The ’80s was a groovy decade filled with mind-blowing television shows that had viewers hooked. Sitcoms were all the rage, sparking juicy water cooler discussions. Cheers, The Cosby Show, Murphy Brown, and The Golden Girls had everyone buzzing with laughter. And let’s not forget about the heartwarming family sitcoms like Family Ties, The Wonder Years, The Facts of Life, and Who’s the Boss.
But it didn’t stop there! Crime dramas with a radical twist were totally tubular. Shows like Miami Vice, Knight Rider, and Remington Steele not only had hunky characters and killer ’80s fashion, but also thrilling storylines that kept us on the edge of our seats. And if you were into those soap-style dramas, Dynasty and Dallas were the talk of the town.
While some of the mega-popular shows carried on into the next decade, there were also some hidden gems that sadly didn’t last long, like Max Headroom and The Greatest American Hero.
So, what are your jamming shows from the ’80s? Check out this list of the absolute best shows from that rad era. Maybe it’ll inspire you to dust off those old Betamax tapes and relive the magic of those totally awesome ’80s shows that still hold up today. And if you’re hungry for more ’80s TV, take a gnarly journey into the top shows set in the 1980s.
(Note: The most polarizing show of the ’80s was Hill Street Blues.)
This beloved sitcom took place in a cozy Boston bar and quickly captured the hearts of audiences with its clever humor and unforgettable cast. The ensemble included Ted Danson as the charming bartender Sam Malone, Shelley Long as the intellectual waitress Diane Chambers, and Rhea Perlman as the feisty Carla Tortelli. The show’s storylines focused on the characters, making it relatable and entertaining for viewers. It was packed with memorable one-liners that had people laughing out loud. The series was an instant hit and received numerous award nominations and wins during its 11-season run. It even had special appearances from well-known figures like Dick Cavett and Wade Boggs, which added to its iconic status. The show became a part of pop culture history and led to successful spin-offs that continued to bring joy to viewers for many years.
Actors: Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, George Wendt
This amazing dramedy was a trailblazer, taking us on a journey with a bunch of army doctors during the Korean War. It skillfully merged serious issues with hilarious moments, giving us a viewing experience like no other. The cast was top-notch, featuring Alan Alda as the witty Captain Hawkeye Pierce, Loretta Swit as the strong Major Margaret Houlihan, and Harry Morgan as the wise Colonel Sherman Potter. Can you believe it? This show ran for a whopping 11 years, receiving heaps of praise and leaving an unforgettable legacy in television history.
Actors: Alan Alda, McLean Stevenson, Wayne Rogers
3. Magnum, P.I.
Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum, a crime-solving ex-Navy SEAL with a love for Hawaiian shirts, won over audiences in this beloved detective series. The show, set in the breathtaking landscape of Hawaii, skillfully blended action, drama, and comedy. Alongside Magnum were unforgettable supporting characters, such as John Hillerman’s Higgins, who added depth and intrigue to the storyline. Not to be forgotten, the theme song of the show continues to captivate viewers even today.
Actors: Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley
4. Family Ties
Centered around the Keaton family in the Reagan era, this sitcom became a hit by addressing social issues in a lighthearted way. Michael J. Fox became a star playing Alex P. Keaton, a young conservative who often clashed with his liberal parents Elyse and Steven, portrayed by Meredith Baxter-Birney and Michael Gross. The show’s emphasis on family values struck a chord with viewers and continues to be popular even years after it ended.
Actors: Michael J. Fox, Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross
5. The Dukes of Hazzard
This action-comedy series is a classic! It’s all about Bo and Luke Duke, two cousins who know how to navigate Hazzard County. But they aren’t just ordinary guys – they’re always on the run from the corrupt Boss Hogg and his bumbling sidekick Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.
And let’s not forget about their legendary car, the General Lee! It’s a 1969 Dodge Charger that has become a true icon in pop culture. This car has been through it all, jumping over obstacles and engaging in thrilling high-speed chases throughout the show’s seven-season run. It’s definitely left a lasting impression.
Actors: Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Catherine Bach
6. Night Court
This wacky sitcom takes us to a Manhattan courtroom that’s anything but ordinary. Judge Harry Stone, played by the talented Harry Anderson, presides over a diverse group of characters. We’ve got the slick prosecutor Dan Fielding, played by John Larroquette, and the dedicated public defender Christine Sullivan, portrayed by Markie Post. Together, they create a hilarious and offbeat dynamic that kept viewers entertained for a whopping nine seasons. And let’s not forget the show’s unforgettable catchphrases that became instant classics. It’s safe to say that this sitcom left a lasting impression on its audience.
Actors: Harry Anderson, John Larroquette, Richard Moll
7. Married… with Children
In a refreshing break from the typical family sitcoms of its time, this groundbreaking comedy brought us into the lives of the dysfunctional Bundy family. Ed O’Neill effortlessly captured the role of the clumsy yet endearing Al Bundy, while Katey Sagal charmed us as the sassy Peg Bundy. Their quick-witted children, Kelly (played by Christina Applegate) and Bud (played by David Faustino), added to the hilarity, all while pushing the boundaries of traditional family values. Notably, this show gained a dedicated fan base that remained loyal throughout its impressive 11-season run.
Actors: Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate
8. The Muppet Show
Jim Henson’s Muppets brought joy to families with their vibrant characters and groundbreaking variety show. They didn’t just entertain, but also featured big-name celebrities like Steve Martin, Elton John, and Julie Andrews. Led by the beloved Kermit the Frog, a bunch of quirky personalities including Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo took viewers on a fun-filled ride through skits and music, showcasing their individual quirks and leaving an indelible mark on pop culture.
Premiered: January 30, 1974
Actors: Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz
9. Happy Days
Happy Days, a nostalgic sitcom set in 1950s Milwaukee, had Ron Howard playing Richie Cunningham and Henry Winkler giving an iconic performance as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli. Each episode began with the catchy theme song “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets, which instantly set the mood. Audiences were captivated by the show’s wholesome storytelling, and it turned “The Fonz” into a household name.
Premiered: January 15, 1974
Actors: Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Tom Bosley
10. The A-Team
This exciting series became a pop culture sensation, blending thrilling action-packed adventures with the tight-knit camaraderie of four Vietnam veterans turned hired mercenaries. Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, played by George Peppard, took charge, leading the team alongside Dirk Benedict’s lovable con man Faceman (Templeton Peck), Dwight Schultz’s eccentric and unpredictable “Howling Mad” Murdock, and Mr. T’s tough-as-nails B.A Baracus.
Throughout its five-season run, the show’s combination of high-octane stunts and humor had viewers hooked. George Peppard’s Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith led the way, with his strategic mind and unwavering determination. Dirk Benedict’s Faceman charmed audiences with his smooth-talking ways and knack for getting out of tight spots. Dwight Schultz’s portrayal of “Howling Mad” Murdock brought a welcomed dose of eccentricity to the team, always keeping things interesting. And of course, Mr. T’s B.A Baracus added a tough and no-nonsense presence that made him a fan favorite.
From thrilling adventures to heartwarming moments of camaraderie, this series had it all. Viewers were captivated by the team’s escapades and the bonds they formed along the way. The show’s high-energy stunts and explosive action sequences kept audiences on the edge of their seats. But it was the humor and banter between the characters that truly made the series shine.
For five seasons, this series held audiences captive, delivering excitement, laughs, and a sense of adventure. The quartet of Vietnam veterans turned mercenaries for hire became iconic figures in pop culture, and their legacy continues to endure. Whether they were pulling off daring heists or outsmarting their enemies, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, Faceman, “Howling Mad” Murdock, and B.A Baracus left an indelible mark on television history.
Actors: George Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict
Resourceful secret agent Angus MacGyver, portrayed by the talented Richard Dean Anderson, captured the hearts of viewers with his extraordinary talent for utilizing ordinary items to tackle intricate problems in this exhilarating adventure series. The perfect mix of action and intelligence in the show garnered a loyal fan base that continues to thrive even today.
Actors: Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar, Bruce McGill