CBS Block Party
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CBS Block Party was a programming block that aired on the CBS television network during the 1997-1998 television season. The block was similar to, and was intended as direct competition to, ABC's TGIF lineup and aired on Friday nights from 8pm-10pm ET. Although the block was canceled after one year, the resulting audience fracture caused what turned out to be irreparable harm to the previously dominant TGIF, eventually clearing the way for CBS to dominate the Friday night lineup beginning in the next decade.
When ABC (a network that was in the midst of an overhaul as The Walt Disney Company took over the network) canceled the long-running shows Family Matters and Step by Step, CBS picked them up, paying a $40 million sum to earn the rights to the shows, and made them the cornerstones of the new "Block Party." Two new family comedies were added. The first was a new production from Miller-Boyett Productions (the production company behind Family Matters and Step By Step among other TGIF series), Meego. Meego, in addition to being produced by TGIF alumni, also starred a TGIF alumnus: Bronson Pinchot, who previously starred as Balki Bartokomous in Perfect Strangers and as Jean-Luc Rieupeyroux in the sixth season of Step by Step (Pinchot even used a similar accent to the one he used for the Balki character); Meego also featured well-known contemporary child stars Michelle Trachtenberg and Jonathan Lipnicki. The second new series was The Gregory Hines Show, an eponymous sitcom featuring entertainer Gregory Hines; CBS head Leslie Moonves described the Hines show as being more mature and edgy than the other shows in the block, but still family-friendly enough that children could watch comfortably.
Jaleel White, who played Family Matters star character Steve Urkel, stated that the producers jumped at the opportunity to jump to CBS because ABC was already shifting the TGIF block toward a much more child- and teen-oriented image, moving away from the whole-family approach it had taken at the beginning of its run (White believed being paired with the likes of The Gregory Hines Show was a far better fit than shows such as Muppets Tonight and Aliens in the Family that had been appearing on TGIF at the time), and that they did not believe Disney would give Miller-Boyett as prominent of a role as they had held with ABC before Disney had bought it. CBS saw the purchase as a golden opportunity to draw a younger demographic than it was drawing at the time.
The CBS Block Party was CBS's second (and last to date) attempt to compete with TGIF; in 1992, the network attempted a similar block, albeit targeting an older demographic than either TGIF or the Block Party, that featured The Golden Palace (the continuation of the long-running NBC sitcom The Golden Girls), Designing Women, Major Dad, and Bob. Like the Block Party, this block also failed after one season, and by the end of 1993, all four series had been canceled.
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None of the shows in the lineup lasted beyond that season. Meego lasted a mere six weeks, and The Gregory Hines Show was gone after fourteen. Though the two ABC series were picked up for full seasons, they suffered badly from the network jump, with both series hitting all-time lows in the Nielsen ratings (Family Matters was nevertheless modestly successful enough to beat its TGIF competitor, You Wish; the success was short-lived when You Wish was canceled). When the two series were canceled, neither was afforded a series finale.
CBS has mostly focused on dramatic programming in the time slot since the Block Party was canceled, a programming strategy that has been a relative success in the so-called "Friday night death slot."
- Lowry, Brian (2000-04-14). "‘TGIF’? Well, ABC's Not So Sure Anymore". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
- Hal Boedeker (July 18, 1997). "He's A Goober But CBS Has A Lot Riding On Urkel TV". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 18, 2012.