The 1980s are simply filled with so many fantastic TV shows! This decade housed so many classic TV shows that anyone born in the ’80s can quickly identify. Unlike today that features so many entertainment platforms yearning for your attention, there were only three networks then, which helped to birth a collective viewing experience.
There were big action shows, great families, terribly funny sitcoms, and of course, fantastic dramas that graced this decade. Luxurious houses, wealthy people, fancy cars, and good looking people were practically the hallmark of many ’80s great shows. Critics credit this decade as one of the strongest pillars that ushered in today’s overabundance of great programming! Often, audiences most fondly remembered sitcoms from this decade, even though there were other popular action TV shows and dramas. Fundamentally, many great shows from this decade revolved around family, workplace, and friends, which boosted the audience and viewers’ relatability.
Presenting our list of the top 10 TV shows from the ’80s!
10. Family Ties (1982 – 1989)
Number 10 on this excellent list is Family Ties! This is unarguably one of the most memorable TV show series from the ‘80s. It tells the story of the Keatons, which happens to be a middle-class family that resides in Columbus, Ohio. It tells of their day to day activities and circumstances that further bring the family closer in bond, particularly through the relationship between Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) and his ex-parents, Steve and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter).
Family Ties was succinctly brilliant. It happens that this TV show came at a time when family sitcoms were pretty big! It was exceptionally able to give insight into the cultural liberalism of the ‘60s and ‘70s, down to the conservatism of the ‘80s. The cast was simply fantastic as they made each member of the family very loveable. Who wouldn’t acknowledge the special connection that floated between the kids and parents? Many couldn’t help but feel like part of the family as the show went on! As brilliantly created by Gary Goldberg, Family Ties was a unique show that had great writing and acting, and of course, lots of laughs! The show went ahead to win several awards, including 3 consecutive Emmy Awards!
9. ALF (1986 – 1990)
Sitting on the number 9 spot on this list is ALF! The story revolves around ALF, which is an acronym that translates to ‘alien life form.’ ALF comes from planet Melmac and then crashes into the garage of a suburban middle-class family, the Tanner family. They name him ALF and try everything within their power to keep the wise-cracking alien a secret to the world.
This hilarious sitcom is one that features a pretty interesting and developed character. ALF‘s viewers fell in love with him with each episode, regardless of how ridiculous the storyline became! They stuck from the very beginning down to the very end! Although the ALF shooting was technically challenging because it was based around a puppet, the entire coordination still turned out to be pretty fantastic at the time. Interestingly, the production staff kept ALF’s appearance a secret until the first day of shooting, with the actors not even knowing what he sounded like or even looked like! This brilliant sitcom has won several awards, notably the People’s Choice Award, Kids’ Choice Awards, and Young Artist Awards, among others and nominations.
8. Newhart (1982 – 1990)
Taking the number 8 spot on this list is no other but Newhart! This is a brilliant series that features Bob Newhart and Mary Frann as an author and his wife, respectively. Here, the couple goes ahead to buy and run a small inn in a rural Vermont town. Interestingly, a few employees join them as the town is home to a lot of eccentric characters!
This fun-filled sitcom is an ensemble comedy that was practically heartwarming and interesting from the beginning down to its end! It has a very soothing charm that it gifted its viewers. It tells of how life can be pretty much as simple as running a small inn, which can turn out to be perhaps one of the most fulfilling and satisfying things to do in one’s life! Newhart’s first sitcom – the 1970s classic The Bob Newhart Show was extremely successful to the point where it looked like it would be almost impossible to duplicate its success. In the end, he beat the odds and came up with an equally fantastic work! Although this show was nominated 25 times for the Emmy Awards, it never won one. Regardless, it successfully amassed for itself 6 major award wins and a whopping 43 nominations all together!
7. The A-Team (1983–1987)
Number 7 on this list is no other but The A-Team! It tells a brilliant story of a fictional ex-US Army Special Forces unit. Here, they were court-martialed for a crime they were innocent of, so they had to be on the run since they were seen as war criminals. Regardless of this, although they are still on the run, they can be hired for any problems you have, if you can find them! They were soldiers of fortune.
This brilliant action-adventure series featured the iconic Mr. T, one that made this TV show a tremendous success. It was so successful that his face turned out to have appeared on action figures, lunch boxes, and even pillowcases all over the country! This series is one that has one of the greatest TV intros of all time! Practically all episodes in this show could stand on their own. As a result, it made it pretty easy for anyone to jump right in the series and take all the action without necessarily having to watch previous episodes. As brilliantly created by Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, this TV show sure deserves all the plaudits it can ever get as it was one of the major highlights of the ‘80s decade.
6. Knight Rider (1982-1986)
The number 6 spot goes to Knight Rider! It tells the fascinating story of Michael Long, who is an undercover cop. He gets seriously wounded while on an assignment and gets nursed to sound health by the chairman and CEO of Knight Industries. Michael is given a new face and a new identity entirely as Michael Knight. Then, he becomes one that battles evil with his amazingly indestructible and artificially intelligent supercar!
No doubt, this movie turned out to be one of the greatest and delightful TV show of the ’80s decade! Knight Rider was simply super cool with its brilliant storyline, as every episode felt like an event. It was highly cinematic, and it gifted its viewers something to always look out for every week! It greatly influenced popular culture, as many manufacturers sought to create machines that were inspired by the show. Michael Knight’s car was everyone’s dream car. Its theme song was unique as it creatively blended with the thrilling action and adventure the show came with!Knight Rider won several awards, including BMI Film & TV Awards, Stuntman Awards, and Young Artist Awards.
5. Hill Street Blues (1981–1987)
For the number 5 spot on this list, you will find Hill Street Blues! This is one fantastic American serial police procedural TV series that did excellent well in the ’80s decade. This TV show tells the tale of the lives of a group of police officers, who were the staff of a single police station that was located on Hill Street in an unspecified city. Unlike several procedural shows, this one showed the cops both while they were on their jobs with their blue uniforms and while they were at home as well.
TV producer Stephen Bocho did an excellent job in the ’80s, birthing several masterpieces, including this TV show. It was incredibly popular! The show enjoyed several critical acclaims for the innovations employed in its production, which helped to serve as an ideal example in birthing dramatic TV series in the US. It brilliantly diffused the scope of depth and cinema with its production outcome. They employed a handheld, cinema verite-style camerawork, coupled with the incorporation of slang and a pretty large ensemble. It was an artistic revolution at the time! Hill Street Blues received a whopping 98 Emmy nominations while as its run during 1981-1987, but on its debut season, it won 8 Emmys! It also won several notable awards like the Artios Award, Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, Directors Guild of America Award, George Foster Peabody Award, Humanitas Prize, and People’s Choice Awards.
4. Miami Vice (1984–1989)
Making the list as the third runner up is Miami Vice! It tells the story of two detectives, namely Detective James “Sonny” Crockett and detective Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs. They happen to have come from the Miami-Dade police department. They work deeply as undercover, camouflaging as criminals to get into various criminal enterprises of southern Florida, just to bring them all down.
This TV show was one of the splendid highlights of the 1980s. It was able to creatively draw largely on the ’80s new wave culture. It went ahead to be acknowledged for brilliantly integrating contemporary pop and rock music, which was accentuated with stylish visuals. As it stands, it was at the time acknowledged as one of the top 50 shows. The People magazine went ahead to state how this TV show was the first to appear new ever since color TV was invented. Miami Vice became so popular that its stars both had music videos on MTV! Added to this was the fact that they made the police work look way too cool, coupled with its fashion trends at the time.
Miami Vice is undoubtedly one that had a great cultural influence in the ‘80s. This show, in a nutshell, was simply able to brilliantly personify music, style, and the culture of the 1980s at the time where no show did!
3. The Cosby Show (1984 – 1992)
The Cosby Show is undoubtedly one of the best TV shows to have emerged from the ’80s decade! This brilliant show centers around Dr. Cliff Huxtable and his family as they were an upper-class family that lives in Brooklyn. They happen to be an upper-middle-class Black family. He had a lovely wife, Clair, and 5 kids; Theo, Sondra, Denise, Vanessa, and Rudy. It centers around their daily activities and events that surround them.
To begin with, this series was one of the most-watched TV shows to have graced the ’80s decade. It was able to beautifully balance humor and heart, making it vastly enjoyable for practically everyone! It will interest you to know that The Cosby show spent 5 consecutive seasons as the number 1 rated show on TV. They are the only sitcoms to have stayed as the number 1 spot in the history of Nielsen ratings! TV Guide acknowledged the show to be the biggest TV hit in the ‘80s as it almost by itself, revived the sitcom genre as well as NBC ratings on another level. Yes, it went further to name Cliff Huxtable as the ‘Greatest Television Dad’!
Notably, The Cosby Show immensely helped allow for more African-American based show to grace the TV screens like Family Matters, In Living Color, etc. It was indeed an absolute powerhouse that no doubt deserves to be regarded as one of the best TV shows to have emerged from the ‘80s!
2. Married… With Children (1987 – 1997)
Standing tall as the number 2 placed TV show from the ‘80s on this list is Married… With Children! This is a hilarious sitcom that tells the story of the Bundys family. In this show, Al is a women’s shoe salesman who feels his life is just so miserable. There’s his wife, Peggy, who spends all of her husband’s money and refuses to work. The kids do not appreciate Al either. Their daughter Kelly is attractive and popular but dumb. Their son Bud is smart but unpopular and horny. Then there are their neighbors who are simply horrified by those living close to them! Already funny, isn’t it?
This TV show is a hilarious one – it cannot be overemphasized! The story above leads to a series of events that leaves you laughing from the beginning till the end. How Al’s schemes made by his dim wit and bad luck is always certain to give a good laugh! It is simply iconic! Although it came in the latter part of the ’80s decade, it still made a pretty strong impression! It will interest you to know that this sitcom is acknowledged to have largely contributed to Fox Network’s success. It is the longest-lasting live-action to have come from Fox itself, and it is also the very first how broadcasted in Fox’s network primetime slot. This sitcom has accrued for itself 7 awards and 29 nominations!
1. Cheers (1982 – 1993)
Making this list as the number 1 TV show to have graced the ‘80s decades is no other but Cheers! This is unarguably one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time! It tells of Sam Malone (Ted Danson), who owns a bar, and the circumstances surrounding him and his relationship with his co-workers and friends. The events that surround how this group meet and socialize are wittingly funny in their regards!
It will interest you to know that this show was nearly canceled during its first season when it was among the bottom in ratings for its premiere. Fortunately, they came out strong, becoming a Nielsen rating hit TV show in the US! This show was among the top 10 for 8 seasons out of 11, and ranking as number 1 in one season!
Cheers has been nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series for all of its 11 seasons on air! It has earned 28 Emmys while receiving 117 nominations! It has undoubtedly become one of the most popular TV shows in history that has enjoyed critical acclaim from its onset till its end. Notably, a whopping number of 93 million viewers watched the series finale, which amounts to 40% of the United States population at the time! Critics also acknowledged Cheers as one of the best-written series and one of the greatest TV shows.
No one can deny its great theme song that entered the lips of many at the time. One of the beauties of this show is that even though lots of them had pretty sad lives, they all had each other!
There you go, the top 10 TV shows from the ‘80s decade! Going back in history with this list, it must have caused you some nostalgic feelings as you must have reminiscence those great times where you enjoyed your favorite TV shows! From the list above, I am certain that even if you do not agree with the sequence of the list, you would agree that all these TV shows deserve to be on this list! If by chance, we missed one of your favorites, it is because so many fantastic television shows rigged the ’80s decade It was truly an exemplary decade of amazing TV shows that became part of the lives of many in the ’80s!