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Sunday, November 11, 2012

WEEKEND REWIND: ABC 1991-92 Season

ABC 1991-92 SEASON
Heading into the 1991-92 season, ABC had not found any new hits the previous year for the first time in awhile. Yet they were flying high, having had 14 shows in the Top 30 the previous year including megahit Roseanne. Though some of their older shows were aging and ending, they were able to find a couple new hits in the 1991-92 season including the show that became their tentpole show of the 1990s and introduced the world to Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor.

Mondays
(Sep 16-Dec 23)
8:00 MacGyver
9:00 Monday Night Football

(Jan 6-May 11)
8:00 FBI: The Untold Stories
8:30 American Detective
9:00 Monday Night Movie
On Monday nights, ABC started the season with their usual pairing of MacGyver and Monday Night Football. However, MacGyver had been declining for years and wasn't really a suitable option anymore. When football ended, the long-running MacGyver was yanked from the schedule until summer. ABC cancelled the show after seven seasons but they never really found a suitable lead-in to football again. At midseason, they brought the movie back and ran two unscripted shows - the low budget FBI: The Untold Stories and American Detective, which moved over from Thursdays. Both shows managed to get filler renewals as 1993 midseason shows.

Tuesdays
(Sep 24-Mar 10)
8:00 Full House
8:30 Home Improvement
9:00 Roseanne
9:30 Coach (starting Oct 1)
10:00 Homefront (through Feb 18)

(Mar 17-Apr 14)
8:00 Full House
8:30 Home Improvement
9:00 Roseanne
9:30 Room for Two (starting Mar 24)
10:00 Civil Wars

(Apr 21-May 12)
8:00 Full House
8:30 Home Improvement
9:00 Roseanne
9:30 Coach
10:00 Civil Wars (through Apr 28)
"Home Improvement"
"Homefront"
ABC Tuesday nights from 8-10pm was arguably the most successful lineup on network TV, more so than NBC's Must-See Thursday nights. All four shows were in the Top 10 and mammoth, broadly appealing hits. Full House was already breaking out on Friday nights to numbers ABC hadn't seen in a long time but they made the bold move of shifting it to Tuesday to replace an aging Who's the Boss? The show became even more of a hit and stayed as the Tuesday lead-off for the rest of its run. It was followed by the perfect companion in Home Improvement, which took one of the best slots in TV to become ABC's biggest breakout hit since Roseanne. The show became an iconic pop culture staple of the 1990s and made stars out of Tim Allen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas among others. It was followed by Roseanne which was still one of the top shows on TV in the middle of its run. The final piece to the puzzle was Coach, which always did extremely well when it followed Roseanne and not as well when it was left to its own devices. ABC kept this very successful lineup for most of the year but they did temporarily put Coach on hiatus to try out midseason replacement Room for Two, a family sitcom starring Linda Lavin and Patricia Heaton. The show did well in the best timeslot available and got a second season. ABC had caused controversy the year before by cancelling the beloved thirtysomething. They replaced it with another critically acclaimed but more ratings challenged show in the 1940s-set Homefront. Period dramas had a tough time on TV even then as they do now. The show wasn't anywhere close to the comedy numbers but it's small but vocal fan base including several critics managed to get it to a second season. It didn't last the whole season on Tuesdays though. At the end of the season, they replaced it with Civil Wars which was having trouble on Wednesdays. It only lasted a few weeks but, like Homefront, got a renewal despite middling ratings.

Wednesdays
(Sep 25-Oct 30)
8:00 Dinosaurs
8:30 The Wonder Years
9:00 Doogie Howser MD
9:30 Sibs
10:00 Anything But Love
10:30 Good & Evil

(Nov 20-Feb 12)
8:00 Dinosaurs
8:30 The Wonder Years
9:00 Doogie Howser MD
9:30 Anything But Love
10:00 Civil Wars

(Mar 4-Apr 8)
8:00 The Wonder Years
8:30 Doogie Howser MD
9:00 The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
10:00 Homefront

(Apr 15-May 6)
8:00 The Wonder Years
8:30 Doogie Howser MD
9:00 Room for Two
9:30 Sibs (through Apr 29)
10:00 Misc. Programming
"Civil Wars"
"The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles"
ABC went through a lot of changes on Wednesdays throughout the season as nothing really worked on the night. They started with three hours of sitcoms, which has never worked in TV history because sitcoms in the 10pm hour have always been a challenge. The year started out with Dinosaurs at 8pm, moving from Fridays but not proving be a good enough lead-off. The Wonder Years followed at 8:30pm. While it was one of ABC's longer running hits, it was starting to age by this point. Doogie Hoswer MD followed at 9pm but it was also down year-to-year. All three of these shows did enough to get renewals but they were clearly past their peak. The 9:30pm-11pm slots were a bigger problem. At 9:30pm was the new comedy Sibs about three adult sisters. At 10pm was the fourth season of Anything But Love and the weirdest entry came at 10:30pm with Good & Evil, a controversial and very odd show starring Teri Garr about two sisters epitomizing good and evil. ABC dubbed this three hour comedy lineup the "Hump" lineup due to the day of the week they were airing. But it only lasted about a month. After October 30, ABC yanked Sibs and cancelled Good & Evil and returned Anything But Love to the 9:30pm slot, clearly admitting their mistake in the new lineup. A couple weeks later, they went back to a traditional drama at 10pm with Civil Wars, an NYC legal drama from Steven Bochco about divorce attorneys featuring Mariel Hemingway, Peter Onorati, and Debi Mazar. The first show from Bochco after the disastrous Cop Rock was much more critically acclaimed but had trouble finding an audience. It moved to Tuesday at midseason where it managed to do enough to get a second season. When the show moved, ABC revamped its Wednesday lineup yet again. Dinosaurs moved back to Fridays and Anything But Love was put on hiatus and ultimately cancelled after four seasons as it couldn't cheat death yet again. The Wonder Years and Doogie Howser MD slid up half an hour and ABC was down to one comedy hour after starting the season with three. At 9pm, ABC launched the ambitious drama The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. The expensive drama from George Lucas focused on the iconic movie character at different points in his young life and he was played by different actors depending on the age including Harrison Ford in one episode. The show definitely had an audience but its huge cost made it a troublesome show for ABC. Still, they gave it a second season after an abbreviated first season. At 10pm, they slid Homefront over from Tuesdays where it continued to do mediocre ratings. It did get a renewal though, perhaps based on the critical acclaim more than the audience. At the tail end of the season when Indiana and Homefront had ended for the year, ABC aired Room for Two and burnoff episodes of Sibs in the 9pm hour while filling the 10pm hour with specials.

Thursdays
(Sep 26-Jan 2)
8:00 Pros and Cons
9:00 FBI: The Untold Stories
9:30 American Detective
10:00 Primetime Live

(Jan 9-May 14)
8:00 Thursday Night Movie
10:00 Primetime Live 
"FBI: The Untold Stories"



Thursday nights were pretty boring for ABCthat season. It started out with Pros and Cons at 8pm, which was a revamped version of Gabriel's Fire. The revamped version didn't do any better and it was cancelled after 11 episodes. At 9pm was two unscripted series - the new FBI: The Untold Stories and American Detective, which had premiered over the summer. Neither show was a huge hit but they were adequate filler programming on a night that had been impossible for ABC. ABC decided to send them to Mondays at midseason after Pros and Cons was cancelled. They replaced the two hours with a movie as they continued to find a way to make Thursdays work. Closing out the night all season was Primetime Live.


Fridays
(Sep 20-Dec 27)
8:00 Family Matters
8:30 Step by Step
9:00 Perfect Strangers
9:30 Baby Talk
10:00 20/20

(Jan 3-24)
8:00 Family Matters
8:30 Step by Step
9:00 Baby Talk
9:30 Perfect Strangers
10:00 20/20

(Jan 31-Mar 13)
8:00 Family Matters
8:30 Step by Step
9:00 Baby Talk
9:30 Billy
10:00 20/20

(Mar 20-May 8)
8:00 Family Matters
8:30 Step by Step
9:00 Dinosaurs
9:30 Baby Talk
10:00 20/20
"Step by Step"
TGIF on Friday nights was a massive success the previous year but they had shipped their most popular show, Full House, off to Tuesdays. As a result, TGIF was a little weaker this year though they did get a formidable new lead-off show in Family Matters. The popular sitcom took Full House's slot after a successful first season and became very associated with TGIF. At 8:30pm, ABC launched a show that would become their other anchor throughout the TGIF heyday of the 1990s. Step by Step was a Brady Bunch-esque show about a blended family starring Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers. This was the last successful launch from the Miller-Boyett productions that had created Full House, Family Matters, and Perfect Strangers among others. It became a very popular family show of the 1990s. The 9pm hour was troubled though. Perfect Strangers was well past its prime and couldn't really anchor a night anymore. It moved to Saturdays at midseason and did get an 8th season renewal, but the season didn't air until the summer of 1993 as a burn-off. At 9:30pm was second year show Baby Talk. The critically panned show had been revamped for season two and actually out-rated Perfect Strangers but it didn't do enough to earn a third season. ABC tried to swap the slots for Strangers and Baby for a month but then sent Strangers to Saturdays and launched Billy at 9:30pm. Starring Billy Connolly, the show was a spinoff of the cancelled Head of the Class. It couldn't gain much traction and was sent to Saturdays after seven episodes. When it was moved, Baby Talk moved back to 9:30pm and Dinosaurs came back to Friday nights after a failed attempt at Wednesday nights. It fared better in this slot and did well enough in a lower pressure slot to get a renewal. Throughout the season, 20/20 aired at 10pm and easily won the difficult hour.

Saturdays
(Sep 28-Jan 25)
8:00 Who's the Boss?
8:30 Growing Pains
9:00 The Young Riders
10:00 The Commish

(Feb 1-Mar 14)
8:00 Capitol Critters
8:30 Who's the Boss?
9:00 Perfect Strangers
9:30 Growing Pains
10:00 The Commish

(Mar 21-Apr 18)
8:00 Who's the Boss?
8:30 Billy
9:00 Perfect Strangers
9:30 Growing Pains
10:00 The Commish
"The Commish"
ABC revamped Saturday nights yet again for the 1991-92 season and they started the night by airing two aging shows in the twilight of their runs. Who's the Boss? and Growing Pains were two of ABC's most successful shows during ABC's lean years in the mid 1980s. However, by 1991 they were well past their prime and not holding their own as anchors in the middle of the week. ABC decided to pair them together on Saturday in an attempt to squeeze a little bit more life out of them. It was not successful though as both shows ended their long runs at the end of the season. At 9pm was The Young Riders which had bounced around the lineup trying to find an audience. The Saturday move was the final straw as it was yanked in January and returned with burn-off episodes on Thursdays during the summer. At 10pm, ABC launched new drama The Commish starring Michael Chiklis as a small town police commissioner. The show was never a huge hit but acceptable enough to ABC to last several years in the Saturday 10pm slot. Though it was Michael Chiklis' first big break, it seems like a little remembered show now. When ABC sent The Young Riders to hiatus, they revamped and extended their comedy block by an hour and advertised it as "I Love Saturday Night," a clear ripoff of their TGIF success. The new lineup included the animated Capitol Critters featuring the voice of Neil Patrick Harris and the arrival of Perfect Strangers to the night as a third former hit that was well past its prime. Additionally, Boss moved to 8:30pm and Pains moved to 9:30pm. ABC bagged the whole "I Love Saturday Night" theme really quickly but did continue to air comedies as Billy moved over from Fridays to replace the Capitol Critters and Boss moved back to 8pm. At the very end of the season, ABC gave one hour finales to its one time hits Who's the Boss? and Growing Pains.

Sundays
7:00 Life Goes On
8:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:30 America's Funniest People
9:00 Sunday Night Movie
Sunday nights stayed exactly the same all season for ABC. Life Goes On continued to get mediocre ratings but managed to snag another renewal in part due to airing in a slot that was difficult for networks and in part due to a letter writing campaign from fans to save the show and get a fourth season. The comedy pair of America's Funniest Home Videos and America's Funniest People was not as strong as the previous season but still a powerful combo. The Sunday Night Movie continued to trail the CBS and NBC movies.

ABC 1991-92 Stats 

Shows in the Top 30
2. Roseanne
4. Home Improvement
7. Full House
10. Coach/Room for Two
11. Monday Night Football
20. America's Funniest Home Videos
21. 20/20
25. America's Funniest People/Monday Night Movie
27. Family Matters

Fall Shows Survival: 5/7 (71%)
Home Improvement, Step by Step, Homefront, FBI: The Untold Stories, The Commish

Midseason Shows Survival: 3/5 (60%)
Civil Wars, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Room for Two

Total New Shows Survival Rate: 8/12 (67%)

Cancelled/Ended Series
Who's the Boss? (8 seasons)
Growing Pains/MacGyver (7 seasons)
Anything But Love (4 seasons)
The Young Riders (3 seasons)
Pros and Cons/Baby Talk (2 seasons)
Sibs/Good & Evil/Capitol Critters/Billy (1 season)

Emmy Award Nominees & Winners (Major Categories)
Home Improvement (Nominee, Outstanding Comedy Series)
Dana Delany, China Beach (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series) ** Eligible due to China Beach burnoffs in Summer 1991
Craig T. Nelson, Coach (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)
John Goodman, Roseanne (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)
Roseanne Barr, Roseanne (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
Marg Helgenberger, China Beach (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series) ** Eligible due to China Beach burnoffs in Summer 1991
Jerry Van Dyke, Coach (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series)
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne (WINNER, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series)

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