Sometimes we all need a little nostalgia in our lives and what better way to look into the past than to re-visit some of our favorite TV programming blocks? In the 80s and 90s, primetime blocks of television were all the rage. The idea was that you could get an audience to tune in to your 8 o’clock show and have them hooked for the rest of the night with a block of similar programming. Then, in the late 90s, something happened that made that a bit more difficult…but let’s not focus on that for the moment. Instead, join us as we wistfully look back at some of our favorite shows from our favorite programming blocks of days gone by. It’s Retro TV Night!
The granddaddy of them all was NBC’s “Must See TV” Thursday nights. Originally, the home of such television legends as The Cosby Show and Cheers, ”Must See TV” was NBC’s powerhouse night of shows from the late 80s well into the 90s. Starting with Friends (the ultimate 8pm anchor show from 1994 – 2005) and ending with ER, Must See TV provided NBC with years of ratings wins and a seemingly endless string of hits. If it was 8pm on Thursday night, most TV’s in the US were tuned to Must See TV.
If Thursday nights belonged to NBC, then Friday nights were all about ABC’s TGIF lineup. If you were a kid in the 90s, you most likely spent a fair amount of time with Balki Bartokomous, Uncle Jesse and Steve Urkel. ABC knew that kids and families were home on Friday nights looking for something to watch that would compliment their Ecto-Cooler Hi-C and pizza pocket dinners. The answer? TGIF (short for Thank Goodness It’s Friday) on ABC. With classic shows like Full House, Perfect Strangers, Family Matters and the soon-to- be-sequeled Boy Meets World, Friday nights were all about families, fun and one enduring question: Did I do that?
Programming blocks weren’t just for the broadcast networks. Plucky upstart cable network Nickelodeon had a few tricks of their own. Starting with Nick at Nite in 1985, Nickelodeon gave classic TV shows an overnight home. Viewers could fall asleep with reruns of classic sitcoms like Mr. Ed, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I Love Lucy or with more dramatic shows like Dragnet and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1992, the network launched SNICK (short for Saturday Night Nickelodeon) as a block of programming for older kids and tweens. Animated shows like The Ren & Stimpy Show were there for laughs (and jokes about logs) while live action shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? catered to the sleepover crowds. Spoiler alert: the magic dust that the kids threw into the fire at the beginning of each episode of Are You Afriad of the Dark? to make the fire crackle was just plain, old table sugar. Sorry to burst your bubble.
While programming blocks from the networks are a bit of a thing of the past, thanks to TiVo any night can be a special TV night. Check out our favorite Retro TV blocks by going to TiVo Central, select “Find TV, Movies & Videos”, then choose “Browse TV & Movies” to find “Retro TV Night” under Collections. There you’ll also find other great themed collections you can use to transform any night into a programming block of your own.