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That's Science! A formulaic journey into 1990's ABC television


"Pigman is trying prove the Caine-Hackman theory. No matter what time it is, 24 hours a day, you can find a Michael Caine or Gene Hackman movie playing on t.v." - Droz (Jeremy Piven), PCU

There are some days I believe the character of Pigman from PCU is a fictionalized account of my life.

Some days.

It's no secret television shows from the 1990's have a grip on me. Saved by the Bell. Seinfeld. ER. Friends. These shows only scratch the surface of what I sometimes watch to pass the time.

It was while watching an episode of Roseanne that took place at Disney World in which the wheels of my inquisitive mind began turning.

Coupled with seeing episodes of The Middle and Modern Family--two comedies currently showing on ABC--I wondered just how how many sitcoms on ABC had episodes centered on a trip to either Disneyland or Disney World.

More specifically, I wanted to focus on sitcoms airing on ABC in the 1990's (or beginning in the late 80's).

Forming a hypothesis

The basis of this was already in place. I needed to formalize it a little more. I began to think of shows I watched on ABC during this time frame (already skewing the results, probably, due to my love of the TGIF lineup but it's my study) and came up with the following:

It is my belief that out of the 18 shows I selected that at least 50% of them had an episode that involved the cast going to Disneyland or Disney World.

Data collection and research

In the past, in a pre-internet heavy age, I might have had to wade through a backlog of re-runs of the the selected sitcoms to find my answers.

My memory served me well on some, like Full House and Boy Meets World. Others, like Growing Pains, Who's the Boss, and Doogie Howser, M.D. I would have to look up.

I also checked a Nielsen Ratings list from the 1990's to see what sitcoms I was forgetting.

Here are 18 shows I looked at: 

  • Ellen
  • Head of the Class
  • Wonder Years
  • Who's the Boss
  • Dharma and Greg
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch
  • Coach 
  • Home Improvement
  • Perfect Strangers
  • Doogie Howser, M.D.
  • Step By Step 
  • Family Matters
  • Full House
  • Roseanne
  • Boy Meets World
  • Spin City
  • Growing Pains
  • Hangin' with Mr. Cooper

Looking at this list before my search started, I would have thought for sure that more than half of these would have an episode which took place at one of the aforementioned Disney Resorts.

The results

Carefully scouring the internet--without putting in too many hours--I found that only six of these 18 shows went to Disneyland or Disney World at some point. 

Most went to Disney World and the majority of an episode of Sabrina took place at the Animal Kingdom. 

The six:

  • Full House
  • Boy Meets World
  • Step By Step
  • Roseanne
  • Sabrina
  • Family Matters
I was surprised to find sitcoms like Growing Pains and Who's the Boss didn't have an episode involving a trip to the Disney Resorts. 

In the case of Perfect Strangers, there was a two-episode arc involving a trip to Los Angeles in which Disneyland was mentioned plenty of times, but as far as I could find Larry (Mark Linn-Baker) and Balki (Bronson Pinchot) never quite made it there. 

Turns out, my hypothesis was wrong. Only 33% of my selected shows had an episode take place at Disneyland or Disney World. And the majority were shows from the TGIF lineup.

Would my hypothesis be closer to correct if I expanded the parameters? Were there shows I was missing? Did the Head of the Class characters never go to Disney World as a reward for some sort of quiz competition?

I could do all of these things, but there is one thing I needed to keep in mind: Disney and ABC merged in 1995. A perfect reason for all of the above shows to have an episode take place where it did: Synergy.

This fact might skew my entire research. Looks like it's back to the lab again.

Did I miss an episode for any of the above shows? Leave me a comment and let me know. Because I like to know things. Or share your favorite Disneyland or Disney World moment of an ABC show, included on the above list or otherwise.



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