The premiere TV episode of the hit 1980s TV game show “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
The year is 1988. George H.W. Bush, age 64, is elected U.S. President; the Persian Gulf Crisis is in full effect; and a rookie TV producer named Vin di Bona is enjoying a relaxing vacation in Japan with his lovely wife, Gina.
During the vacation, Vin, whose Saturday-morning game show “Animal Crack-Ups” is on its way off the air, catches a glimpse of a Japanese variety show called “Fun with Kato and Ken,” a segment of which featured local Japan residents sending in their funniest/amazing moments ever caught on tape in the hopes of winning the Japanese equivalent of the American dollar.
Upon his return from the vacation, Vin (fascinated by the segment) thought to himself, “That’s my NEXT Game Show!”
Soon afterwards, Vin pitched the concept to the ABC Television Network, which immediately greenlit the pilot in early 1989.
As he had done 2 years earlier with Alan Thicke (then starring on ABC’s “Growing Pains”) for “Animal Crack-Ups,” Vin hired stand-up comic & ABC actor Bob Saget (then starring on “Full House”) to host the pilot.
The pilot, by that time christened “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” taped in Spring 1989 and was telecast on November 26, 1989 on ABC–and became such a surprise hit that 7 weeks later, on January 14, 1990, the show, by this time trimmed to a 30-minute format, began airing every Sunday night at 8 P.M. in a format that has remained unchanged throughout its long run.
Americans send in their funniest and/or amazing home videos ever caught on tape, with the top 3 funniest home videos of the night winning a combined $15,000: $10,000 for 1st place, $3,000 for 2nd place, and $2,000 for 3rd place (in the 1st season only, in addition to the $5,000 2nd and 3rd place cash prizes, the 2nd and 3rd place winners, respectively, earned an RCA Video Camera and an RCA Full-Sized Television Set); at the end of each sweeps period, the $10,000 winners vie for an additional $100,000.
In May 1997, after 8 seasons, Bob Saget left “America’s Funniest Home Videos”; he was replaced the following January by MTV VJ Daisy Fuentes (paired with stand-up comic John Fugelsang). By this time, however, the ratings took a nosedive, and in May 1999, after 10 successful seasons, ABC canceled “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” with the series finale (taped live at the House of Blues) telecast on August 28, 1999 on the ABC Television Network.
But wait, there’s more: 2 years later, on July 20, 2001, ABC brought back “America’s Funniest Home Videos” in a revival version in an hour-long format.
Other than the expansion, the format remained unchanged; this time, TV personality Tom Bergeron (then doing double-duty as a game show host with “Hollywood Squares” and now hosting the reality competition series “Dancing with the Stars” alongside Brooke Burke) taking over hosting duties–a job he maintains to this very day.
In 2008, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” surpassed “What’s My Line?” (which aired for 17 years on the CBS Television Network from February 2, 1950 – September 3, 1967) as network TV’s longest-running Prime Time Game Show–and is the longest-running entertainment program in the history of the ABC Television Network.
Repeats of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” have aired on TBS from 1995-1998, on the USA Network from 1998-2000, on the Hallmark Channel from 2001-2003 and again from January-February 2010, on Nickelodeon from April 30, 2007 – October 28, 2007, on WGN America since about 2006-2007, on ABC Family from 2006-2008 (estimated) and in off-network syndication (Bergeron episodes only) since September 12, 2010.
Distribution rights were bought by Disney’s Buena Vista Television in 1995 after The Walt Disney Company bought the ABC Television Network (though the show itself was syndicated by Fox Television Studios until 2001).
Since its inception, “America’s Funniest Home Videos” has been a production of ABC Entertainment for Vin di Bona Productions.
“America’s Funniest Home Videos” is distributed by Buena Vista Television.
© 1989 Buena Vista Television