Some line-ups are monster successes. Not only are they enormously popular with massive ratings, but the lineup is remembered years (even decades) later for how amazing it was. Then you have line-ups that are just, well, there. They are good line-ups with good shows but they aren’t monster hits or cherished years later. They just, were. Here is an example of what I mean. A few years before ABC discovered TGIF, the seeds were planted with this memorable lineup.
Friday’s on ABC in the early 80s weren’t solid. Things changed in 1985. This was the year ABC started to realize that targeting the kid demographic would work. Two years later TGIF was born, but we went over that. So let’s take a look where that lineup began.
This show had quite a history. It was supposed to a vehicle for Alex Karras and Susan Clark. Then the network decided to jam a cute kid in (thanks to Gary Coleman’s success) and so Emmanuel Lewis was added . Thus, “Another Ballgame” became “Then Came You” and finally “Webster”. A show about two newlyweds having to raise an orphaned boy. And, well, hi jinks! It was a pretty harmless show but managed some memorable episodes. Like when Webster burned the apartment down. Or when Katherine miscarried (which was rare on a sitcom). Who here knows the reason Webster called Katherine “Ma’am” all the time? It was also my introduction to Ben Vereen. Back in my articles on actors who hated their shows I didn’t mention the tension on set, as Webster didn’t quite end up being what Karras or Clark wanted. Thankfully that didn’t last forever and the cast did eventually enjoy each other. The show managed six seasons.
I’ve talked about this show a lot, and while ABC kind of bounced it around (it was a mid season replacement a few times), it still managed a decent audience. I think the reason for this is that while show was not that well written or acted, Christopher Hewett did a fantastic giving us a lead character who smart, refined, and not without the occasional flaw.
This was one those shows that switched networks, and it had pretty much the same fate as those others did. I will talk more about it another time when I mention it in a more appropriate time slot article. I do find it funny that they put the show that the creators of “Webster” were ripping off right after it.
Benson had been around on Friday’s right through the early 80’s but never with any decent shows (Bosom Buddies??). It was when Webster finally came along that things took shape in 1983 (I was watching Dukes of Hazard). I know most people probably think of the stronger line up this show was in back in 1979, along with Laverne & Shirley and its parent series Soap, but I wanted to feature it here. And, as I’ve said many times, I loved this show. The funny thing is that I fell in love with in re-runs. It took me a long time to figure out there were new episodes still airing. The simple thing is that Benson was funny. It may not have been the smartest show, but it was a lot of fun to watch. Robert Guillaume was perfect and the show also featured Rene Auberjonois LONG before he became famous for Deep Space Nine & Ethan Phillips even longer before Voyager.
I guess that’s kinda the moral here, that not every successful show has to be a blockbuster or be “smart and sophisctaed”. Nothing wrong with some good wholesome fun which this lineup provided.
Oh And at 10:00 a litle show called…4
Speaking of Star Trek, yes that is Avery Brooks! Long before DS9
Webster and Mr.Belvedere kept things going the next year while some bad shows came and went. In 1987 Full House and Perfect Strangers moved in, forming what would be known as TGIF a year or so later. It all started in 1985 with these shows. I guess with NBC ruling Thursday’s and Saturday’s, and CBS ruling Monday night’s as I said last time, it was easy for this lineup to be ignored. But it was a good one, and most people who enjoyed the shows still enjoy them to this day.