May 29, 2019

Memorable TV Line-Up’s:NBC Thursday Night (Fall 1984)

It’s time to go back to NBC Thursday's and a look at 20 years of Must See TV. Today let’s discuss the greatest line up in history. How is this the greatest line-up in history? A couple reasons we will discuss as we go. But first, we have already talked about when Must See TV really took off in 1994. But how did it get started ten years earlier?


Technically in started in 1982 when NBC started pairing shows like Fame, Taxi (acquired from ABC) and Gimme a Break! on to Thursday’s. This included a new show I will discuss below. It’s easy to forget how awful NBC was doing all around as the 80’s began. Then in 1984, it all changed.


The Cosby Show

Say what you want about the bad things Cosby did in his personal life, but it shouldn’t cancel out the amazing work he did in his professional life. Well ok his movie career was hardly “amazing”. But what he did with this series, was. It was a game changer, in many ways. It showed you could have a family sitcom where the parents are normal parents and the kids aren’t wisecracking wiseguys. It revived the sitcom format that had been going stale as the 70’s turned into the 80’s. It saved NBC which was a floundering network. And of course, it portrayed an upscale African American family which believe it or not was rare. It seemed to a rule that African American’s has to be butlers or maid’s, or dirt poor. This was one of the first time’s America saw that yeah African American families can be successful too. And finally, the best thing was how relatable this show was. Yeah the show was about an African American family, but it was relatable to every family in the country. That’s why it was a massive hit and why it still holds up to this day.

Family Ties

It’s true that most people think of Michael J Fox when they think of this show, but it’s also true the show was really good for other reasons. The writing was so strong but also light. It was never a “heavy” show, there were plenty of time’s for goofy fun. And yeah the show could also be a bit formulaic (I can’t count how may episodes ended with two character discussing an issue in the kitchen). And the rest of the cast were pro’s. Add Gary David Goldberg as the creator and you have a show which is was poignant, funny, and will always hold up. I commented on how Facts of Life was one of the last old school sitcoms, and Family Ties was another. When “Facts” and “Family” ended by 1989, it ended a type of sitcom which would never be seen again.


Cheers was the show I teased before, of course, as it came around in 1982. And no one cared. But NBC knew there was merit to it and kept it on (the fact they had nothing to lose didn’t hurt). A few months ago I went back and watched all the episodes after Shelley Long left, and man I had forgotten how well written it was, how funny it was, and how memorable these characters were. When I was out of episodes, I was kinda sad.

Night Court

This was the anomaly. Markie Post once described the show as the “antidote for all the smart and sophisctaed comedy” that aired first. And that’s fair. Every line up has it’s odd duck which isn’t that good. The thing is, for an odd duck it was a really funny one. The jokes and the pacing and the very strong cast…I love watching this show over and over again, it’s just really funny!

The funny thing about this slot is how solid it was. In 20 years of Must See TV a ton of sitcoms came through. Only 3 drama’s. Yeah, impressive. This is because they were solid, well written, and well loved drama’s. I talked about ER already. The other two?

and then…

And finally, the thing that makes this line up the best ever is what cam at the very end of the night at 11:30. Of course I am talking about:

I haven’t talked enough about Carson and the way his ruled late night. He is still, decades later, the king. But that’s a subject for another day. The point is with a lineup like this, NBC OWNED Thursday nights!

As the 80’s rolled on Family Ties and Night Court would be shuffled away. And other shows came in. The two most notable are

The Cosby spin-off:

The one everyone forgets:

And of course…

And when Cheers ended, we had the premiere of:

This didn’t stay on Thursdays long however. But that’s a subject for another day. Suffice to say, I have been watching these episodes again and the show still holds up.

That brings us to 1993-1994, and NBC was losing steam. But then things changed but I already discussed the revival NBC had in 1994 where Must See TV really took off. So, I said it lasted twenty years then how did Must See TV end? I’ll be back to finish my look at this amazing run next time.

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