30 Years Ago: Remembering The 1991/1992 Primetime TV Season

Post by: Rick Ellis 01 September, 2021

The 1991/1992 broadcast TV primetime schedule was a lot about transition. After NBC had dominated the latter part of the 1980s, the network was struggling to replace aging hits. In the 1990/1991 season, NBC finished the year with five shows in the Nielsen Top Ten. It had one show in the Top Ten the following year. NBC had lost the long-running shows Amen and Hunter at the end of the previous season. But by the end of the 1991/1992 season, the network would see the end of The Cosby Show, Dear John, The Golden Girls and Night Court. Plus, Matlock would move to ABC and In The Heat Of The Night to CBS. It was going to be a very tough year.

But if NBC was hitting a lean streak, rival ABC was building an impressive lineup. It's Tuesday night block of four comedies - Full House, Home Improvement, Roseanne & Coach - all finished the year in the Top Ten. Sunday's combo of America's Funniest Home Videos and America's Funniest People were both doing well and although the network didn't realize it at the time, the new addition of Step By Step to its TGIF lineup was going to give a boost to that aging programming block. ABC had lost some important shows after the previous season: China Beach, Father Dowling Mysteries, Head of The Class, thirtysomething and Twin Peaks. But it would add Home Improvement, Homefront, Step By Step and The Commish. Three of those four shows would become cornerstones of the network in the following years.

As for CBS, while it was doing well with its existing shows, its new program development efforts were a disaster. The only new series to really work from the 1990/1991 season was the Burt Reynolds comedy Evening Shade, which was enough of a success to boost an already strong Monday night lineup of comedies, While it didn't crack the Top 30 in its first year, it finished #15 for the 1991/1992 season, followed by Major Dad (#9), Murphy Brown (#3) and Designing Women (#6). For the 1990/1991 season, CBS debuted 17 shows and only two lasted more than one season: Evening Shade and the Sharon Gless as a public defender series The Trials Of Rosie O'Neill, which managed to eek out a second season. The 1991/1992 season wouldn't end any better for CBS. It would premiere 20 new series and none of them could be considered a success. The critically acclaimed Brooklyn Bridge aired for two seasons and the summer series Bodies of Evidence technically aired a second season, even though each "season" was only eight episodes. Even worse, CBS had the Winter Olympics during the 1991/1992 season and the two shows that received the most PR push from the network - Fish Police and Scorch - were each gone after six episodes.

Then there was upstart Fox, which was...well, Fox. The network didn't have a single show in the Top 30 during the 1990/1991 season and that didn't change for the 1991/1992 season. But it added Beverly Hills 90210 during the 1990/1991 season and the following season added Herman's Head and Roc (which would both run three seasons). The network wasn't cranking out huge hits yet, but it was building. The following season would bring the premiere of Martin and The Simpsons would enter the Top 30 for the first time.

AllYourScreens is going to spend this September highlighting the hits and misses of the 1991/1992 primetime season. We will especially be focusing on highlighting as many of the 66 new shows that premiered between September 1st, 1991 and August 31, 1992. There will be some exclusive interviews, features about the trends that season, profiles of most of the shows as well as some news stories from that season that you might not have heard before. Like the charges of plagiarism against an upcoming Dick Wolf-produced cop drama that threatened the future of the proposed series Homicide: Life On The Street. Or the TV movie that Dolly Parton hoped would become a TV franchise. And then there was the short-lived series Vinny & Bobby, which was notable because it featured Matt LeBlanc playing the same character in the second of two unsuccessful attempts to launch a spin-off of Married With Children. And I haven't even mentioned Darren Starr's attempt at doing a TV spinoff of a hit movie.

There will be at least one new story each day and the best way to keep track of them all is to follow me on Twitter at @aysrick or subscribe to my free daily newsletter.

And if you were working in television during the 1991/1992 television season, I'd love to hear from you. It's been a challenge to find people working in television who are still alive and willing to talk about work they did a generation ago. You can reach me by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Last modified on Thursday, 02 September 2021 02:59