Fridays is the name of ABC's weekly late-night live comedy show, which aired on Friday nights from April 11, 1980 to April 23, 1982.
The program was ABC's attempt to duplicate the success of NBC's Saturday Night Live, which, at the time, was in its fifth and final season featuring the original "Not Ready for Primetime" cast, along with several writers who had been promoted to feature player status, as well as newcomer Harry Shearer. Like SNL, Fridays featured popular musical guests and, beginning in the second season, celebrity guest hosts (some of which appeared on SNL before and after Fridays aired, such as Andy Kaufman, Billy Crystal, William Shatner, and George Carlin).
The show featured many recurring characters and sketches, short films, and a parody news segment called Friday Edition, with Melanie Chartoff as anchor (later joined by Rich Hall in seasons two and three). Veteran comedian Jack Burns served as show announcer and made on-screen appearances on the show. Initially, the show was compared unfavorably to Saturday Night Live. The third episode (original airdate: April 25, 1980) was the last episode to air on some affiliates due to objectionable content concerning zombie gore and cannibalism ("Diner of the Living Dead"), disgusting habits ("Women Who Spit"), and blasphemous humor ("The Inflatable Nun").
When Saturday Night Live's sixth season was met with negative reviews and low ratings over the new cast, new writers, and new showrunner Jean Doumanian, critics who once panned Fridays praised it, citing the show as being sharper, edgier, and funnier than Saturday Night Live at the time. Some critics attributed this to the sprawling, ambitious, and often pointed sociopolitical and situational sketches.
Some examples of this include: a Bing Crosby-Bob Hope buddy comedy parody about the United States' dealings with El Salvador ("Road to El Salvador"); a Close Encounters of the Third Kind parody about refugees from an impoverished Central American country mistaking a Playboy magazine location scout and an American military invasion for extraterrestrials coming to save them ("Close Encounters of the Third World"); a Marx Brothers parody of Iran's revolution ("A Night in Tehran"); Palestinian radio DJs (played by Bruce Mahler and episode guest star George Carlin) broadcasting a morning show from a P.L.O. bunker ("K.P.L.O"); a live-action Robert Altman Popeye movie parody with Popeye (Mark Blankfield) and a band of first-wave hippies fighting back against a fascist regime led by Bluto ("Popeye's Got a Brand New Bag"); the US Founding Fathers worrying that the Second Amendment ("The Right to Bear Arms") will be abused in the future while ignoring suggestions for amendments granting equal rights to women and African-Americans; a variety show run by the Moral Majority ("The Moral Majority Comedy Hour"); a parody of Altered States where Ronald Reagan (John Roarke) uses sensory deprivation and psychedelic mushrooms to find a way to bring America back to its glory days, but ends up transforming himself into Richard Nixon ("Altered Statesman"); and a spaghetti western centered on the creationism vs. evolution argument featuring Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci ("A Fist Full of Darwin").
The show's magnum opus was a 17-minute parody of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Ronald Reagan (John Roarke) as Tim Curry's Dr. Frank N. Furter creating the perfect Republican, who turns out to be a militant black man who leads Reagan's followers in a revolution.
Unusual for a sketch comedy series, Fridays occasionally featured serious interludes and dramatic sketches, such as a segment which aired soon after the 1981 assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan involving all nine of the cast members recalling where they were at the time of previous assassinations and attempts  and a sketch where a punk rocker (Michael Richards) visits his father (John Roarke) who rejects him. After a long, heartfelt speech from the punk about how his father should accept that he's from a different generation and learn to love him, the punk discovers that he and the old man have different hair color and the punk concludes that the old man really isn't his father.
From its inception, Fridays embraced the emerging new wave rock music scene and its associated culture to a greater extent than Saturday Night Live did at the time, widely incorporating it into their selection of musical guests, hosts, and sketches. Unlike Saturday Night Live, Fridays did not have a show band on set. Pop art drawings were displayed and accompanied with a fuzz heavy electric guitar solo whenever the show went to and came back from commercial breaks, though season one featured cartoons by B. Kliban with some kind of pun as the punchline.
Three seasons of Fridays aired on ABC. A 12-episode first season aired from April 11, 1980 to July 18, 1980. The second season had 25 episodes and aired from September 5, 1980 to May 15, 1981. The third and final season had 21 episodes and aired from September 18, 1981 to April 23, 1982. The last episode aired as a primetime sketch show. The show was originally 70 minutes in its first season. It was expanded to 90 minutes in seasons two and three.
SNL executive producer Dick Ebersol gave all Fridays cast members an offer to join Saturday Night Live in 1982, but they all turned him down. Only Larry David and Rich Hall worked on SNL for a short time after Fridays was completed (both of them worked on Saturday Night Live during its tenth season in 1984; Hall was a cast member while David was a writer).
Directors of Fridays include:
Producers of Fridays include:
Writers of Fridays include:
Main cast, guest stars and musical guests on Fridays include:
AC/DC, The Clash, and The Stray Cats made their American television debuts on Fridays. At the time of The Stray Cats' appearance, the band had yet to be signed by a record company. During the group's performance, there was a crawl at the bottom of the screen inviting offers from record companies.
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|1||12||April 11, 1980||July 18, 1980|
|2||25||September 5, 1980||May 15, 1981|
|3||21||September 18, 1981||April 23, 1982|
On the February 20, 1981 episode, Andy Kaufman was the host. During a sketch about couples at dinner sneaking away to the bathroom to smoke marijuana, Kaufman, who was known for causing trouble on live TV, broke character and refused to read his lines (saying "I can't play stoned"). Michael Richards got up from the table, grabbed the cue cards and threw them down on the table in front of Kaufman, who responded by throwing a glass of water on Richards. Some of the show's cast and crew members became angry and a small brawl broke out on stage. Since the show was broadcast live, home viewers were able to see most of these events transpire until the network cut the cameras off. Kaufman returned the following week in a taped apology to home viewers. The incident was planned by Kaufman, who concocted it with his sidekick Zmuda, and was meant as a prank. The only individuals aware of the plan were producer/director Moffitt, producer/announcer Burns, and the three comedians acting in the sketch along with Kaufman: Richards, Chartoff and Burrell. This incident was reenacted in the 1999 film Man on the Moon, starring Jim Carrey as Kaufman, Bob Zmuda as Burns, Norm Macdonald as Richards, Caroline Rhea as Chartoff and Mary Lynn Rajskub as Burrell.
One final attempt was made by ABC to save the show by putting it on in prime time. The episode (broadcast on April 23, 1982) was scheduled against Dallas, which did nothing to help the show's moribund ratings. The series was promptly canceled.
A few years after the show's cancellation, Fridays appeared in reruns on the USA Network in the late 1980s. However, the episodes were edited down to 60 minutes (similar to how Saturday Night Live is edited on cable reruns). The reruns were pulled after a year.
For some time, a home video release of Fridays was considered out of the question, as cast member Michael Richards was said to have signed a deal stating that no episode would be released on any home video format. However, clips of sketches from the show (mostly sketches that featured Richards or David) surfaced on the Seinfeld season three DVD set in the bonus features set. Shout Factory announced plans to release both seasons of the show on DVD in 2013. In August 2013, after missing their original release date, Shout Factory released a five disc best-of collection featuring highlights of 16 episodes from seasons one through three (not complete episodes). In 2015, Hulu Plus streamed select episodes from all three seasons (season one has episodes 1, 3, 8, and 10; season 2 has episodes 3, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 19, and 20, and season three has episodes 2, 4, 12, and 13). As of 2017, the show is no longer streaming on Hulu Plus, but the best-of DVD collection is still available, and the show's episodes (which include the Hulu episodes and some episodes that weren't featured on Hulu) can be streamed on Tubi TV.
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