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Sunday, November 25, 2012

WEEKEND REWIND: ABC 1993-94 Season

ABC 1993-94 SEASON
ABC had a few of the biggest hits on TV headed into the 1993-94 season (Roseanne, Home Improvement) but they were thin on returning shows as only three returned from the previous season: the hit Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, the low-rated Where I Live, and the filler newsmagazine Day One. Additionally, they had cancelled a few long running shows including The Wonder Years, Doogie Howser MD, and Life Goes On. ABC launched a whopping 11 new shows in the fall and they got a few hits including their first successful drama in years with the gritty NYPD Blue.

(Sep 13-Jan 3)
8:00 Day One
9:00 Monday Night Football

(Jan 10-May 16)
8:00 Day One
9:00 Monday Night Movie
After the cancellation of MacGyver, ABC first tried scripted programming as a lead-in to Monday Night Football but then when The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles didn't work, ABC went with unscripted programming. This year they tried the newsmagazine Day One. It managed to stay in the slot all year but the ratings were not strong. Monday Night Football continued to dominate and be replaced at midseason by a movie.

8:00 Full House
8:30 Phenom
9:00 Roseanne
9:30 Coach
10:00 NYPD Blue
"NYPD Blue"
ABC's Tuesday lineup was the same all year and for good reason as it was mostly successful. The long running Full House continued as the lead-off show and it was paired with the new Phenom about a teenage tennis prodigy and her family. The show starred Judith Light, who had a long Tuesday run on ABC with Who's the Boss?, and William Devane. The show was hot out of the gate in the ratings but it lost steam as the season went on and ABC ultimately determined it wasn't retaining enough of the Full House audience and didn't get the numbers necessary for perhaps the cushiest slot on TV. The show ran for a full 22 episodes but was cancelled at the end of the season. Phenom was followed by the power hour of Roseanne and Coach which remained two of the top shows on TV. Coach is an interesting show from the era for ABC. It consistently placed in the top 10 when it was paired with Roseanne but always struggled when it was left to its own devices. At the same time, Roseanne could never find a very compatible lead-out besides Coach. It was almost as if the two shows needed each other. It had been years since ABC had a successful drama. They had had critically acclaimed dramas such as thirtysomething, Homefront, and China Beach, no drama had placed in the Top 20 since Moonlighting in the 1987-88 season. But they finally found a new hit drama with the gritty and controversial Steven Bochco drama NYPD Blue. The show began its legendary run as ABC's longest running drama with a good deal of controversy surrounding the pilot and its standards-pushing use of nudity. 57 ABC affiliates preempted the series premiere but when the show became a big hit with critical acclaim, they dropped their opposition for ratings glory. It only had star David Caruso for this first season before he left in pursuit of a film career (only to end up back on TV in the long running CSI: Miami) but the show was really about the ensemble in general and Dennis Franz in particular. The show has not been a huge hit in syndication but at the time, it redefined the police drama genre in the same way Bochco's Hill Street Blues had years earlier.

(Sep 29-Dec 15)
8:00 Thea
8:30 Joe's Life
9:00 Home Improvement
9:30 Grace Under Fire
10:00 Moon Over Miami (through Dec 1)

(Dec 22-Jan 19)
8:00 Thea
8:30 George
9:00 Home Improvement
9:30 Grace Under Fire
10:00 Birdland (starting Jan 5)

(Jan 26-Feb 23)
8:00 Thea
8:30 The Critic
9:00 Home Improvement
9:30 Grace Under Fire
10:00 Birdland (through Feb 9)

(Mar 9-23)
8:00 Home Improvement (encores)
8:30 Thunder Alley
9:00 Home Improvement
9:30 Grace Under Fire
10:00 Turning Point

(Mar 30-May 4)
8:00 Home Improvement (encores)
8:30 Thunder Alley
9:00 Home Improvement
9:30 These Friends of Mine (Ellen)
10:00 Turning Point
"Grace Under Fire"
"These Friends of Mine/Ellen"
Wednesday nights were busy and all over the place for ABC as they tried to find compatible surrounding shows for their top comedy and anchor of the night, Home Improvement. Improvement had become TV's number one scripted show and at the beginning of the season, they surrounded it with all new shows. Two family comedies opened the evening - Thea starring comedienne Thea Vidale and a young Brandy Norwood and Joe's Life, starring Peter Onorati and Mary Page Keller. Both shows were pretty generic and managed to last several months but were cancelled at midseason as they weren't any better than the cancelled The Wonder Years and Doogie Howser MD. The most successful ABC entry of the season came in the great timeslot after Home Improvement - Grace Under Fire became their next hit sitcom as the Missouri set family sitcom featured brassy comedienne Brett Butler and its blue collar feel fit in nicely with Improvement and Roseanne. The show was the top new comedy on any network for the 1993-94 season. At 10pm was the odd dramedy Moon Over Miami starring Bill Campbell and Ally Walker. The show followed a private detective and runaway bride and featured lots of jazz music. The show couldn't connect with viewers and the upscale tone seemed like an odd fit out of the blue collar comedies. It was cancelled by early December. When Joe's Life was cancelled, it was briefly replaced by George which had a short and unsuccessful Saturday run. ABC gave George Foreman a chance on Wednesdays but the results weren't any better. In January, ABC added two new shows - the animated sitcom The Critic at 8:30pm. Using the voice talents of Jon Lovitz, this was one of several attempts over the years by networks not named FOX to make animated sitcoms work. It was a cult favorite but not a ratings winner. It was cancelled and picked up by, you guessed it, FOX. At 10pm, ABC tried another new drama in Birdland, a medical drama starring Brian Dennehy. It lasted a mere five episodes in this Wednesday slot, less than Moon Over Miami. When ABC cancelled Thea, they chose to use repeats of Home Improvement in the 8pm slot for the rest of the season. While it was a better lead-in than anything else, ABC was criticized for too often double pumping the popular Improvement. ABC added two new sitcoms towards the end of the season. Sandwiched between repeats and new episodes of Improvement was Thunder Alley, a family comedy about a retired race car driver starring Ed Asner. The family friendly sitcom fit nicely with Home Improvement and was a big hit in its midseason run. ABC chose to put Grace Under Fire on a temporary hiatus to use one of its best slots on another new show - These Friends of Mine. The ensemble comedy starring Ellen DeGeneres did well enough in a late spring run to get a second season where it was renamed Ellen and later became one of the most groundbreaking sitcoms of all time. After the cancellation of Birdland, ABC devoted 10pm to yet another newsmagazine, its fourth during the week. Turning Point featured a rotation of ABC anchors and was another cheap option when the dramas were failing. But by spring of 1994, newsmagazines aired Mondays at 8 and Wednesdays-Fridays at 10. Still, ABC chose to renew it as it was always a cheap option.

(Sep 23-Feb 17)
8:00 Missing Persons
9:00 Matlock
10:00 Primetime Live

(Mar 3-May 5)
8:00 The Byrds of Paradise
9:00 Matlock
10:00 Primetime Live
"The Byrds of Paradise"
ABC had a pretty steady lineup on Thursdays this season with two failed shows in the 8pm hour, the long running Matlock at 9pm, and successful newsmagazine Primetime Live at 10pm. Matlock and Primetime Live were an option for older viewers against NBC's hip and popular Thursday lineup and they held up pretty well against the competition. The 8pm hour had trouble though. It began with Missing Persons, a Chicago-set crime drama about a Missing Persons unit starring Daniel J. Travanti. Travanti's return to television after Hill Street Blues was not nearly as successful and it was pulled after 15 episodes. It was replaced by The Byrds of Paradise, a family drama set in Hawaii and starring Timothy Busfield and a young Jennifer Love Hewitt and Seth Green. The show had its fans among critics but it only lasted 12 episodes and was cancelled at the end of the season, laying the path for Love Hewitt to skyrocket to fame on FOX's Party of Five.

(Sep 24-Mar 25)
8:00 Family Matters
8:30 Boy Meets World
9:00 Step by Step
9:30 Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
10:00 20/20

(Apr 8-May 6)
8:00 Family Matters
8:30 Boy Meets World
9:00 Step by Step
9:30 Sister, Sister
10:00 20/20
"Boy Meets World"
"Sister, Sister"
ABC's TGIF lineup was much improved from the previous year thanks to a successful newcomer and a successful transplant from Tuesday nights. Family Matters remained the 8pm anchor and Step by Step was the 9pm anchor and the highest rated show of the pack. Both shows really served as important cornerstones to the mid 1990s incarnation of this lineup. At 8:30pm, ABC found success with a new entry - Boy Meets World - starring Ben Savage, brother of The Wonder Years' Fred Savage, as a jr high student. The show was very popular with young fans at the time and still has quite a loyal following today from kids of the era (so much so that Disney Channel is currently in talks to reboot the show). At 9:30pm, ABC moved Hangin' with Mr. Cooper over from Tuesday. Though the ratings dropped from its very cushy timeslot, it seemed like a better fit with the TGIF block than the Tuesday comedy block. Though it was popular at the time, it hasn't had the lasting power that the other shows in the block had. Its season ended a bit early to make room for Sister, Sister, a Detroit-set family sitcom starring real life identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry. The show seemed tailor-made for this lineup but it struggled to keep the same audience that Mr. Cooper did. It was renewed though but as a midseason replacement for the 1994-95 season. Veteran newsmagazine 20/20 continued to occupy the 10pm slot as one of ABC's many newsmagazines.

(Sep 25-Oct 30)
8:00 Saturday Night Movie
10:00 The Commish

(Nov 6-20)
8:00 George
8:30 Where I Live
9:00 The Paula Poundstone Show (Nov 6 only)
10:00 The Commish

(Dec 4-May 14)
8:00 Saturday Night Movie
10:00 The Commish
Saturday nights were a problem for ABC as they usually were. ABC delayed most of its fall lineup until November and aired a movie from 8-10pm instead along with a full season of The Commish at 10pm. The Commish defied most ABC Saturday issues in the 1990s by having a nice run on the night. When the lineup premiered on November 6, it was an instant flop. George, starring George Foreman and Where I Live, a narrowly renewed sitcom lasted only three weeks on Saturday nights before being pulled. George resurfaced briefly on Wednesdays while Live never aired its remaining episodes. However, they were more successful than ABC's biggest flop of the year - The Paula Poundstone Show, a variety entry starring the comic. The show aired a sneak preview at 10pm on October 30 but lasted a mere one episode in its regular timeslot before an immediate cancellation. When this comedy lineup faltered so quickly, ABC decided not to reboot the night and instead just air a movie for the rest of the season.

7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
7:30 America's Funniest People
8:00 Lois & Clark
9:00 Sunday Night Movie
"Lois & Clark"
ABC Sundays stayed exactly the same all year. America's Funniest Home Videos and America's Funniest People had made the move to the 7pm hour the previous March and stayed there this week. They were far removed from being instant hits but Videos was still posting respectable numbers. People was cancelled at the end of the year in favor of more editions of Videos. After all, they were basically the same show. At 8pm was an ambitious new drama - Lois & Clark, a reimagining of the Superman tale starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. The show was a hit with fanboys and girls but struggled to find a mass audience. Still, it was an improvement over previous Sunday drama Life Goes On and it had a real devoted following so it got a renewal. It still remains a popular entry in the Superman lore even if it has been somewhat overshadowed by the more adored Smallville that followed. At 9pm all season was a movie as usual.  

ABC 1993-94 Stats

Shows in the Top 30
2. Home Improvement
4. Roseanne
5. Grace Under Fire
6. Coach
8. Monday Night Football
12. Thunder Alley
15. 20/20
16. Full House
17. Primetime Live
18. NYPD Blue
20. Turning Point
27. Phenom
30. Sunday Night Movie/Family Matters

Fall Shows Survival: 4/11 (36%)
NYPD Blue, Boy Meets World, Lois & Clark, Grace Under Fire

Midseason Shows Survival: 4/7 (57%)
Turning Point, Thunder Alley, These Friends of Mine (Ellen), Sister Sister

Total New Shows Survival Rate: 8/18 (44%)

Cancelled/Ended Series
America's Funniest People/Dinosaurs (4 seasons, Dinosaurs aired in Summer 1994)
Where I Live (2 seasons)
Phenom/Thea/Moon Over Miami/Missing Persons/Joe's Life/The Paula Poundstone Show/George/Birdland/The Critic/The Byrds of Paradise (1 season)

Emmy Award Nominees & Winners (Major Categories)
NYPD Blue (Nominee, Outstanding Drama Series)
Home Improvement (Nominee, Outstanding Comedy Series)
David Caruso, NYPD Blue (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series)
Dennis Franz, NYPD Blue (WINNER, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series)
John Goodman, Roseanne (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series)
Roseanne Barr, Roseanne (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
Patricia Richardson, Home Improvement (Nominee, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series)
Gordon Clapp, NYPD Blue (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Nicholas Turturro, NYPD Blue (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series)
Amy Brenneman, NYPD Blue (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)
Gail O'Grady, NYPD Blue (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)
Sharon Lawrence, NYPD Blue (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series)
Jerry Van Dyke, Coach (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series)
Shelley Fabares, Coach (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series)
Sara Gilbert, Roseanne (Nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series)
Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne (WINNER, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series)

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