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NBC’s Thursday Night Tradition of Hits Continues

Seinfeld, one of the greatest TV shows of all time, was part of NBC's Thursday night line up Seinfeld, one of the greatest TV shows of all time, was part of NBC's Thursday night line up

Almost any time slot is up for grabs by an up and coming network TV show, but Thursday night's slots have often been the exception. For nearly 30 years, NBC has dominated the Thursday night primetime block, producing hit after hit and dominating the air from 8pm until 11pm. In fact, some of the best and most successful shows in television history have been a part of that block, including The Cosby Show, Cheers, ER, Seinfeld, and The Office.

NBC showed signs of dominating Thursdays starting in about 1982, but hit their stride in the 1984-85 season. The line up for that year included The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, and Hill Street Blues. All of those shows wound up in syndication and enjoyed long, lucrative runs. They also made stars of Ted Danson and Michael J. Fox while cementing Bill Cosby’s position as one of America’s greatest comedians.

In the late ‘80s, the line up was still pretty much in tact. One change was the addition of the legal series L.A. Law, which took over the 10pm time slot in 1986 for an eight-year run.

The early ‘90s represented a loosening of NBC’s hold on what they had been calling “Must See TV.” The Cosby Show came to the end of its eight-season stretch in 1992, and Cheers started losing momentum as well, eventually wrapping things up a year later after an incredible 11-year legacy.

However, by the mid-‘90s things were back on the upswing. Although NBC still couldn’t find a smash hit at 8:30 or 9:30, the other three shows in the primetime block became some of the most lucrative and beloved ever. Those shows were Friends, Seinfeld, and ER.

Friends created six new bona fide stars in Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer. (However, of those, only Aniston has continued to be relevant in 2010, producing passable cinematic fare that continues to find an audience.)

Meanwhile, ER launched the career of George Clooney, who has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest film stars. And Seinfeld remains one of the most visible shows on television; it's in heavy syndication on multiple stations around the U.S. and the entire world.

These days, NBC Thursdays aren’t exactly what they once were, but the television business has changed quite a bit. Between the increasing number of high-quality cable shows and internet based entertainment, the networks no longer have a stranglehold on viewers.

Nevertheless, NBC is still responsible for two of today’s top sitcoms – The Office and 30 Rock. Also, Community enters its second season with a head of steam, while Parks and Recreation continues to win awards and acquire a fan base. That quartet makes for one of the best two hour chunks on TV. And just like 30 years ago, it happens on Thursday nights.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 October 2010 20:22

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