The Top 10 TV Shows from the 1970s – 1990s

The Top 10 TV Shows from the 1970s to the 1990s

The 1970s to the 1990s are very notable eras in the history of television shows. They have served as strong pillars in what ushered the amazingly potent period of fantastic television shows we have today. Now, we have multiple streaming services at our call and beckon like Amazon, Netflix, Disney+, and the rest. They constantly gift us great TV content-rich and diverse, pleasing both critics and fans alike. However, much of the awesomeness we have today can be accredited to the shows that ran through thee three decades!

The ’70s was a special time in Television History as it came with significant change on the small screen. Hence, with the world’s happenings at the time, it came in with a pretty wide variety of shows that focused on a wide variety of issues like race, equality, politics, etc. In this decade, TV shows came in ways that connected with viewers on several ends as it concerns individuals and categories.

\7The ’80s ushered in an overabundance of great TV offerings, which became a good foundational basis for the success of subsequent years to come. Fundamentally, the lots of great TV shows from this decade evolved around family, workplace, and friends, which boosted the relatability with the audience and viewers. Sitcoms were mostly popular in the ’80s. It also did well to bring drastic change and experiments to the film medium.

The ’90s came with all its glory to further actualized the growth and change that constitutes the art form of TV! It brilliantly brought about the early works of this golden decade of TV shows we have today. It did well to birth real cult hit series, a reinvigorated decade of outstanding dramas, and an era of the long-running and vastly successful sitcoms!

Now, let us look at:

The top 10 TV shows from the 1970s down to the 1990s!

10. The Cosby Show (1984 – 1992)

The Cosby Show

Starting this list of three phenomenal decades and sitting as number 10 is The Cosby show! This is not just one of the best shows from the ’80s decades; it is also one of the best when these three decades are combined. It tells the story of Dr. Cliff Huxtable and his family. They happen to be an upper-class black family that lives in Brooklyn. With his lovely wife, Clair, and 5 beautiful kids, Theo, Sondra, Denise, Vanessa, and Rudy, the TV runs around the daily events that confront them.

This show is a blueprint masterpiece of balancing humor and heart, such that just about anyone can enjoy watching it. It is acknowledged to have been one of the most-watched TV show that came from the ‘80s. This TV show singlehandedly stayed as the number 1 rated show on TV for 5 consecutive sesaasons on Nielsen ratings! It did well to revive the sitcom genre and NBC ratings on a whole new level. TV Week named the character, Cliff Huxtable, as the ‘Greatest Television Dad’ in 2014. Audiences often acknowledge The Cosby Show to have helped later African American based shows to gain prestige on TV. With all these, it deserves to be on this list!

9. Married… With Children (1987 – 1997)

Married.... With Children

Making the number 9 spot on this list is Married… With Children! This brilliant sitcom evolves around the Bundys family. Here, Al is the man of the house. He is a women’s shoe salesman that feels his life is pretty messed up. Peggy, his wife, doesn’t work but would rather spend all of her husband’s money. Kelly, his daughter, is dumb, but she’s popular and attractive. On the other hand, Bud, his son, is unpopular and usually horny, but smart. Their neighbors, lastly, just simply feel pity for those who live around them! With this combo, series of events ensues that will leave just about anyone laughing all through!

This show has got to be one of the most iconic shows to have come out from the ’80s decade that ran into the ’90s to further gift its viewers laughs! All events that surrounded Al’s endeavors is so hilarious that it cannot be overemphasized. This sitcom is largely responsible for the huge success of Fox Network. It is not only the first to have been broadcasted in Fox’s network primetime slot, but it is also the longest-lasting live-action to have come from Fox itself. That tells you of its commercial success. Married… With Children also did well to have won 7 awards and received 29 nominations! One of the best from these three decades in view!

8. ER (1994-2009)


The 8th placed TV show on this list is ER! Largely considered the greatest hospital drama of all time, ER tells a brilliant emergency room doctor’s story. These doctors go through personal crises and professional crises as they work at the County General Hospital’s emergency room in Chicago. It runs through several dilemmas that slaps them with painful choices for all members of staff.

This is easily one of the best TV shows ever. This TV show did well to give a very realistic insight into emergency room doctors and nurses who go through personal troubles even while faced with serious work. It has grown to become very loved by many across the world. ER is the second longest-running primetime medical drama in the history of American Television. It is largely accredited to have launched the career of George Clooney! Having been nominated 124 times by Emmy awards and winning 23, you can tell it was a great TV show indeed! It has won a total of 116 awards! It will also interest you to know that in 2014, ER amassed over $3 billion in TV revenue and will always remain evergreen in the minds of those who saw the series!

7. Cheers (1982 – 1993)


Number 7 on this list is no other but Cheers! Many would agree that this is unarguably one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time! This witty show revolves around Ted Danson, who starred as Sam Malone. Here he owns a bar. The series runs through several events that surround him and how he socializes with his friends and co-workers.

One of the evergreen lessons that this series offers is that the show’s folks had sad lives, but they stood by each other nonetheless. It’s a lesson needed in our daily living. Even though this show was almost canceled in its first season, it came out strong in becoming a Nielsen rating hit TV show in the whole of America at the time. Out of the 11 seasons that this show aired, it was amongst the top 10 for 8 good seasons, and taking the number 1 spot in one of its seasons! It came out to be nominated through the 11 seasons that it aired, earning 28 Emmy wins and 117 nominations! This is undoubtedly one of the best-written series that graced TV shows and arguably the best TV show from the ’80s decade!

6. Frasier (1993-2004)


Making the list as number 6 is the successor of Cheers, no other but the brilliant Frasier! This is the best spin-off from the ’90s! It revolves around Dr. Crane, who is a successful therapist. He goes on to move to Seattle to start a new life. He runs a radio talk show with which he gifts wits and wisdom to his listeners. However, he still has personal problems with his family, friends, and co-workers.

This is, no doubt, a quintessential example of how to make a spin-off work! Frasier turned out to have surpassed Cheers in many ways. With the amazing records its predecessor has set, one might find it difficult to come out better, but this TV show did! Many now would find it herculean to come up with a spin-off that is as witty and sarcastic as Frasier! With its amazing story, team, and production outcome, this TV show amassed a whopping 37 Emmy Awards compared to Cheers 28 wins. This 37 win was a record at the time for scripted series. It also came up in the category of Outstanding Comedy Series for 5 consecutive years! It will also interest you to know that in 2019, it had a revival possibility as discussed with the potentials of having it run originally in 2020. Well, fingers crossed!

5. M*A*S*H (1972-1983)

The 5th placed TV show on this phenomenal list is ‘M*A*S*H’! It’s a great TV show that revolves around army doctors and support staff at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in South Korea. It is set between 1950 and 1953 while the Korean war was still happening. These doctors, in the long run, find a way to handle their entire situation with laughter!

This has got to be the best TV show that came from the ’70s, largely due to the ingenious legacy the movie entails. M*A*S*H explored absurd comedy with realistic and hard-hitting drama in a difficult time. It was driven by character and a brilliant storyline, which earned itself the versatility to access several narrative modes within each episode! Fraiser gifted viewers a good and humorous aspect of a delicate time that housed war. Notably, its finale became the most viewed and highest-rated single TV episode in American Television history. The show amassed a whopping number of 125 million viewers at that time! It also did well to win several awards, including the Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Award, Peabody Award, Humanitas Prize, and Writers Guild of America Award!

4. The Simpsons (1989-present)

The Simpsons

The third runner up for these amazing three decades of TV shows goes to The Simpsons! The ’90s was no doubt its golden decade, and it still runs to date. It’s basically about a dysfunctional animated family; Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. They all have their idiosyncratic peculiarities that add to birth a brilliant sitcom that many families never get tired of watching to date!

In this sitcom, all kinds of humor are fully represented hilariously! The joke density of The Simpsons in the ‘90s was a force to reckon with. Even the exclamatory catchphrase ‘D’oh!’ as used by Homer has been duly added to the English lexicon! The Simpsons are the longest-running American sitcom and the longest-running American TV series, which does not look like it will stop soon. This TV show is one that has been proudly awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! It has also accrued multiple awards, including 34 Emmys and 34 Annie Awards, with dozens of others. This is no doubt one of the best animated comedy series not just from the ‘90s decade, but in the history of animated sitcoms!

3. All in the Family (1971-1979)

All in the Family

This is unarguably one of the best TV shows as far as these three decades are, and is arguably the best TV show from the ’70s decade! The brilliant All in the Family sits at number 3 here! It revolves around Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), a blue-collar worker. He often broods over his previous days when people share his opinions. However, he is still pretty decent with his fanaticism. He is often put in a situation where his arguments lead to several outcomes.

This powerful sitcom explores vital issues that are still relevant in the world today. It runs through themes like rape, miscarriages, abortion, impotence, religion, antisemitism, racism, menopause, breast cancer, women’s liberation, infidelity, and even the Vietnam war. All these have earned this TV show much influence as it runs dramatic moments as well as realistic conflicts, which are pretty topical. In the US, All in the Family is widely regarded as one of the greatest TV series aired in history. It will interest you to know that it sat boldly on the number 1 spot on Nielsen Ratings for 5 consecutive years! This brilliant TV show is considered to have paved the way for sitcoms to be included in more dramatic clashes as it merged topical/serious issues with humor. No doubt, it is one TV show that history itself will never forget!

2. Seinfeld (1989-1998)


Standing tall as the number 2 TV show on this list is Seinfeld! It creatively starred Jerry Seinfeld as himself, being the protagonist. The series runs through events that make him battle with life’s paradoxical simple questions. He runs the show with his three eccentric friends that further make anyone stay glued to their screens. They are George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards). 

This is not only one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms of all times; it is also one of the best-written TV series! Ever heard of the ‘Seinlanguage’? It came from this series and did well to influence the world’s cultural lexicon! This TV show was on the lips of many throughout the ’90s decade and was still making money for networks long after the show ended! All thanks to the fantastic cast and crew, the show has gone down in history to have a large, influential impact on popular culture.

Not only this, but we also will never get tired of telling our readers that this TV series was not all talk – it won several notable awards! It includes winning 10 Primetime Emmy Awards, 6 ASCAP Film & Television Awards, 6 Screen Actors Guild Awards, 4 People’s Choice Awards, 4 Writers Guild of America Awards, 3 Golden Globe Awards, 3 Directors Guild of America Awards, as well as winning an ACE Eddie Awards and British Comedy Awards! With all these, you can easily tell it deserves to be amongst the best TV show whenever these 3 decades are looked into.

1. Friends (1994-2004)


Taking the number 1 spot on this list of giants is Friends! This is one TV show that can boast of all its 10 seasons being amongst the top 10 of each final TV season’s rating and taking the number 1 spot in one of its seasons! Friends is a fantastic show that revolves around six adults living in Manhattan in New York City. Being in their mid-20s and mid-30s, most of what they do is get into several series of reckless adventures that don’t put a smile on their faces at the end of the day.

One brilliant thing about this TV show is that its theme is relatable, even to our present-day world. The brilliant humor attached tells of growing adults’ struggles seeking to find love and success in their lives. The cast’s execution of their roles makes Friends a point of reference to any movie or TV show that might want to explore this theme. The chemistry amongst them is simply second to none! This TV show has done excellently well to influence pop culture greatly and will always be the beloved of many! It did well to amass multiple awards that further speak of its brilliance. It has won the Primetime Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, People’s Choice Awards, Screen Actors Guild Award, American Comedy Award, Satellite Award, GLAAD Media Award,  and also Logie Awards!


All TV shows on this list have no doubt had groundbreaking successes one way or the other. They have greatly influenced TV shows as we have them today. They are beloved by many and have done well to influence pop culture in the world. These TV shows deserve all the plaudits they could ever get, as these decades laid out a brilliant standard that will make only the best TV shows known today! The ’70s down to the ’90s were phenomenal days of the TV show, and this list is proof of it!

Author: Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

The Top 10 TV Shows from the 1970s - 1990s
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The Top 10 TV Shows from the 1970s - 1990s
Audiences treasure and love television from the late 20th century, but which will rank in our top 10 tv shows from the 70s through the 90s?
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Wheeljack's Lab
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