Though ABC no longer boasts the familiar faces of D.J., Stephanie and Michelle of the ever-popular “Full House,” a new generation of “family entertainment” has returned to Friday’s prime-time.
The two-hour line-up kicks off with “George Lopez,” a sitcom that confronts issues of cultural values, assimilation and intergenerational perspectives. Similar to the older programming of TGIF sitcoms, “George Lopez” includes a cast of younger characters who deal with teenage issues of dating and popularity.
Following “George Lopez,” the new TGIF line-up departs from the common notion of family entertainment. “Married to the Kellys,” “Hope and Faith” and “Life with Bonnie” all center around adult themes of marriage, work and responsibility. The TGIF of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s had shows that thrived on young stars and childhood issues such as dealing with pesky neighbor Steve Urkel in “Family Matters” or living with five other brothers and sisters in “Step By Step.”
The TGIF today lacks strong child and teen stars. Breckin Meyer (“Road Trip”) of “Married to the Kellys” is the closest young viewers will get to identifying with characters. “Married to the Kellys” is based upon the lives of two recently married couples in their late twenties. Breckin Meyer’s character, Tom, tries to adjust to living near his new in-laws and humor arises when he can’t live up to their standards. The symbolic comedy of Tom’s paper dog being placed in his mother-in-law’s poster “dog house” is an issue that viewers under 18 could care less about.
“Hope and Faith” follows with the adult theme of sisters at odds, despite the juvenile acting skills of Kelly Ripa (“Live! With Regis and Kelly”). The show is reminiscent of TGIF alum “Perfect Strangers” as Hope (Faith Ford, “Murphy Brown”) and Faith (Ripa) are opposites similar to Balki and Larry. Like Balki, Faith’s personality is exaggerated and child-like making Ripa’s performance seem over-rehearsed and fake.
TGIF ends with the second season of “Life with Bonnie.” Bonnie Malloy (Bonnie Hunt, “Jerry Maguire”) is the host of “Morning Chicago,” and she finds managing a career and family to be a chaotic task.
The more mature themes in TGIF allow for “risky” content that wasn’t in the original Friday night line-up. In “Hope and Faith,” Ripa’s character is a washed-up soap star willing to do anything to pay off a $5,000 debt. Ripa plays with the notion of earning the money through prostitution, pulling her “For Sale” Emmy from a bag, while viewers are left to interpret the sexualized physical comedy.
“George Lopez,” while the most family oriented show of the line-up, still allows for sexual references as well. Lopez’s mother Benny (Belita Moreno, “Perfect Strangers”), confesses proudly to her granddaughter about early sexual promiscuity.
Whether it is TGIF that has changed its appeal since the 1990s, or the audience that has changed its tastes, viewers are left with confusing and contradictory themes. Today, characters of TGIF attempt to tackle more controversial and mature aspects of life. Even the new slogan “Is it Friday yet?” has an adult twist, leaving nostalgic viewers longing for the cheesy family scenarios of classic “Thank goodness it’s Friday.”