These 12 sitcoms of the 1990s were brief hits but only lasted a year

These one-year wonders made the Top 40, but were quickly canceled.

Images: The Everett Collection / iStock

The volume of television shows increased dramatically in the Nineties. Upstart networks The WB and UPN joined the big three and the blossoming Fox — and that's not even mentioning the proliferation of cable. The TV biz became much more of a dog-eat-dog world. Plugs were pulled with far more haste.

The top sitcoms of the era — your Seinfields, Full Houses, Roseannes and whatnot — anchored hit programming blocks like ABC's TGIF and NBC's Must-See TV Thursdays.

However, there was always that one slot in those blocks that seemed jinxed. Many of these short-lived series sat in those choice, but highly pressurized time slots. Critics loved some and loathed others. Regardless, they all brought in viewers, for a time, and quickly vanished.

Do you watch any of these shows?

1. Grand



The cast was enviable, with Bonnie Hunt, Michael McKean and Joel Murray onboard, and the concept was proven. Grand was same sort of soap opera parody that Soap had perfected a decade earlier. That was perhaps its biggest hurdle, as well. Sandwiched between Cheers and L.A. Law, it climbed to No. 25 in the ratings. That was not enough to make it one of the rare television programs to run for two shortened seasons within the same calendar year.

Image: NBC

2. Carol & Company



With a troupe of talents that included Jeremy Piven, Richard Kind and Peter Krause, Carol Burnett made a comeback with this anthology series for NBC. Unlike her sketch-filled Carol Burnett Show, Carol & Company crafted a stand-alone 30-minute spoof sitcom each week. For example, one episode parodied Doogie Howser, M.D., with guest star Neil Patrick Harris playing "Hoogie Dowser." They can't all be "Went with the Wind," folks. Betty White and Tim Conway made cameos, helping the show claw its way into the Top 40, but the series only lasted 33 episodes and a little over a year.

Image: Disney-ABC Domestic Television 

3. Baby Talk



Critical praise typically has little relevance on sitcom longevity. Take Big Bang Theory, for example. Or Happy Days, for that matter. Speaking of Chachi, Scott Baio appeared with George Clooney (yes, Clooney and Baio once worked together) in this loose adaptation of the Look Who's Talking movies. Only this time, Tony Danza was the voice of the baby, not Bruce Willis. A 1991 critical poll named Baby Talk the Worst Series on Television. Nobody but Baio seemed to want to be a part of it. Star Julia Duffy, the second actress cast as the mother of the talking baby, begged to leave and was released after the first season. "We're just going to do the best we can," Baio stated, "And [if that's] what the people like, that's going to stay on." Shoved between Who's the Boss? and Roseanne on ABC, Baby Talk broke into the Top 30. However, it only ran for 14 months.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

4. Room for Two



A lead-in is everything. This Patricia Heaton and Linda Lavin mother-daughter comedy sailed to No. 12 in the spring of 1992, as it rode in the wake of Roseanne. However, a jump from Tuesday to Thursday — going head-to-head with Wings — lost its audience. Heaton would certainly do well for herself in later sitcoms.

Image: Warner Bros. Television

5. The Jackie Thomas Show



Speaking of Roseanne, a great deal of off-screen drama swirled around this comedy vehicle for her then-husband Tom Arnold. The concept was heavily indebted to The Dick Van Dyke show. Roseanne Barr and Arnold pressured ABC into slotting the sitcom after Roseanne, then the No. 2 show in TV. It worked, for a time. The Jackie Thomas Show premiered with the highest ratings of any network series debut since Twin Peaks, and it held onto 90% of Roseanne viewers. At the end of the season, it ranked at No. 16. Barr publicly threatened to leave the network if Jackie Thomas was not renewed. Spoiler: It was not renewed. Arnold switched networks. Barr stayed at ABC — and the couple divorced.

Image: Warner Bros. Television / ABC

6. Laurie Hill



Another victim in the battle between the Arnolds and ABC was this medical sitcom, most notable for featuring Ellen DeGeneres as a ditzy nurse. Despite Ellen's involvement, there was an overwhelming apathy surround the show, from network to cast. The last show premiered by the network that season, Laurie Hill had little promotional enthusiasm from ABC. Five episodes aired and everyone moved on with a collective shrug. Nevertheless, it did chart at a respectable No. 38 in the Nielsen ratings.

Image: Disney-ABC Domestic Television

7. Phenom



Judith Light headlined as the mom in this charming sitcom about a young tennis phenom. A cushy time slot between Full House and Roseanne served this show well, as it ranked in the Top 20. There was even a lovely theme song written and performed by Carly Simon. Major champion Tracy Austin served as a technical consultant on the believably choreographed tennis action. Oddly, ABC ousted the show after one season. Where's John McEnroe to argue a call when you need him?

Image: Sony Pictures Television

8. Me and the Boys



Steve Harvey stepped into Phenom's vacated slot for his first starring role. This comedy about a widowed father and video rental manager scored enviable ratings, coming in at No. 20 with Nielsen. ABC canceled this one, too, after a single season.

Image: Disney-ABC Domestic Television

9. Can't Hurry Love



Nancy McKeon, best known as Jo on The Facts of Life, starred in what was essentially a watered-down precursor to Sex in the City. Despite having an average household rating of 11.4, tying it for 24th place among all TV shows that year, Can't Hurry Love was rushed off the schedule.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

10. Boston Common



No time slot of the 1990s was more cherished and cursed than the half-hour between Friends and Seinfeld on NBC's Must See TV. The network plugged countless fleeting "hits" into the spot. Basically "Friends but in Boston," Boston Common was a Top 10 smash as a mid-season replacement. The sitcom relocated to Sunday night — but its viewers did not. The show sunk like tea in the sea, plummeting from 8th to 52nd place.

Image: Sony Pictures Television

11. Fired Up



NBC quickly learned that Thursday evenings was the only environment with oxygen for fledgling sitcoms. Like Boston Common, this Leah Remini one was the No. 6 show on TV — when it aired immediately after Seinfeld. A move to Monday led to Fired Up being just fired.

Image: CBS Television Distribution

12. Stark Raving Mad



The People's Choice Award for Favorite New Television Comedy Series. Talented, beloved stars Tony Shalhoub and Neil Patrick Harris. A clever concept that was The Odd Couple meets Stephen King. Ratings consistently in the Top 20. So what went wrong? Why was this canceled after one season on NBC? That remains a mystery, like the writings of Shalhoub's fictional "Ian Stark."

Image: 20th Television



Do you remember Bridget Loves Bernie and Funny Face? They only lasted a year for much different reasons. READ MORE

Image: The Everett Collection

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Moody 22 months ago
The only one of these I remember is Boston Common but I never watched it. For some reason I remember the commercials advertising it.
chanw426 Moody 22 months ago
Wow, same here!! It had the really cute and talented Traylor Howard (who went on to success in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place) as the female lead. That’s all I remember. One of many shows of that era I meant to check out but it was gone before I ever did.
vinman63 22 months ago
I only remember Boston Commons.
Bobbo 22 months ago
I enjoyed the Linda Lavin sitcom, “Room for Two.” I was disappointed it didn’t return for additional seasons.
Paulap44 22 months ago
Have you found a station that will pick ME tv up? The Rhode island /Massachusetts area miss you
BuckeyeBeth 22 months ago
The title cards for Me and the Boys, Can’t Hurry Love, and Boston Common look familiar but honestly the only one of these but I have a strong memory of is Baby Talk. And I do remember I stopped watching it after about the second or third episode.

Does anyone know if any of these are on any streaming services or on YouTube? I would definitely be interested in watching a couple of these especially the last one, Stark Raving Mad.
MichaelSkaggs 22 months ago
I only remember and watched "Baby Talk".
Zip 22 months ago
Wow. Don't remember any of these show at all. Perhaps that's for the best.
ncadams27 22 months ago
Viewing habits changed drastically in the 90’s as VCRs and video stores became mainstream. We no longer required the networks to keep us entertained. I recall a writer commenting that a certain producer and/or actor had a deal to provide a show to a network. The writer added, “I wish they had ideas, rather than deals”.
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CaptainDunsel LoveMETV22 22 months ago
They say the memory is the second thing to go. (I forget what the first was.)
LoveMETV22 CaptainDunsel 22 months ago
George Takei says:.Maybe he's right?
CaptainDunsel LoveMETV22 22 months ago
I'll have to remember tha... Uhhh. What was I saying?
TerrenceJLinder 22 months ago
If TV executives wanted to cancel a show All they had to do was put the show even if it was a hit with a bad night which they did a lot. A lot of these TV shows were terrible anyway so moving them to a new night was a blessing.
Runeshaper 22 months ago
You'd think a Tony Shalhoub and Neil Patrick Harris show would be pretty solid...
rahaindy Runeshaper 22 months ago
It was a funny funny show
cperrynaples rahaindy 22 months ago
Well, the problem was that Shalhoub went too far and Harris didn't go far enough! Monk & Barney more suited each actor's skills and were successes! "You'll thank me later"...LOL!
Jaxter14 cperrynaples 22 months ago
👍. In 2016 Shalhoub was in a fun summer series called Brain Dead.
Barry22 22 months ago
Never saw any of them, much less heard of them.
tootsieg 22 months ago
I don’t remember any of these shows. I remember watching the Law and Orders, Seinfeld, Frasier so I was watching TV. 😊
Pacificsun 22 months ago
What these shows failed to do was make friends with their audience. It can be the most compelling or clever premise and the most attractive actors. But if they aren't the people you 𝒘𝒂𝒏𝒕 to be your neighbors, forget it. Think back to the shows well before the 80's and 90's which 𝒅𝒊𝒅 connect with their audience. And that's why they're invited every evening. And those others above aren't being brought back. Boston Legal crept in there ('04 to '08) ) because the Guest-Leads (WS and JS and CB) had long since become familiar and comfortable in viewer households. And it was fascinating to see what they did with their new roles. Meaning were they really good guys or bad guys. giving them a reason to be watched.

The other shows from the list above weren't making people stay home on those evenings to watch, that's the simple truth.

I think MeTV will be crossing a dangerous path if they continue trying to integrate more recent decades of shows, particularly if they replace true classics which makes the network special in the way they are promoted. For one thing, viewers can already find what they want to watch, if they want to, in other ways. But MeTV is successful for the reason of creating its comfortable "neighborhood" (collection) of favorites, sometimes with a few treats sprinkled in between. And that's what they should keep focusing on. It's not always the 𝒏𝒖𝒎𝒃𝒆𝒓 of episodes needed (GA or GI) but what makes the characters endearing!
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 22 months ago
" MeTV is successful for the reason of creating its comfortable "neighborhood" (collection) of favorites, sometimes with a few treats sprinkled in between. "
If MeTV is careful in it's approach as to how and what they introduce they should continue to enjoy the success they have achieved. Since their start as a network they have changed the
" neighborhood " blend many times. Although not always met with satisfaction, they still made those changes. Don't think any network will ever find the perfect mix, but MeTV does a fair job in balancing their variety, ( just change the variety occasionally popular or not). They have a perfect opportunity keeping the "Sunday Block" to introduce some treats ( not running what's already broadcast) or if they're going to do that - pull some of the off prime shows that are shown in the overnight ( weekday and weekend) and run a block of those. JMO and ₵₵.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 22 months ago

We can look at it this way too. People go to the museum to see what belongs in there, especially the artwork and collections they enjoy revisiting.

But I remember when Van Gogh came to our famous urban museum, and people stood in line for hours (sometimes repeating the wait into the next) to see someone as special and curious as that artist!

But he was anyone other than contemporary to their experience.

LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 22 months ago
" We can look at it this way too. People go to the museum to see what belongs in there."
Agree- As long as we don't overthink it like Cameron did in " Ferris Bueller's Day Off." at the museum with:
George Seurat's- " A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

I'll take whatever treasures MeTV may have in their museum whether Abstract, Impressionist. Contemporary or Modern. Just change the exhibits from time to time.😉 Again JMO.
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 22 months ago
We studied that period of Art in particular in school! It was fascinating. So I remember all of it. I also saw FBDO, such a fun comedy. But don't remember this scene which seems kind of counter-point to the intentional insanity of the movie.

You surely have a good memory for pulling all these clips from YT!

I keep checking MeTV's schedule for the last quarter, and they haven't budged so far (except for Thunderbirds, and another change for TAGs).
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 22 months ago
Agree, that scene doesn't fit perfectly, but funny in a way. Thanks on the memory part, but I think its just certain TV and Movie scenes or phrases. Your right on the PDF Schedule. Thunderbirds and the extra episode of TAGS until Collectors Call returns. Well the semi- permanent Sunday Block addition and Sventoonie will return October 1st, ( sorry Batman fans).But yeah not much else yet in the way of schedule changes, but who knows, it is still Summer by the calendar anyway. LOL
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 22 months ago
Agreed. And I just reread that PDF schedule meaning that 9/4/2022 actually pertains to their 3rd quarter. So the 4th quarter can't come out until 10/4/2022.
cperrynaples LoveMETV22 22 months ago
BTW, there was a Ferris Buelller sitcom in the '90's! Bonus Question: What former MeTV star played the title character and which future superstar played his sister Jeannie?
Andybandit 22 months ago
I don't remember these shows and I was in my 20's in the 90's
MrsPhilHarris 22 months ago
I don’t remember any of these shows.
KJExpress 22 months ago
I guess I wasn't watching much TV back then. I never even heard of most of these. 🤷‍♀️
Maverick66 22 months ago
Those shows went off the air so quickly that I missed them all (& that's probably no great loss).
Jeremy 22 months ago
#6, #9, and #11 are the only ones I've never heard of.
BrittReid 22 months ago
Watched a total of zero and none were hits even briefly.
Coldnorth 22 months ago
Bridget loves Bernie is the only one I remember.
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Pacificsun cperrynaples 22 months ago
The Posts are often testing the water by initiating the 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏. They know well enough those are forgotten Shows (see my other comment). But it's interesting to read for what reasons. Not being memorable is reason enough. And to how definite/convinced readers are about their comment/opinion, that's the poison which keeps MeTV from touching that era.
Coldnorth cperrynaples 22 months ago
I have no idea how my post upset people. I am only saying I only remember Bridget loves Bernie. I thought this forum was about sharing. I do not post to upset anyone. I enjoy this site. And once in a while I post. And I am respectful
LoveMETV22 Coldnorth 22 months ago
No upset here. I enjoy your posts Coldnorth. This website is all about sharing, So post as you wish.
" Bridget loves Bernie." is available to watch free on Crackle here's the link:
Coldnorth LoveMETV22 22 months ago
Thank you. I enjoy your posts also. I have crackle but haven’t had the chance to check it out.
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