arguably far younger-skewing than other TGIF series. What was it about? “The show was about single dad Doug Brody (John Bedford Lloyd), who is abducted by single alien mom Cookie (Margaret Trigg). The two fall in love, get married and try to live a normal life on Earth as a mixed family.” The aliens — of which one was named “Adam Brody”...played by Chris Marquette — were puppets designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which is cool but doesn’t exactly promise a good show. These days, the series is best known at all for this insane clip of James Van Der Beek guest starring…which honestly looks like the kind of thing that would have been a bit on "Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23." (Seriously — how did this even make it on the air?)
See, when it comes to TGIF, you really only remember the winners, don’t you? Because there were clearly a lot of duds. And the thing about the duds is that, given the series that succeeded on TGIF, it honestly makes no sense why these completely atonal ones were even put in the lineup in the first place. "Hi Honey, I’m Home!" was honestly a bizarre series that was possibly ahead of its time but also clearly not suitable for TGIF. The premise: “The Nielsens (named after the Nielsen ratings) are a family of fictional characters from a 1950s sitcom that has been canceled; they have been relocated to a real world New Jersey suburb in 1991, which is different from the world they know. They use a device called a Turnerizer (named after Ted Turner) to switch between color and black-and-white within their home. Mike Duff, the teenage son of the family next door, is the only real-world person who knows their secret.” Yeah. Yeah. The series lasted only six episodes on ABC — episodes which would air on Nick at Nite the subsequent Sunday, as the series was produced by Nickelodeon — before being canceled. The seven episodes after that (which made up the second season) only aired on Nick at Nite.
Did "The Hughleys" leave a large pop-cultural imprint on ABC outside of the promos for the series where people wondered how to pronounce “Hughley?" Sure: There was the "Beverly Hillbillies"-inspired promo, after all. But it only aired on TGIF during its second season, which was also the last season of TGIF altogether.
You most likely remember the "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" “Time Ball” TGIF crossover stunt, which allowed Salem the cat to travel to the rest of the shows on the lineup — specifically, time travel, so each episode took place in a different era than usual for the series. But while you may remember that part of "Sabrina" and "Boy Meets World," you’d probably be surprised to remember that the other two series that were part of this TGIF event were one-and-doners: "Teen Angel" and (even more surprising) "You Wish." Created by "Boy Meets World" creator Michael Jacobs, "You Wish" was — like "Teen Angel" — supposed to capitalize on the success of "Sabrina," as another supernatural-themed television show. The series was ABC’s attempt at a modern "I Dream of Jeannie," this time with a male genie and serving a single-parent household. Only seven episodes aired before cancellation—with the seventh episode being the "Sabrina" crossover, and "Sabrina" reruns filling its spot in the lineup—but the rest of the 13-episode season aired six months later, burned off on TGIF once "Teen Angel" was also canceled.
Twenty-three episodes aired of this, a sitcom in which a “bad boy” football player is contractually forced to live with his responsible brother (and brother’s young son) upon signing with the San Francisco 49ers. Seriously, even as late as 1998, anything could be a TV show. Even a show that seemingly exists in a world that suggests the NFL cares enough about bad behavior from a player — the kicker, of all players — to forcibly make him live with a responsible adult. Honestly, what this premise says is that this adult man needed a caretaker, but that’s not as funny.
Talk about an all-star TGIF cast: Alan Ruck, Jerry Levine, Heather Locklear, Holland Taylor, Staci Keanan (of both "My Two Dads" and TGIF’s "Step by Step" fame). Another Miller-Boyett production, with "Going Places," the 1990-1991 TV season saw all four shows (instead of “just” three) in the TGIF lineup come from the production juggernaut ("Full House," "Family Matters," "Perfect Strangers" and then "Going Places"). The series’ original premise was about four young writers who worked on a prank show called "Here’s Looking at You," with Ruck and Levine as brothers who move to Los Angeles to write for the show. And then came the retooling in episode 13 and from then on, even younger characters continued to be added to the cast. (Taylor left the series at this point, and the show-within-a-show was canceled in favor of the brothers working for a talk show.) The decision to focus more on younger characters seemingly worked for a time, with the ratings increasing. But when the series was on hiatus, and it seemed like it would be moved to the more family-friendly 8 p.m. time slot and one of the TGIF staples would move to another night to make room for it, come Upfronts, while "Full House" moved to Tuesday, "Going Places" didn’t get its new spot in the TGIF lineup because ABC decided to double down on "Baby Talk," as its ratings were extremely impressive.
The Smollett siblings (which, of course, includes Jussie and Jurnee) starred in this series that essentially boiled down to “"Party of Five"… but funny? And with the oldest sibling dressing in drag to become the other kids' guardian and keep them out of foster care?” Hilarious premise, right? (Oddly enough, both series premiered within a day of each other, with the "Party of Five" series premiere occurring that Thursday.) Produced by Miller-Boyett — which you should know for producing "Happy Days," "Mork & Mindy," "Laverne & Shirley" and "Bosom Buddies," in addition to TGIF staples — the series went through a retooling after the first 13 episodes of the season, but the changes to it (including stopping the drag charade altogether and simply giving oldest sibling custody) did nothing to help ratings.
One of two Erik von Detten-led series in the history of TGIF, "Odd Man Out" is the one that took place during the original iteration of TGIF, specifically, during the dying breath of TGIF. ABC truly banked on "Odd Man Out" to be a hit and a shot in the arm for TGIF, with von Detten’s heartthrob status (with promos of teenage girls screaming “EVD!”) to drive the series. Only, the promos of girls screaming “EVD!” never explained the series' premise — von Detten as the only guy living in a house of girls — and it wasn’t until a few weeks before the premiere that it even revealed the title of the series (which was, of course, not EVD). After the 13 episodes aired, the series was canceled and "Making the Band" took over its time slot. "Odd Man Out" basically killed TGIF, as the last new sitcom to debut in the original TGIF format. The only reason "Making the Band" is on the bottom instead of this, the TGIF killer, is because at least this was a sitcom. And unlike "Home Free," it was intended to be on TGIF. And unlike "New Attitude," at least one person remembers it. And really, it did define just how desperate ABC was by that point to save TGIF.
Starring Doug E. Doug — and based on his own childhood — this Michael Jacobs co-created series, followed Doug as Douglas St. Martin, a teenager living in Harlem with his parents and younger sister. The rare TGIF failure on this list that was at least critically acclaimed, "Where I Live" got two seasons (13 episodes in the first, and eight in the second…in which only three aired), but only the first was part of TGIF. The second seemed to occur only because Bill Cosby — who went on to become a consultant on the series — rallied fans to help it get renewed, so you know, that’s kind of tainted. But part of the acclaim for "Where I Live" was based on its realism, which isn’t exactly the kind of thing that works in a lineup where schmaltz is king.
Amy Heckerling originally meant for "Clueless" to be a TV series (on FOX), but instead it became a film…and that paved the way for this TV version. Hot take: "Clueless" the TV series was actually really good and surprisingly smart and funny. And while Alicia Silverstone was iconic as Cher Horowitz, Rachel Blanchard honestly had more range. These are just facts. But another fact is that "Clueless" didn’t get “really good” until after the first season when Amy Heckerling was no longer creatively involved and the series was on UPN, having been canceled after said first season. Funnily enough, pretty much immediately after cancellation, the series actually succeeded in ratings during reruns on TGIF. Apparently, the only series at the time with higher ratings in the lineup was "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." (And yes, "Clueless" had a Sabrina Spellman cameo.) But it was already too late to undo what had been done. So as good as "Clueless" was, it was never truly synonymous with TGIF. It was just another show that died unnecessarily and went to UPN.
Another one-and-done series with a ridiculously stacked cast of Jerry O'Connell, Tina Majorino, Jay Mohr (who ended up playing the breakout character), Hilary Swank, Jared Leto, as well as "Baby Talk’s" Mary Page Keller. What could possibly have gone wrong? “Ricky Wilder (Keller) is a 28-year-old nurse and single mother, raising her family in her childhood home after her parents' deaths. Ricky's only actual child was her 6-year-old daughter, Sophie (Majorino), but she was also the principal guardian to her teenage siblings, 16-year-old Brody (O'Connell) and 13-year-old Melissa (Meghann Haldeman). From the time their parents died, Ricky understood that she couldn't change out of her persona as the "cool, approachable" older sister and mixed parenting tactics in with the setting of a casual, laissez-faire household. In fact, the atmosphere in the Wilder house was so laid-back that many of Brody and Melissa's friends sought it as a refuge from the stricter, more confining homes run by their traditional parents.” Oh. So ABC did “funny "Party of Five” twice, only this version (which came before "On Our Own") also threw in neighborhood kids into the sad family life.
Another attempt from ABC to do a new twist on "The Muppet Show." You’d think they’d learn, with each try— as this only lasted from March 8, 1996 to July 14, 1996 on ABC — but nope. This iteration took place at a television studio instead of a theater, with muppet Clifford as the host of a variety/talk show called KMUP. This series was most notable for introducing current Muppets staples like Pepe the King Prawn, Bob the Bear, as Big Mean Carl, as well as the “Phenomena” sketch , a play on the original “Mah Na Mah Na” bit. (That sketch is in the Sandra Bullock episode, which has an entire plot thread — "Speed"-inspired, but still, extremely ill-advised — about a bomb going off in the studio if the ratings dip below 50.) It (alongside "Aliens in the Family") was also notable for Jaleel White of "Family Matters" criticizing its presence on the TGIF lineup, turning the perceptions of the Friday night sensation from a popular family night to seemingly kids’ programming.
There are two Amy Heckerling-based projects on this list, and this is the one with Heckerling further away from the creative process (save for creating the show's characters) “loosely based” on "Look Who’s Talking" (which she had written and directed). "Baby Talk" got two seasons out of simply just being a television version of that very film — and definitely not anything akin to critical acclaim, though the ratings were great — with only the names slightly changed (Mollie became Maggie; baby Mikey became baby Mickey). In fact, the series was simply going to be a "Look Who’s Talking" television adaptation (title and all), until the release of "Look Who’s Talking Too" called for the separation of church and state (well, television show promotion and film promotion). But "Baby Talk" had something "Look Who’s Talking" didn’t have: young George Clooney. Then it had Scott Baio in its second season, which was the last.
Anyone familiar with "Two of a Kind" might be surprised to realize that not only did it last just one season, but it also originally aired on ABC, not on FOX Family/ABC Family. (The reruns started airing on FOX Family/ABC Family just a few months after the series cancellation.) But yeah, "Two of a Kind" was a TGIF series — an attempt for ABC to create a "Full House" follow-up for the Olsen twins, as evidenced by the “Boy, when we were little, 'full house' beat everything” line regularly implemented in the original promo for the series. But "Two of a Kind" didn’t just air near the beginning of the end for TGIF; it was also the last series to be produced by Miller-Boyett.
A series remembered more for its insane premise — on a dare, a kid dies from eating a six-month-old hamburger from underneath his friend’s bed and then comes back from the dead as said friend’s guardian angel — than anything else, "Teen Angel," like "You Wish," was created as a way to capitalize on the success of “supernatural” TGIF sitcom "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." Only one season, 17 episodes, and honestly, despite existing as a result of "Sabrina’s" success, the series felt like it was of a different, older era. Fun fact: Jerry Van Dyke played the series grandpa on both this and "You Wish." Did anyone really care when it came to these series? Of course not: Again, literally anything could be a TV show at this point in time. This is what this list has proved.
Only the first two seasons of "Sister, Sister" aired on ABC (with the first being part of TGIF), before it was canceled and picked up by The WB. That is kind of surprising, even though "Sister, Sister" clearly ended up being more of a WB show: At the very least, it always seemed like the first part of the series (kind of like "Sabrina") took place on ABC, while the last (when they got boyfriends) were WB. But that’s not the case, which is why what originally seemed like a show that could get close to the top five is now closing out the top 10.
TGIF surprisingly had only a few spinoffs in its ranks: "Family Matters" (a spinoff of "Perfect Strangers"), "Billy" (a spinoff of "Head of the Class"), and "Just the Ten of Us" (a "Growing Pains" spinoff). In case you forgot, "Just the Ten of Us" spun off an integral "Growing Pains" character: Mike’s high school gym teacher. I mean, at least "The Goldbergs" truly established its gym teacher before it spun him off for "Schooled" (and did the same for the other characters it spun off), which you would imagine would be the bare minimum. But apparently not. The establishing of Coach Lubbock (outside of previous scenes here and there) was in the backdoor pilot during an episode of "Growing Pains," where Mike led a protest after learning Lubbock couldn’t support his large Catholic family due to budget cuts. Lubbock lost his job but was offered a new one, and that was the premise of "Just the Ten of Us." Three seasons. While still a ridiculous basis for a spinoff, unlike a lot of the series on this list, this at least actually fit the vibe and tone of TGIF, even in the brand’s early years.
What’s your favorite version of the "Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper" theme song? The cool R&B version (with En Vogue!), the “Soul Man” version or the poppy "follow the bouncing ball" version? All three are honestly awesome, so it’s understandable if you can’t decide or have any version stuck in your head at any random moment. Michelle Tanner and Uncle Jesse even showed up on the series, because you might as well have not even been a real TGIF show if you didn’t have a universe-breaking crossover cameo. Easy to forget, but "Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper" honestly lasted five seasons; 101 episodes.
This is the rare example of a series so far out of left field for TGIF and what was expected that it was actually good. No other series in this lineup aimed as high as "Dinosaurs" did and actually succeeded. “A family sitcom…but the family is dinosaurs.” could have easily been one of the many one-and-dones on this list, but instead, the series ended up genuinely having something to say (as reminded by the infamous series finale). "Dinosaurs" may not have had the “look” of a classic TGIF series, but it was one, through and through.
Once the TGIF brand became the “TGIF brand,” "Perfect Strangers" kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. It skewed much older than the rest of the block, after all. But not only did it help originate the TGIF block — moving from its Wednesday night slot to Friday midway through the third season, as a lead-in to "Full House" — but its very existence and then its ending in 1993 ultimately paved the way for the truly definitive TGIF series. And for that, we should all do the “Dance of Joy."
"Step by Step" is definitely one of those sitcoms you might think only you watched, but no — it was a big deal on TGIF. (Unlike "Going Places" the season before, which starred two "Step by Step" cast members, Staci Keanan and Christopher Castile.) There were 160 episodes of "Step by Step," a series that essentially boiled down to “‘edgy ‘90s sitcom "The Brady Bunch.” (Not “The Brady Bunch"…but in the ‘90s” because that already existed in the form of "The Brady Bunch Movie" and "A Very Brady Sequel.") In 1997, ABC made a deal where it sold two of its TGIF shows to CBS (which was attempting to make its own younger-skewed block). You might remember that "Family Matters" was one, but "Step by Step" was the other. And like "Family Matters," it only lasted one season in the move.
It’s not until you go back and really look that you’re able to see just how ingrained in the TGIF world "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" was. First of all, Melissa Joan Hart cameoed in other TGIF series as Sabrina Spellman despite most of these series not being supernatural-based at all. As previously mentioned, TGIF tried to recapture lightning in a bottle with other supernatural sitcoms, based on "Sabrina’s" success, and it failed. Melissa Joan Hart does not get enough credit for her talent as a lead despite having a career of headlining three different successful sitcoms throughout her career and life. It’s also interesting to note that when "Sabrina" ended on ABC (in the fourth season finale), it was already known that it would be going to The WB — and the final ABC episode was billed as “ABC’s series finale.” The end of an era for sure, and it goes without saying that the TGIF years were the best of the series’ life.
When you really think about it, "Full Hous"e was the original “funny '"Party of Five.'” Only, the Tanners didn’t lose both of their parents; they just gained a "funny" “uncle” and John Stamos (who even showed up on "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" at one point alongside the Olsen twins, as their "Full House" characters). One might think that because "Full House" gained a second life with Netflix’s "Fuller House," that should seal the deal on being the definitive TGIF series. But it’s perhaps more fitting that "Full House" was the definitive ABC family sitcom, as it didn’t always air on TGIF. It was just as much a Tuesday show as it was a Friday show.
In a lot of ways, TGIF is the house that Urkel built. He appeared in the second episode ever of "Step by Step" (and then had a quick cameo in a later episode), as he was launched by a rocket pack from the Winslow house, only to immediately land in the Foster-Lambert house. ("Family Matters" was "Step by Step’s" lead-in.) He appeared in an episode of "Full House," helping Stephanie get over her anxiety about getting glasses. Without even leaving "Family Matters," he apparently sent a chain letter to "Boy Meets World’s" Cory Matthews. ABC knew he was ratings gold: Before Steve Urkel appeared on "Family Matters," the series was on the brink of cancellation. Sure, the series eventually went off the rails tremendously, especially as it became “The Urkel Show, featuring The Winslows,” but the ubiquity and popularity of all things Urkel cannot be understated. And to think: This "Perfect Strangers" spinoff was supposed to be Harriette Winslow's show.
"Boy Meets World" isn’t just the definitive TGIF series — it was the heart and soul of TGIF. Not as corny as "Full House" and not as ridiculous as "Family Matters" became, "Boy Meets World" certainly got wackier (but also funnier) over the years, but it never lost its focus. (See: Eric Matthews) And "Boy Meets World" remained on TGIF throughout its entire run, which even "Full House" can't say. Unlike the majority of the failed TGIF series, "Boy Meets World" took a simple premise — a coming of age story — and just played it straight and relatable, without bells and whistles and without requiring great tragedy. "Boy Meets World" also provided the greatest episode of any series on TGIF, “And Then There Was Shawn.” Often lauded as the perfect Halloween episode, never forget that this episode aired the week after
Season 5’s Valentine’s Day episode.
Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.