The 1980s gave us lots of fun television that is still watch-worthy today. From hilarious sitcoms to medical dramas, these are some of the best TV series from the ’80s. Do you remember?
1. Hart to Hart (1979-1984)
While technically released in 1979, it ran five seasons into the ’80s. Hart to Hart followed the glamorous, wealthy couple Jonathan and Jennifer Hart as they dabbled in amateur sleuthing.
The show combined elements of romance, intrigue, and detective work, all against the backdrop of their luxurious lifestyle. The chemistry between the leading duo, Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner, added a charming element to the show.
2. Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983-1987)
Scarecrow and Mrs. King blended elements of espionage and romantic tension as it followed the adventures of Lee Stetson (Scarecrow) and Amanda King, an ordinary housewife who gets unwittingly involved in espionage.
The show struck a chord with viewers due to its unique premise and the evolving relationship between the two main characters. It offered a fresh take on the spy genre by showcasing the transformation of an everyday woman into a capable agent.
3. The Equalizer (1985-1989)
The Equalizer starred Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a retired secret agent who takes on a new role as a vigilante for justice. The show’s focus on McCall’s efforts to help those in need set it apart from the typical crime drama.
McCall’s meticulous approach to problem-solving and sense of justice made for compelling storytelling. The Equalizer is a quintessential ’80s series that exemplifies the era’s fascination with morally complex protagonists.
4. Cagney & Lacey (1981-1988)
Cagney & Lacey was a trailblazing police procedural series that showcased the professional and personal lives of two female detectives, Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey.
The show addressed critical social issues and gender dynamics in the workplace, making it a significant cultural touchstone for the time. Its focus on strong, independent female characters paved the way for the portrayal of women in law enforcement on television.
5. Falcon Crest (1981-1990)
Falcon Crest was a beloved prime-time soap opera that revolved around the rivalries and scandals of the wealthy Gioberti and Channing families. With its luxurious settings, conniving characters, and dramatic plot twists, Falcon Crest epitomized the allure of the ’80s soap opera.
The show was known for its iconic opening sequence set amidst the picturesque Napa Valley vineyards and the larger-than-life personalities that filled each episode.
6. Empty Nest (1988-1995)
A spin-off of The Golden Girls, Empty Nest followed Dr. Harry Weston, a widowed pediatrician, and his life as an empty nester. The show was a heartfelt comedy that resonated with viewers experiencing similar life transitions. Richard Mulligan’s portrayal of Dr. Weston’s quirky, lovable character made Empty Nest a standout hit of the ’80s.
7. Jake and the Fatman (1987-1992)
Jake and the Fatman was a classic ’80s crime drama centered on the partnership between the brilliant, stylish district attorney J.L. “Fatman” McCabe and the street-smart investigator Jake Styles. The show brought together humor, suspense, and intricate legal drama. Its memorable characters and engaging cases made it a must-watch series for fans of the genre.
8. Square Pegs (1982-1983)
Square Pegs was a teen sitcom with a humorous and relatable portrayal of high school life in the ’80s. The show tackled issues such as popularity, friendship, and the quest for self-identity. Sarah Jessica Parker and Amy Linker’s performances as the socially awkward Patty and Lauren resonated with many teenagers of the era, making Square Pegs a unique and memorable series.
9. Kate & Allie (1984-1989)
Kate & Allie was a heartwarming sitcom centering on the friendship and living arrangement of two divorced women, Kate McArdle and Allie Lowell, who decided to share a New York City apartment.
The show depicted their trials and tribulations as they navigated single motherhood and the challenges of modern life. Its humor and realistic portrayals of life’s ups and downs made it a beloved ’80s classic.
10. Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)
Hill Street Blues was a groundbreaking police drama that introduced a gritty, realistic portrayal of the inner workings of a precinct. The show featured an ensemble cast of complex characters, and its use of handheld camera techniques and overlapping dialogue added to its authenticity. Hill Street Blues earned critical acclaim and a loyal fan base, setting the standard for future police procedurals.
11. Newhart (1982-1990)
Newhart was a comedic gem that starred Bob Newhart as a Vermont innkeeper. The show was known for its clever, dry humor and quirky characters, including the unforgettable Darryl brothers. Its unique blend of absurdity and wit made it a standout in the ’80s comedy landscape.
12. Too Close For Comfort (1980-1987)
Too Close for Comfort was a sitcom following cartoonist Henry Rush and his family living in a San Francisco duplex. The show explored the humorous dynamics of a close-knit family and the quirky tenants living downstairs. With memorable catchphrases and endearing characters, it left an indelible mark on ’80s television.
13. The A-Team (1983-1987)
The show centers on a gang of ex-Special Forces troops who become mercenaries and use their special abilities to aid individuals in need while avoiding military capture. The A-Team became a beloved element of 80s television culture thanks to its unique blend of humor, friendship, and thrilling escapades.
14. Knight Rider (1982-1986)
With the legendary crime-fighting team of Michael Knight and his talking vehicle named KITT, Knight Rider transported viewers on an incredible journey. The program’s protagonist is Knight, a former police officer who uses cutting-edge technology and his slick, high-tech vehicle to battle injustice.
15. Cheers (1982-1993)
One of the most beloved and enduring sitcoms from the 1980s is Cheers. The program is set at a Boston bar and centers on regular customers and workers. Viewers felt as if they were a part of the Cheers family thanks to the clever humor, enduring characters, and distinctive theme tune.
16. Alf (1986-1990)
Alf introduced viewers to Gordon Shumway, an extraterrestrial life form that goes by the name of Alf. Alf, who crash-lands on Earth and moves in with the Tanner family, is the sitcom’s main character. While attempting to elude federal agents, this adorable and cheeky alien brought havoc and fun into their lives.
17. Family Ties (1982-1989)
Through the life of the Keaton family, Family Ties examines the generational divide. The show contrasts the liberal beliefs of Steven and Elyse Keaton, played by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter, with the conservative viewpoints of their son Alex P. Keaton, played by Michael J. Fox.
18. Miami Vice (1984-1989)
Miami Vice gave the crime drama genre a new, chic spin. The series, which was set against the colorful backdrop of Miami, followed two vice detectives named Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs and James “Sonny” Crockett as they fought drug lords and other criminals.
19. Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996)
Murder, She Wrote enthralled viewers with its deft blending of mystery, detective work, and Angela Lansbury’s magnetic performance as Jessica Fletcher. The program centers around Jessica, a successful mystery author who is involved in homicide investigations.
20. The Golden Girls (1985-1992)
The Golden Girls changed the 80s television scene by bringing friendship, levity, and timeless humor. Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia are the four women at the center of the sitcom. They share a home in Miami.
The Golden Girls explored the complications of aging and the enduring strength of friendship while tackling some social topics through their clever banter, engaging personalities, and uplifting moments.
21. Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988)
Tom Selleck’s flamboyant private investigator, Thomas Magnum, was first presented to audiences in the television series Magnum, P.I. The Hawaii-based program centers on Magnum as he solves problems with the aid of his friends and other Vietnam War veterans.
22. China Beach (1988-1991)
By examining the lives of several people stationed at a hospital for evacuation in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, China Beach transports viewers to that time. In a country that was devastated by war, the series dives into the personal and emotional experiences of nurses, doctors, soldiers, and civilians.
23. Thirtysomething (1987-1991)
Thirtysomething dives at the struggles and difficulties of adulthood, job aspirations, relationships, and children for a group of baby boomers in their thirties. The program captures the hardships and goals of those attempting to combine their personal and professional lives, offering a reflective and accurate representation of the generation’s realities.
24. Moonlighting (1985-1989)
Audiences were enchanted by Moonlighting’s distinctive fusion of romance, humor, and detective work. Private investigators David Addison, played by Bruce Willis, and Maddie Hayes, played by Cybill Shepherd, are the center of the comedy-drama series. Moonlighting shattered the fourth wall and gained recognition for its creative storytelling tactics thanks to its clever banter, flirtatious chemistry between the protagonists, and frequent meta-references.
25. St. Elsewhere (1982–1988)
St. Elsewhere was a groundbreaking medical drama in the fictional St. Eligius Hospital. It captivated audiences with its complex characters and engaging storylines.
The show offered a gritty, accurate portrayal of the medical profession, a departure from the sanitized depictions of doctors and hospitals seen in earlier TV shows. St. Elsewhere is also known for its shocking and controversial series finale, which left viewers with lingering questions about the entire series.
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Featured Image Credit: Magnum P.I. – Image Credit: Universal Television. China Beach – Warner Bros. Television. Knight Rider – Universal Television.