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Sunday, October 28, 2012

WEEKEND REWIND: ABC 1989-90 Season

ABC 1989-90 SEASON
The previous season saw a writer's strike which impacted the amount of new shows but ABC was in pretty good shape heading into the 1989-90 season. They had the biggest breakout hit in years in Roseanne, other successful  newcomers in Anything But Love and Coach, fan favorites such as Who's the Boss?, Growing Pains, and Full House, and critical darlings The Wonder Years, thirtysomething, and China Beach. Some longtime hits of the 80s - Dynasty and Moonlighting - were gone and ABC had more younger shows which set them up well.

(Sep 18-Dec 25)
8:00 MacGyver
9:00 Monday Night Football

(Jan 18-Mar 19)
8:00 MacGyver
9:00 Monday Night Movie

(Apr 9-30)
8:00 MacGyver
9:00 China Beach (starting Apr 16)
10:00 Capital News

(May 7-14)
8:00 The Young Riders
9:00 Monday Night Movie
"Capital News"
ABC started off Monday nights in the same way they had for a few years with MacGyver leading into football and then football was replaced by a movie when the NFL season ended. The movie did alright but ABC wanted to try some scripted programming in the 9-11pm slot. Starting in April, they added China Beach to 9pm. The show was beloved by critics but kept bouncing around the schedule as ABC couldn't get the ratings up. They paired it with Capital News, a Washington DC newspaper drama starring Lloyd Bridges that lasted a mere 5 episodes. MacGyver was briefly replaced by The Young Riders at the very end of the season and the movie came back at 9pm. ABC had such a hard time with the offseason of football because they could never carve out a regular Monday scripted presence when football took up four months every year.

(Sep 19-Nov 7)
8:00 Who's the Boss?
8:30 The Wonder Years (starting Oct 3)
9:00 Roseanne
9:30 Chicken Soup
10:00 Thirtysomething

(Nov 21-May 15)
8:00 Who's the Boss?
8:30 The Wonder Years
9:00 Roseanne
9:30 Coach
10:00 Thirtysomething
"Chicken Soup"
ABC was the place to be on Tuesday nights with some of the most beloved, critically acclaimed, and popular shows on all of network TV at the time. Leading off the night was reliable veteran Who's the Boss? and it was followed by The Wonder Years which hadn't done well enough as an anchor the previous season but was a perfect bridge at 8:30pm on Tuesday. At 9pm was Roseanne which became the #1 show on television in its second year. The 9:30pm slot was initially given to another outspoken and controversial comedian. Chicken Soup starring Jackie Mason and Lynn Redgrave was given the best slot on TV but that can also be a burden. Even though the show ranked #13 for the year, ABC felt that it was not retaining enough of Roseanne's mammoth audience and it was dropping each week. It was also controversial as it was about an interfaith relationship. ABC wasn't patient with the show and cancelled it in November, replacing it with the second season of Coach. Coach actually ranked lower than Chicken Soup but ABC deemed it a better companion to Roseanne and kept it there the rest of the season. At 10pm, thirtysomething occupied the slot for the whole season. It didn't get anywhere close to as many eyeballs as the comedies that preceded it but it was a buzzy show and critical hit and ABC let it stay there for another year. Throughout the year, ABC used this hit lineup to launch shows that were scheduled for other nights such as Doogie Howser MD, Living Dolls, Elvis, Brewster Place, and Equal Justice.

(Sep 28-Mar 21)
8:00 Growing Pains
8:30 Head of the Class
9:00 Doogie Howser MD
9:30 Anything But Love
10:00 China Beach

(Mar 28-May 16)
8:00 Growing Pains
8:30 Head of the Class
9:00 Doogie Howser MD
9:30 The Marshall Chronicles (Apr 4-May 2)/Brewster Place (May 9-16)
10:00 Equal Justice
"Doogie Howser MD"
"Equal Justice"
Wednesday nights were pretty good to ABC though not as dominant as Tuesdays. Growing Pains was now firmly entrenched as the lead off on Wednesday nights and continued to be a strong player. It was also very compatible with Head of the Class which continued chugging along. Rather than placing a proven anchor show at 9pm, they went with a new unconventional show in Doogie Howser MD. The comedy/drama about a teenage doctor was never a massive hit but it was a serviceable option for several years and made a star out of Neil Patrick Harris. Even with the high pressure slot of 9pm Wednesday, it landed right in-between Growing Pains and Head of the Class in the ratings. The 9:30pm slot was where the problems were on Wednesdays. The season started with Anything But Love in the slot. After placing in the top 10 behind Roseanne in its first season, season two of Love tumbled to #56 without a #1 lead-in. Despite the huge drop, it did manage to snag a midseason renewal. That was possibly because the replacements did even worse. The Marshall Chronicles was a short lived school sitcom that lasted a mere 6 episodes. At the tail end of the season, ABC tried Brewster Place which was based on a hit miniseries. The show starred Oprah Winfrey even as she was in the midst of her legendary talk show run. Her star power couldn't make Brewster Place work and most episodes aired in the early summer. The 10pm hour started with China Beach which could never do enough to stay in one timeslot as it hopped all over the lineup during its run. It was replaced with legal drama Equal Justice. The Pittsburgh based drama was critically acclaimed like the show it replaced and featured a large ensemble including a young Jane Kaczmarek and Sarah Jessica Parker. Equal Justice did slightly worse than China Beach but did managed a midseason renewal.

(Sep 21-Dec 14)
8:00 Mission: Impossible
9:00 The Young Riders
10:00 Primetime Live

(Jan 4-Apr 5)
8:00 Father Dowling Mysteries
9:00 The Young Riders
10:00 Primetime Live

(Apr 12-May 17)
8:00 Father Dowling Mysteries
9:00 Twin Peaks
10:00 Primetime Live
"The Young Riders"
"Twin Peaks"
Thursdays saw some stability for the first time in years and also saw some shows actually get some renewals which hadn't happened in a while on Thursdays. The lineup started with season two of Mission: Impossible. The reboot was one of many failed remakes in TV history. It probably shouldn't have been renewed to begin with and couldn't do much here before it was benched to Saturdays. When it moved, it was replaced by Father Dowling Mysteries. The drama starring Tom Bosley was picked up from NBC which had cancelled it after a season. While not a huge get, it did manage to survive two seasons on ABC. At 9pm was western The Young Riders. One of the last westerns on broadcast TV, Riders was the bright spot on Thursday night for most of the year as it ranked in the 70s instead of the 90s like the shows that initially bookended it. However, it wasn't as strong as Father Dowling Mysteries or the buzzy show that replaced it when its season ended. Still, it did enough to get a renewal. It was replaced, however, by the most talked about (though ratings challenged) show of the 1989-90 season. David Lynch's mysterious and bizarre Twin Peaks took the TV world by storm with its two hour premiere movie in April of 1990. Titled for a fictional Pacific Northwest city, Twin Peaks had everyone asking "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" as there was nothing else like it on TV at the time. It was without question one of the weirdest shows to ever air on a broadcast network. Despite the mammoth buzz, it only did ok in the ratings because it had to face NBC's Cheers. And as with any fad, it fizzled quickly in season two. But in the spring of 1990, it gave TV something brand new and completely different. At 10pm, Primetime Live had premiered the previous August. After the success of 20/20, Primetime Live was another newsmagazine that had a nice healthy run on ABC.

8:00 Full House
8:30 Family Matters
9:00 Perfect Strangers
9:30 Just the Ten of Us
10:00 20/20 
"Family Matters"
Fridays were very unstable for a few years in the mid 1980s but for the second straight year it did not change over the course of the season. It was different from the previous season however as this fall marked the beginning of the famous "TGIF" programming block that lasted into the 2000s. The block was always family friendly sitcoms and featured lots of promotion, jingles, etc. The previous season saw Perfect Strangers lead off the night but the show moved to 9pm to replace Mr. Belvedere. At 8pm was the third season of Full House which was now a huge hit, ranking #22 in the ratings making it easily Friday's top show on any network. It was paired with a perfect companion in Family Matters. The Chicago-set family sitcom was a brassy version of The Cosby Show with a large black family at the center. The early episodes were actually a little tamer as it did not feature Jaleel White's famous Urkel character until halfway through the first season. As previously mentioned, Perfect Strangers moves to 9pm where it was showing some signs of aging. At 9:30pm for another was Just the Ten of Us. The show was the lowest rated of the block but not doing too badly. Still, it was the only comedy not from the Miller-Boyett production company and ABC decided to cancel it in favor of another Miller-Boyett show for the 1990-91 season. At 10pm was 20/20 which won its timeslot against competing dramas on NBC and CBS.

(Sep 30-Dec 30)
8:00 Mr. Belvedere
8:30 Living Dolls
9:00 ABC Saturday Mystery Movie

(Jan 6-Feb 24)
8:00 Mission: Impossible
9:00 ABC Saturday Mystery Movie

(Mar 3-Apr 28)
8:00 H.E.L.P. (Mar 3-Apr 14)/Sunset Beat (Apr 21-28)
9:00 ABC Saturday Mystery Movie

(May 5-19)
8:00 Elvis
8:30 Various
9:00 Saturday Night Movie
"Living Dolls"
Saturdays continued to be a problem for ABC. The 9pm slot was devoted to their rotating Mystery Movie featuring Columbo, Kojak, BL Stryker, and the new Christine Cromwell. It did alright on Mondays but was moved to Saturdays where it didn't work. The 8pm hour was rotating shows all season because nothing was working in the slot. It started with two comedies - Mr. Belvedere led off the night in its sixth and final season. It was starting to slip on Fridays and then completely collapsed on Saturdays in what amounted to a long burnoff. The show did return in July for a proper series finale. It was paired with Living Dolls, which premiered as a backdoor pilot on Who's the Boss? The show starred Michael Learned and featured a young Halle Berry, Leah Remini, and Vivica A. Fox in the ensemble. It was a huge critical bomb but it slightly outperformed Mr. Belvedere. It didn't do enough though and was yanked after 12 episodes. It was replaced by Mission: Impossible which returned to its previous slot and was cancelled after two unsuccessful seasons. Three failed freshmen followed in the 8pm slot for the remainder of the season. First up was H.E.L.P., a show that featured the three branches of NYC Emergency Services (police, medical, and fire). It featured David Caruso and Wesley Snipes before they hit it big and was one of the lowest rated shows of the 1989-90 season. It was replaced by an even bigger bomb - LA based cop drama Sunset Beat lasted a mere two weeks. At the tail end of the season, some burnoff episodes of Elvis aired in the hour.

(Sep 24-Jan 7)
7:00 Life Goes On
8:00 Free Spirit
8:30 Homeroom (through Dec 17)
9:00 Sunday Night Movie

(Jan 14-May 13)
7:00 Life Goes On
8:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:30 Elvis (Feb 11-Mar 18)
9:00 Sunday Night Movie
"Life Goes On"
"America's Funniest Home Videos"
Sunday nights were home to lots of new programming in the 1989-90 season but to mixed results. After unscripted programming the previous year, ABC went with a family drama in the 7pm hour. Life Goes On starring Bill Smitrovich and Patti LuPone was critically acclaimed but not a huge success in the 7pm hour. However, ABC knew that 7pm Sunday was a real difficult time to program and the show managed to get a renewal. The 8pm hour was initially given to two new comedies - the supernatural Free Spirit was about a housekeeper who was actually a witch and featured a kid Alyson Hannigan. The silly show seemed better fit for Fridays than Sundays and was pulled after 13 episodes. It did fare better than the comedy it was paired with. Homeroom was a short lived school sitcom that was among the lowest rated on TV that year. It didn't even last as long as Free Spirit. ABC's fortunes in the 8pm hour changed dramatically in January when America's Funniest Home Videos joined the lineup. A special in November gave way to a January series which was an instant smash. Hosted by Full House's Bob Saget, the show was revolutionary years before YouTube made funny home videos commonplace. Even with all the changes in the world, it is still on the air today, 22 years later though it's not getting anywhere close to the 40 million viewers it was in the spring of 1990. For a brief time, it was paired with one of the stranger entries of the season, Elvis. The show was a biographical series based on the early years of Elvis Presley. Though fictional, it leaned heavily on real life events. It seemed more like a limited series which it ultimately was because it only lasted 10 episodes. It's hard to schedule shows like that anywhere on the schedule and it seemed especially weak airing behind the mammoth hit that was Videos. Various repeats and extra episodes of Videos aired at 8:30pm during the rest of the spring. Throughout the season, a movie aired at 9pm but it still was third behind CBS and NBC's competing movies.

ABC 1989-90 Stats

Shows in the Top 30
1. Roseanne
5. America's Funniest Home Videos
8. The Wonder Years
10. Monday Night Football
12. Who's the Boss?
13. Chicken Soup
18. Coach
21. Growing Pains
22. Full House
26. Head of the Class
28. Doogie Howser MD

Fall Shows Survival: 4/8 (50%)
Life Goes On, Doogie Howser MD, The Young Riders, Family Matters

Midseason Shows Survival: 3/9 (33%)
America's Funniest Home Videos, Equal Justice, Twin Peaks

Total New Shows Survival Rate: 7/17 (41%)

Cancelled/Ended Series
Mr. Belvedere (6 seasons)
Just the Ten of Us (3 seasons)
Mission: Impossible (2 seasons)
Chicken Soup/Homeroom/Free Spirit/Living Dolls/Elvis/H.E.L.P./The Marshall Chronicles/Capital News/Sunset Beat/Brewster Place (1 season)

Emmy Award Nominees & Winners (Major Categories)
China Beach (Nominee, Outstanding Drama Series)
thirtysomething (Nominee, Outstanding Drama Series)
Twin Peaks (Nominee, Outstanding Drama Series)
The Wonder Years (Nominee, Outstanding Comedy Series)
Peter Falk, Columbo (ABC Mystery Movie) (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series)
Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series)
Patricia Wettig, thirtysomething (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
Dana Delany, China Beach (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
Piper Laurie, Twin Peaks (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series)
John Goodman, Roseanne (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)
Craig T. Nelson, Coach (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)
Fred Savage, The Wonder Years (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)
Timothy Busfield, thirtysomething (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Marg Helgenberger, China Beach (WINNER, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)
Sherilyn Fenn, Twin Peaks (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)
Melanie Mayron, thirtysomething (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)
Jerry Van Dyke, Coach (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series)

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