The Forgotten Sketch Comedy That Was Going To Replace SNL, Stream All Seasons Now

By Brian Myers | Published

When it debuted on April 11, 1980, the ABC network sketch comedy series Fridays was all but assured to not only be the next Saturday Night Live but was in a great position to replace it altogether. Audiences were beginning to fade away from SNL, and the series was set to be in its last season, making Fridays prime to be the next big late-night thing.

Fridays Started Just Like SNL

Fridays followed the successful format of its NBC network predecessor, employing sketch comedy skits that centered around celebrity caricatures, ridiculous situations, and insane mockeries of pop culture from the era. Like SNL, Fridays also featured a celebrity guest host, the first of whom was George Carlin. Incidentally, Carlin was also the guest host on the first episode of SNL in 1975.

Incredible Musical Guests

Fridays also featured popular bands on each episode. Devo, The Stray Cats, The Cars, Tom Petty, and Kim Carnes appeared to solidify a base of younger viewers in their teens and 20s, while The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, Chubby Checker, and The Eagles were brought on to lure in audiences approaching middle age.

SNL was losing viewership and was believed to be in its last season, while Fridays was commanding the star power and had more brilliant writers. So what happened?

Killed By Executive Meddling

In a move that put ABC’s Nightline on a Monday-Friday schedule, Fridays saw its time slot get pushed to midnight. This half-hour postponement worked to erode its viewership, causing the network to cancel the show in April 1982. But over the course of the 58 episodes it was live, Fridays proved itself to be a worthy rival of an SNL that was experiencing serious growing pains and behind-the-scenes issues.

Larry David Once Had Hair

At the writers’ desk were Larry David, Larry Charles, and Elaine Pope, part of a staff of nearly two dozen comedic geniuses that gave viewers parodies like “The Moral Majority Comedy Hour,” as well as satirical sketches of popular films like Popeye, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and a 17-minute spoof of The Rocky Horror Picture Show where actor John Roarke plays President Ronald Reagan. In the parody, Reagan was Dr. Frank N. Furter, a madman attempting to create the “perfect Republican.”

The sketches were pure genius, an attribute to be expected when the minds of Larry David and Larry Charles combine. Add Fridays‘ guest stars and musical entertainment to the mix, and you have a solid thing to come home to see after coming home from a night out. But nothing beats the show’s on-screen talent.

Up And Coming Comedy Stars

Imagine a show where the comedy chops of Michael Richards (Seinfeld), Mark Blankfield (Robin Hood: Men in Tights), and Melanie Chartoff (Parker Lewis Can’t Loose) bring to life the insanities that were penned in the writing room of an all-star cast of writers. Though short-lived, Fridays outshined SNL on nearly every level in the three seasons it was on the air, leaving some of us to imagine what might have been had ABC not toyed with its time slot.

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Fridays deserves high marks as a sketch show, a 4.0/5.0 stars that compares to the dull 2.0/5.0 stars I believe SNL from the same era garners.

Fridays can still be viewed on multiple streaming services. Pluto, Shout!TV, and Tubi all feature the series for rent or free viewing with ads. You can also purchase the series to stream from Amazon.