ABC bets on family-friendly Friday fare

Friday, May 30, 2003

Next fall, ABC will return to its TGIF formula with four family-friendly sitcoms anchored by the returning "George Lopez" at 7 p.m. and "Life with Bonnie" at 8:30 p.m. Two new shows, "Back to Kansas" and "Hope & Faith," will join the block.

Through the decades, Friday night fare -- including "The Brady Bunch," "The Partridge Family," "The Donny & Marie Show," "Fantasy Island," "Benson, "Webster," "Full House," "Family Matters" and "Boy Meets World" -- attracted large audiences of children and their parents. ABC has seen much of its family audience slip away to the rival WB network and to its affiliate Disney Channel, which has a Friday night hit with 'tween comedies like "That's So Raven" (6 p.m., Disney) and "Lizzie McGuire" (6:30 p.m., Disney).

Other cable networks also have carved out their piece of the family entertainment niche, including Animal Planet. Viewers in search of America's critter idol should not miss "Pet Star" (7 p.m., Animal Planet), which wraps up tonight with 15 performing creatures competing for a grand prize of $25,000 and the honor of being named the most talented pet in America.

But don't expect cats, ferrets or lizards at this pet-athalon. The 15 final challengers come down to 13 dogs and two birds. Plan on plenty of howl-inducing and chirpy commentary from celebrity judges Shelley Long, Fred Willard and Gena Lee Nolin. Mario Lopez is host.

It might be fun for parents (or grandparents) to watch "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (8 p.m., Hallmark) with children. But they'll spend the whole time explaining the meaning of the term "tennis shoes," and the enormous size of the computers on display in this 1969 comedy starring a young Kurt Russell, with Cesar Romero, Joe Flynn and William Schallert.

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