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'90s Kids Remember TGIF On TV, But Here's The Story Behind Your Fave Sitcoms

That Literally Happened! looked back at the hottest television programming of the '90s — TGIF!

Posted on October 16, 2019, at 11:40 a.m. ET

Courtesy of Jim Janicek

That Literally Happened!, a new show from BuzzFeed News on Facebook Watch, is revisiting some of the most memorable moments of the ‘90s.

Before there was Netflix and chill, our Friday nights in the ‘90s were devoted to TGIF, a television programming block on ABC that packed all of the biggest sitcoms into one weekly event.

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That Literally Happened! looked back at the origin and lasting cultural impact of TGIF to mark the block’s 30th anniversary.

TGIF, or Thank Goodness It’s Funny, was created and launched in 1989 by Jim Janicek, then a young producer with ABC.

“It was all about comedy. It was all about getting together,” Janicek explained in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “It was all about sitting down and taking a load off for the week and laughing together.”

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The cast of Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Instead of creating programming just for children, TGIF took the unique approach of creating content for the whole family, parents included. Janicek likened the idea to the television era of his childhood, when families would gather together for Disney Sunday movies.

“This was a place we created where they could sit with their kids on the couch and enjoy a whole night of laughs,” Janicek said.

The branding played into a larger sense of community, with families across the country all making the same Friday night plans in their living rooms.

“The celebrities, the stars, the kids around the neighborhood were all making appointments to be there on Friday nights,” Janicek said. “It became more popular than going to the movies.”

With a powerhouse initial lineup consisting of Full House, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, and Just The Ten Of Us, TGIF was a success and rejuvenated a television time slot once reserved for weaker programming.

“We were the hits of Friday night for a very long time,” Reginald VelJohnson, star of Family Matters, told That Literally Happened!

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“To this very day, people still come up to me and say how much they enjoyed Family Matters,” he added. “Or first they ask if I’m the real Carl Winslow, and I go, ‘Yes, I’m a little older, but I am the real Carl Winslow,’ and they tell me how much they grew up with the show.”

TGIF lived on well past the initial lineup and went on to feature shows like Dinosaurs, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World, and Step By Step. Iconic characters like Steve Urkel or famous catchphrases like “You got it dude!” from Michelle Tanner (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) all entered the pop culture lexicon through TGIF.

Like all good ‘90s sitcoms, the programs that made TGIF a hit weren’t all just for fun. The family-friendly shows were notorious for incorporating life lessons for the young audience, touching on everything from bullying to peer pressure and drug use.

“That a parent could put, or trust their child to sit in front of the television without any supervision — that the parents could be perfectly confident of the content — that was important,” Patrick Duffy, star of Step By Step, explained.

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TGIF aired for the last time in 2000, signing off amid a rapidly evolving media landscape.

“I think one of the downfalls of the brand was maybe that there became more choice,” Janicek said. “The kids had the Disney channel, while the parents could watch something else.”

Still, Janicek and the stars of the shows that forever engrained TGIF in our hearts have fond memories of the era.

“People began to watch and they’d tell other people, other people would tell other people,” VelJohnson recalled. “It became like a staple on Friday nights that everybody watched, you know, no matter what.”

Catch new episodes of That Literally Happened! Mondays on Facebook Watch.

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