By macleans.ca - Friday, March 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
Is Friday night’s reign as the TV “death slot” coming to an end?
When ABC announced that the comedy Happy Endings was being moved to Friday nights, most observers assumed that was the end for the critically acclaimed show; Friday night in television is known as the “death slot.” Happy Endings, which begins its Friday run on March 29, is the latest in a long line of shows that have been banished to Friday night, and fans have learned to dread it: when the sci-fi show Fringe was moved to the slot a few years ago, the network made a joke of it with the advertising tag line: “You may think Friday night is dead, but we’re going to re-animate it.” Today, that scenario might be coming true; in an era when most nights of TV are in trouble, the worst night of the week may not be quite so bad.
Because Friday is a night when few people stay home to watch TV, networks rarely program their most promising shows there: when CSI became an unexpected hit on Fridays, the network moved it to another day. Otherwise, Friday night, which formerly played host to megahits like Dallas and The Dukes of Hazzard, is now a place for shows that aren’t doing well, or don’t require much promotion; Stephen Bowie, a TV historian who runs the Classic TV History blog, says networks may have decided this was a night when “the most desirable audience was out partying.” But recently, some success stories have emerged. Grimm, a supernatural mystery on NBC, is one of the network’s few popular scripted shows, and Shark Tank, ABC’s remake of a reality franchise that has already appeared in Canada as Dragons’ Den, has seen its Friday ratings go up every season.
What does it take to succeed on Fridays? It may help to appeal to people who are most likely to be home: children. One of the last successful and profitable Friday lineups was ABC’s “TGIF” in the 1990s, where writers were asked to make shows for kids and their parents. Michael Price, a writer and producer for The Simpsons who wrote for the ABC comedy Teen Angel, recalls, “We all knew going in that it was specifically a TGIF show, meant to complement the established TGIF shows,” such as Boy Meets World. And the writers tried to please themselves while “always keeping in mind that we were a show aimed at the whole family.”
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, January 4, 2013 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
The ’90s sitcom is back as Girl Meets World, with a focus on Cory and Topanga’s daughter
Like many people in their 20s and 30s, Laura Hughes is excited about the new incarnation of the ’90s sitcom Boy Meets World. Hughes, a writer of young-adult novels who started publishing online reviews of the show in 2003 as a college freshman, is one of the fans who turned the coming-of-age story of a boy named Cory from a minor ’90s series into a franchise: Disney has taken note of its huge online fan base and commissioned a pilot for a sequel series. “I have high hopes for Girl Meets World if it understands why we love Boy Meets World,” says Hughes, who is based in Massachusetts. Who would have thought there’d be such a following for a show about a boy with a girlfriend named Topanga?
Since the news broke that both Ben Savage (Cory) and Danielle Fishel (Topanga) have signed up to appear in Girl Meets World,a show about their characters’ daughter, the pilot has had more coverage than many shows that are actually on the air. When Rider Strong, who played Cory’s best friend, Shawn, announced on his website that he had “no official involvement” in the sequel, it was picked up by major gossip outlets like TMZ, Perez Hilton and Salon. Jeff Menell, a writer on the show for all seven seasons, says the “emotional response” to the announcement has made him realize “the amazing and enormous impact Boy Meets World had.”
Usually a show that gets a sequel series was a phenomenon in its own time, like Dallas. But Boy Meets World was mostly ignored when it was part of ABC’s kid-friendly “TGIF” lineup from 1993 to 2000. “We never felt we got the respect we deserved,” says Menell. But when it went into reruns, it exploded. Like many fans, Hughes got hooked later. “I was thinking I might write an article for my comedy website,” she explains. “Before I knew it, I’d reached a level of massive obsession.”
She’s not the only one. Menell recalls a recent incident where a coat-check girl saw the Boy Meets World logo on his jacket “and went nuts. She was a huge fan. It was a cool moment that got a second’s worth of respect from my usually unimpressed buddies.” And apart from getting millions of views for its episodes on YouTube, the show has inspired tributes usually reserved for classics. Last year, the gaming website IGN ran an article called “Lessons learned from Boy Meets World,” and in October, Hollywood.com writer Matt Patches published a 2,700-word oral history of the episode in which the characters dream they’re all being killed by a slasher. “There hasn’t been a great family sitcom since,” Patches insists.
Why would a low-budget sitcom with huge ’90s phones become a cultural touchstone in 2013? Hughes thinks it’s because “the creative team got a little loopy,” writing meta-humorous jokes for older fans. She points to the one where Cory’s crazy brother Eric “joins the cast of the gentle family sitcom Kid Gets Acquainted With Universe,” or the one where “Shawn spends an entire episode looking disturbingly hot in drag.” These surreal moments gave the show more hip cachet than other TGIF sitcoms like Full House.
That doesn’t mean Girl Meets Worldis a sure hit; its style might be out of place 20 years on. Boy Meets World had grown-up jokes because it aired on ABC, and Menell says it was also “about the parents. It was about the teachers.” The sequel will be on the Disney Channel, where most shows are what Patches calls “niche entertainment” for today’s kids, who haven’t heard of Cory or his wise teacher Mr. Feeny.
Hughes points to Canada’s Degrassi: The Next Generation as an example of how to bring modern kids into the fold. It brought back some of the original cast, but “used them sparingly, instead allowing the new kids plenty of room to come into their own. Girl Meets Worldwill have to do the same.” Even if it doesn’t, the buzz around it may have cemented the old show’s unlikely icon status. It seems that way to Menell, whose contributions to the original series included the slasher parody and an episode where Eric disguises himself as a tree. “I always loved my time on Boy Meets World,” he says. “But now I have a new-found pride about it all.”