TV Is Great Now, But Here's Why TGIF Was A Masterpiece

by Samantha Atzeni
Walt Disney Pictures

For a '90s kid, there was one staple in life worth waiting an entire seven days for: ABC’s TGIF line-up. There are two truths that permeated the pop culture sphere during that magical decade: Cory and Topanga belonged together, and nothing was better than TGIF.

In the current era of Peak TV, there are many options and platforms available for anyone and everyone to find their own ultimate viewing experience. But back in the day, nothing beat camping out in front of the TV with the family and watching ABC's primetime block of wholesome sitcoms. That Friday night ritual became a part of viewers' lives, introducing many iconic shows and characters that lots of those viewers still hold dear.

TGIF, or "Thank Goodness It's Friday," originally premiered in 1989, but didn't fully catch on with audiences until 1990 when it featured its most famous line-up of shows: Full House, Family Matters, and Perfect Strangers. Later, Full House would leave TGIF for a new day and time, and other popular shows like Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Dinosaurs, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, and Step by Step would join the schedule for a time. Of course, other short-lived shows came and went quietly, but the formula for TGIF would stay the same: a comedy block of family-friendly shows that parents and kids could enjoy together.

In Entertainment Weekly's "oral history" of TGIF, current Disney CEO Bob Iger described the moment when TGIF began to form. "A lot of families weren’t watching TV together as much as when I was growing up," Iger said. "But I thought, 'If we could program shows where parents and kids could watch together, we’d be better off from a ratings perspective.'” By choosing comedie to fill the time when most networks featured dramas, TGIF was able to become the '90s staple that is remembered so lovingly by millennials (and their parents!) today.

Take a walk down memory lane with these 18 reasons why nothing will ever beat the TGIF experience:


It Kicked Off The Weekend

It was so reliable. On Friday evening, 8 p.m. would roll around, and the song — you remember it — would kick off the TGIF block. If anyone of your generation claims that they didn't start singing along the minute they heard, "It's Friday night," then they are probably lying.


The Promos

Of course, waiting an entire seven days for TGIF could take its toll on a kid. Luckily, there were numerous promos to get everyone psyched for the weekend. Today, watching these promos — a lot of them are on YouTube — feel like watching little time capsules of a bygone era. Want to know the biggest TGIF storylines for a holiday weekend in 1993? There's a promo for that.


The Theme Songs

In the '90s, theme songs were just as important as a show's laugh track. A memorable TGIF theme song had to be catchy, fun, and with accompanying credits featuring actors looking into the camera. Sometimes the theme song revealed the show's premise, like Step By Step or Sister Sister. Other times, the theme song was just there to tell audiences how super cool the show was, as was the case with Hangin' With Mr. Cooper.


The Family Comedies

Since TGIF was a family affair, its shows usually featured families working through everyday problems. Friday nights meant family time at home, but it also meant spending it with the Winslows, the Tanners, the Matthews, the blended Foster-Lamberts, and the Hughleys.


'Boy Meets World'

TGIF introduced viewers to Boy Meets World and the rest was history. In 1993, audiences met Cory Matthews, his best friend Shawn Hunter, and Cory's true love, Topanga Lawrence. Boy Meets World ended in 2000, which was also the year TGIF went off the air.

In 2014, Cory, Topanga, and Shawn returned for the Disney Channel series Girl Meets World. The show featured Cory and Topanga's daughter Riley, their son Auggie, and Riley's best friend Maya. Most of the characters from the original series returned, bringing joy to both younger audiences and those who remembered these friends grew up. Unfortunately, Riley did not get to reach the same milestones as her parents because Girl Meets World was canceled after three seasons. However, in that time, the show gave TGIF fans one more opportunity to see Cory and Topanga on Friday nights, cementing Boy Meets World in its iconic TV status.


Iconic Best Friends

Before Cory and Shawn, audiences met long-lost relatives Larry Appleton, an American, and Balki Bartokomous, from the Mediterranean island of Mypos. The two completely different cousins tried to make it work as roommates in Chicago, and high-jinks ensued. As one of the early TGIF shows, Perfect Strangers was the precursor to the spin-off series, Family Matters, which featured another Chicago family and their very annoying neighbor.


It Made Unknown Actors Household Names

As the Winslows' nerdy neighbor, if Steve Urkel wasn't pining for Laura, he was driving Carl crazy with his antics. When people think of Family Matters, Steve is probably the first character they think of, but this iconic character almost didn't make it to the next episode. According to Mental Floss, Steve wasn't supposed to be a returning character, but audience demand made the producers reconsider and turn him into a series regular. The role made both Jaleel White and Family Matters household names.


Stefan Urquelle

Audiences couldn't get enough of Steve Urkel, but they also adored his cool alter-ego, Stefan Urquelle. Both characters loved Laura, but it was watching Steve turn into Stefan that allowed White to further stretch his talents. In an interview for The Wrap during his stint on Dancing With the Stars, White said, "When I played Stefan Urquelle, I showed people there was more of me to offer."


Delightfully Weird Shows

In 1991, the Sinclairs joined the TGIF party. Created by Brian Henson, the son of revolutionary puppeteer Jim Henson, Dinosaurs featured a prehistoric clan in typical (and atypical) family situations. The show was canceled in 1994, and ended in what is still considered one of the most traumatic series finales ever created.


The Guest Stars

TGIF had its own array of fantastic characters, but guest stars also frequently came out to play. Granted, many of the ones you remember were famous pop stars like Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys (both were on Sabrina the Teenage Witch), but less known '90s personalities showed up too.


The Catchphrases

Michelle Tanner, the queen of catchphrases, had the best of them all. ("You got it, dude!") But fans may also still find themselves repeating Steve Urkel's "Did I do that?" or "Not the momma!" from Dinosaurs.


The Very Special Episodes

Of course, TGIF wasn't always fun and light. Sometimes there were "very special episodes" that allowed the characters to take on tough topics. In Dinosaurs, Robbie got addicted to steroids (called "thornoids"). Steve Urkel almost got seriously hurt when his drink was spiked at a party. The Tanner girls struggled with many different coming-of-age issues. But Boy Meets World's Shawn Hunter may have been the center of the most "very special episodes" — he lost his father, almost joined a cult, and lost Angela because of his drinking problem. While these episodes could be tough to watch, they were meant to educate, not just entertain. Plus, it was the '90s. Every show was doing it.


The Crossover Episodes

Nothing was more thrilling to a '90s kid than when you'd be watching your favorite TGIF show and another TGIF character would show up.


The One-Season Series

Remember Teen Angel, the show about a kid who eats a tainted burger, dies, and comes back to be his friend's guardian angel? What about Going Places with Heather Locklear? Or Baby Talk, featuring George Clooney? What about Aliens In The Family? Remembered how audiences swooned over Erik von Detton in Odd Man Out?

Don't worry if none of these titles ring a bell because they were all removed from the TGIF line-up pretty quickly. They're still a part of the block's legacy, however.


The Lovable Characters

Whether they were stars or secondary characters, TGIF definitely boasted an interesting mix of personalities — sometimes in non-human forms. One of the most lovable Friday night characters had to be Salem from Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Has there even been a cuter cat more obsessed with taking over the world?


It Made You Want To Be A Twin

Sister Sister featured the adorable Tia and Tamera Mowry, as twins separated at birth and then reunited. Unfortunately, the show couldn't make it in the TGIF line-up and was canceled, but the WB recognized that these twin sisters were special and picked up the series.


Those Disney Episodes

If your favorite show was on ABC, chances are it had a Disney episode. (In 1995, Walt Disney Company acquired ABC for $19 million, which could potentially explain the increase in Disney World episodes.) Boy Meets World, Step by Step, Full House, and Family Matters all took their characters to Disney parks, usually during Sweeps Week.


It Taught You That TV Matters

TGIF ended in 2000 and not too long after, streaming services, DVRs, and OnDemand completely changed the way people watch TV. Remembering rushing to the TV on TGIF night? That urgency is a thing of the past.

Of course, these advancements have made TV viewing better for plenty of reasons, but it may be that an entire generation can credit that TGIF ritual for getting them hooked on TV to begin with.