Most people of my generation have fond memories of ABC’s TGIF lineup on Friday nights. We’d kick off the weekend by settling in front of the television and watching some sitcoms that were wholesome fun for the entire family.
Over the years, there were a number of shows that served as part of the TGIF lineup, although the ones that are most commonly associated with it are Family Matters, Full House, Perfect Strangers, and Boy Meets World.
But there was another mainstay of the TGIF days that often gets overlooked: Step by Step.
Step by Step was the story of two families that merged when divorcee Frank Lambert married widowed Carol Foster. The joining of two dissimilar families resulted in some sporadically entertaining hijinks.
For reasons that would take more time to explain than is justified, I own a “Best of Step by Step” DVD. I’ve taken advantage of this rare possession by reviewing an episode of the show.
The cold open is a good indication of the high stakes that SbS typically dealt with: Trouble cleaning a non-stick pan. We’re 45 seconds into the show and we’ve already had one character threaten to hit another over the head with a pot.
Once we get past that charming squabble, we get our first appearance by the show’s “standout” supporting character: Cody. Cody joined the cast in season two, and was presumably meant to be the show’s “cool” character. How did they indicate that he was cool? By having him talk exactly like Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I forgot exactly how Cody fit into the cast. I think he was supposed to be Frank’s nephew or something, and I’m pretty sure that he lived out of his van in their driveway. That seems kind of harsh, but after listening to Cody’s “dude” talk for a few minutes, I can kind of understand why he wasn’t invited into the house.
Entering with Cody is Frank’s teenage son J.T. who announces that he’s going to be getting his own television show on public access TV. Cody is going to be J.T.’s sidekick and they promised a show that will be almost exactly like Wayne’s World. (Remember that in the early 90’s, just about every teenager wanted to have a Wayne’s World like show.)
Since this was the 90’s, they then cut to the opening credits which came complete with its own theme song.
The opening credits show the family visiting an amusement park. At one point, Frank and Carol are watching the kids go down a giant flume, somehow not realizing that they’re standing in the splash zone. I’m not sure how they managed that since those areas are almost always well-marked with “YOU WILL GET WET” warnings. It’s kind of a shame considering that Frank and Carol are rather well dressed for an afternoon at the amusement park.
When we return to action, J.T. is giving orders to his siblings who will be serving as his show’s crew. He is interrupted by his sister Karen returning home from cheerleading practice. Karen has brought a friend home with her. And – oh my! Would you like to guess who the friend is played by?
That’s right. It’s Elizabeth Berkely. The star of Saved by the Bell and Showgirls is a special guest star on this episode. ELIZABETH F***ING BERKELY. S*** just got real.
J.T. is quite enamored of the friend (Her name is Lisa) and proceeds to spill his orange juice all over the floor.
He tries to impress her by telling her about his new TV show, and surprisingly it works. She’s clearly ready to jump his bones after hearing about it.
We then cut to a subplot where Carol wants Frank to take one of those stupid “compatibility tests” that women’s magazines love to run. It’s pretty obvious where this subplot is headed, so I don’t think I’ll waste any more time talking about it.
J.T. is ready to film his show, and Lisa arrives to be his guest. Things look good for J.T. until Cody arrives. All of a sudden, J.T. doesn’t seem quite as interesting to Lisa.
The show begins, and these guys aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they’re ripping off Wayne’s World. Only while Wayne and Garth are charming and funny, these two just come off as annoying and grating.
After the show, J.T. tries to make his move, only to hear that Lisa is in love…with Cody. Which goes to show that women don’t care about intelligence. They’ll gladly go after the stupid, but hot guy every time.
J.T. is upset, and as a result, fires Cody from the show, claiming that they don’t have any chemistry. Cody is sad. Or at least, that’s what we’re supposed to believe. Sasha Mitchell, the actor who plays Cody, isn’t really great at emoting. He really only has two emotions: Mild amusement and bewilderment. It’s not entirely surprising that he never went on to greater fame. Once spiky hair went out of fashion, he was pretty much done for.
Later on, Frank finds out what happened and confronts J.T. Frank tells him that he’s not as hot as Cody is, so there’s a good chance that he’ll lose out on a lot of girls throughout his life.
He doesn’t actually say this, but he adequately makes J.T. feel bad about firing Cody. Later on, Cody shows up and not only wishes J.T. good luck, but also lends him his guitar.
J.T. eventually realizes that he’s being a jerk and that he’ll never be as good-looking as Cody, so he apologizes and re-hires him. Everyone is happy. (I assume that the happiness lasted for about ten minutes until Cody revealed that he boned Lisa. That would have made the episode much more interesting.)
In case you were wondering, Frank and Carol eventually resolve their argument. And apparently, they reconcile by doing it on the kitchen table while the rest of the family is in the next room.
Ah, that was certainly a fun trip down memory lane. They certainly don’t make sitcoms like that anymore.