Over the course of this podcast, we’ve revisited many pop culture juggernauts — some bad, some good, perhaps none quite as baffling as ABC’s T.G.I.F. lineup.
I remember sitting down to watch these shows, week after week. I remember looking forward to it.
I did this of my own free will. It was not mandated by my parents. or assigned to me at school. No one ever put a gun to my head and demanded that two hours of primetime television viewing weekly be spent on this lineup. I chose this.
We all talk about “Peak TV,” about how HBO changed the television game with Sex & The City and The Sopranos, about how basic cable entered the fray with Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and about how Netflix completely upended the medium with its never-ceasing spout of content that every other outlet is struggling to keep up with. There’s so much TV, we don’t call them “shows” anymore. It’s “content.”
Nothing put this in context for me like rewatching T.G.I.F. did. I knew these shows would be cheesy, of course. We’ve been mocking the traditional three-camera family sitcom for decades. It’s not like Full House was cutting edge in the 90s.
But my jaw dropped at exactly how bad it was. Was it only thirty years ago that this is what passed for “entertainment”? Was I ever such a simple fool to laugh at Steve Urkel’s antics, to smile in appreciation of Uncle Jesse’s every “Have mercy”? Okay, fine, I was six when Full House debuted. But still… why didn’t somebody stop me?I didn’t expect to like Family Matters or Full House in 2019. But i didn’t expect to be repulsed. My reaction to this anti-comedy was like a physical allergy. I tried doing my due diligence as a podcast host, but it was not easy. Morbid curiosity got me through a few episodes of Full House, but after Family Matters‘ perfectly fine, Urkel-free pilot, I could barely get through twenty minutes of an Urkel-centric episode. There’s an obvious chasm between TV in 2019 and TV in the 90s — but I didn’t realize quite how far we’ve come until I compared what’s available now to what I watched then.
Boy Meets World is charming enough, and Step By Step was watchable. Not everything on T.G.I.F. was as abysmally bad as Family Matters or Full House — but oh, I shudder to think of an era when this was the best TV available to an American family on a Friday night.
Thank God it’s not 1989 anymore.