Question: Since NBC first began using the phrase "Must See TV" in 1994, what shows have been a part of that lineup? — Jillian, Boston, Mass.
Televisionary: Boy, do I have you covered on this one, Jillian. Taxing my television powers to their utmost, I have commanded my executive minions at NBC to produce a special just for you and they have done so. Tune in at 9:30 on May 20 for NBC's 20 Years of Must See TV, which will feature highlights from the biggest Thursday-night shows along with interviews with many of those series' stars. My one note of disappointment, however, is that though I told them to call it Hey, Jillian! Here's That Special You Asked For!, my network servants deemed that too unwieldy a title.
(Alright, so the network was going to put the special on anyway as part of their 75th-anniversary celebration and I had nothing to do with it. Had you going for a second, though, didn't I?)
Being a stickler, I'll add that though NBC didn't start using the official "Must See TV" slogan for its dominant Thursday-night programming until 1993, the network bigwigs are willing to fudge it and say the period stretches all the way back to 1982, when Cheers launched and Hill Street Blues had been on the schedule for more than a year. (Truth is, Hill Street was never a hit, but it provided the network with critical cachet, and Cheers wasn't an instant mega-hit. However, by the end of the 1985-86 season, The Cosby Show (8 pm/ET) and Family Ties (8:30 pm/ET) were the top two series on any night and Cheers handed the network the trifecta the following season when it claimed the number-three spot.)
For a year-by-year look at that and every other night, see our "What Was On" feature, which provides you with the prime-time network lineups from 1953 on.