Beyond the TV Grave - ABC’s Just the Ten of Us

Written Lamenting ABC's Poor Decisions by Bridger Cunningham

TVRG's Beyond the TV Grave series has located a forgotten TGIF classic, Just the Ten of Us.  Launched as a spinoff of ABC's ever-popular Growing Pains, the comfort-food sitcom was farmed to ABC's developing Friday comedy block, delivering respectable ratings and helping launch the TGIF franchise in 1989.  The show's durable performance, however was stifled in May 1990 when ABC cancelled the series due to political wranglings with production company Miller-Boyett.

Spinoff Premise

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Just The Ten of Us premiered in April 1988 on Wednesdays at 8:30 as the network experimented and launched new comedies with ratings juggernaut Growing Pains.  Wonder Years premiered to critical acclaim in the winter, with its 6 critically-acclaimed episodes finishing the season in 10th Place and earning a renewal.  ABC pondered potential spinoffs from Growing Pains, landing on Just the Ten of Us.  Focused on peripheral character Graham Lubbock (Bill Kirchenbauer), Mike's school basketball coach.  After district budget cuts threaten Graham's job, Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron) and his sister Carol (Tracey Gold) lead a protest as Graham is supporting seven children with another on the way.  The landmark episode ends with Mike, Carol and their father Jason (Alan Thicke) are arrested, and Graham is cut from the school.  The lead-in episode ends with Graham accepting a position at the male St. Augustine's Academy in Eureka, California.


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Graham's large brood consists of wife Elizabeth (Deborah Harmon), his four teenage daughters, Marie, fraternal twins Cindy and Wendy, Connie, pre-teens JR and Sherry, and toddlers Harvey and Melissa.  Much of the focus is Graham's interactions with the school's staff, as well as his teenage daughters' integration into an all-male school as Graham is granted an exception being on staff at the school.  Eldest son JR is a scoundrel getting into mischief for attention, and pre-teen daughter Sherry is the snarky voice of reason, similar to Black-ish' Diane.

The Lubbock Girls

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The focus of the series shifts over to Graham's high-school-aged daughters.  Eldest daughter Marie (Heather Langencamp) is wholesome and positioning herself to become a nun.  Ditzy Cindy (Jamie Luner, of Melrose Place fame) is the redhead who draws attention from the school's male populous, and her twin is vixen Wendy (Brooke Theiss).  The youngest, Connie (Jo Anne Willette) inspires for a career in journalism and publishes the school's newspaper.  Eventually, the four girls jump the sitcom shark and form a sisters singing act, the Lubbock Girls.  Incidentally, the "teenage" cast had three of the four actresses involved in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.  Langencamp played embattled heroine Nancy Thompson in the 1st and 3rd entries, Willette played a minor role in the second, and Theiss played the unfortunate victim in the 4th installment who is transformed into a roach.  Several references to the horror series were made in wraparound humor.

Tie-Ins to Parent Series

Following the series' launch, no further tie-ins to Growing Pains were made a Growing Pains took place in New York, and Just the Ten of Us took place in Northern California.


A modest hit for ABC's TGIF Lineup, Just The Ten of Us finished the 1989-90 season in 42nd Place with a 12.5 rating.  A respectable rating for a 9:30 showing, as it's lead-in, 5th season Perfect Strangers, ranked in 38th Place with a 13.2 at 9:00, and freshman sitcom Family Matters landed in 33rd place with a 13.7 at 8:30.  Why did a show which aligned with an evening's comedy block get the ax?  Miller Boyett Productions, which produced the remaining three sitcom showings of Full House, Family Matters and Perfect Strangers, wanted Friday evenings exclusively to showcase its productions.  With little scheduling space and 47 episodes produced (well below the syndication mark), ABC ousted Just the Ten of Us in favor of Heather Locklear.Miller Boyett vehicle Going Places.

ABC learned their lesson, as few shows succeeded in the 9:30 timeslot to the same caliber as Just The Ten of Us from 1990-2000.  Going Places lost its directions mid-season, and critically lambasted Look Who's Talking ripoff, Baby Talk, tanked inside one year.  ABC ignored the fact that three of its sitcom franchises, Perfect Strangers, Who's The Boss and Growing Pains, were all in their 5th and 6th seasons.  Just The Ten of Us may have been an ideal solution to cover undesirable timeslots, as the remains of the 90's displayed a slew of scheduling potholes.

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