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ABC TGIF 1989 Premiere Promo00:32

ABC TGIF 1989 Premiere Promo

When TGIF made its debut on ABC in the fall of 1989, it had in its lineup Full House, Perfect Strangers, the then-new Family Matters -- and, just once, a show called Free Spirit.

It is regarded as a "lost" TGIF program as it fit the tone of the other shows on the block, yet ran on Sunday evenings instead after Life Goes On, where much of the intended young audience did not find it. Miller-Boyett Productions, which created a lot of TGIF's mainstays over the years, wanted control over Friday nights, and Just The Ten Of Us was contractually obligated to keep its time slot. As a compromise of sorts, Free Spirit's pilot aired as a "special preview" during the very first TGIF broadcast on September 22, 1989. It received high ratings there, but much lower numbers in the Sunday slot.

Free Spirit revolved around Winnie Goodwin, a spunky young witch who worked as housekeeper for three children who kept her secret, and their father who remained unaware. The series grew a cult following after its cancellation.

A typical thirteen episodes ran their course and the show disappeared. It was never released on any home video format, but all thirteen have been circulating the bootleg market in sharp condition. However, in an interesting twist, a fourteenth episode exists. ABC did not count the pilot as part of the episode order and they were allowed one more show.

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Not only does the episode, titled "Love and Death", exist, but it was also completed and scheduled to air on January 21, 1990. It was listed in all TV print guides, including newspaper listings the day it was to appear. It was mentioned as following America's Funniest Home Videos in a TV promo spot (though no footage was shown). Instead, a Full House rerun appeared in its place and the show never aired again.

What happened? The Simpsons happened. When AFV made its first appearance, Free Spirit was shoved to 8:30, when "Bart the Genius" first aired on Fox. ABC was faced with an 80% ratings drop for the next several weeks no matter what they put there -- Free Spirit, Full House, a movie, a drama about a young Elvis (in that order).

Currently, despite ample evidence of its existence, no footage of "Love and Death" can be found. It may have aired in foreign markets such as Canada. A more detailed description of the episode's plot than was printed in TV Guide can be found at TV.com -- but whoever put it there, and when, is unknown.

UPDATE (5-27-2015): FOUND! "Love and Death" aired in Australia, and YouTube user "casanoc" uploaded the episode in two halves. This was the only episode he caught, but it happened to be the right one! Part 1 Part 2

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