The New Fall TV Season - 1989: A 20 Year Retrospective


It was Twenty Years Ago Today...

Last week we previewed the new dramas and comedies launching on the major TV networks this coming fall season.

We thought it would be interesting to take a quick look back at the network promos that ran 20 years ago to introduce the 1989 Fall TV season.

How did the ratings shake out that season?
Here are the
top ten shows in 1989-1990:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Roseanne (ABC)
3. Cheers (NBC)
4. A Different World (NBC)
5. America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC)
6. The Golden Girls (NBC)
7. 60 Minutes (CBS)
8. The Wonder Years (ABC)
9. Empty Nest (NBC)
10. Monday Night Football (ABC)

CBS didn't have a single scripted program in the top ten. Nor did FOX, which had just come on the scene a few years before.

Interestingly, NBC premiered, perhaps, the biggest and best hit show in television history on July 5, 1989, but didn't think it was good enough to make the cut that fall season.

cbs logo
The CBS promo was working some kind of social responsibility vibe, as if that had something to do with its programming.

Jon Cryer is the notable survivor here.
Today, he's the co-star of CBS's Two and a Half Men, one of the highest rated comedies on television. In 1989, he starred in the short-lived Famous Teddy Z, based on the real life story of a man who worked his way up from a talent agency mail room to being Marlon Brando's agent.

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It's clear in this promo that Bill Cosby was the king of NBC in 1989. But Jerry Seinfeld was the prince waiting in the wings. His show premiered that summer and had such a shaky start NBC took it off the schedule and tried to palm it off on an unimpressed Fox. Jerry and the gang weren't considered good enough to be scheduled for a September start until 1991, their third season.


This is a pretty poor quality video clip so allow us to sum it up for you.
A bunch of highly paid actors who hadn't been seen before 1989 and who haven't been seen since, laughing and mugging to a much-too-up-tempo generic music ditty.

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In 1989, Fox was running only three nights of programming and would not have a full seven-day-a-week schedule until 1993. Their promo song has the interesting lyric -- no looking back 'til we're on top. That achievement came in May 2008 when -- powered by American Idol and Super Bowl XLII -- Fox was crowned TV's highest rated network.

Yes, that's Johnny Depp in there as the star of the new 21 Jump Street along with some of the people whose voices would help make The Simpsons one of the longest running shows in TV history.