The Best 1980s Primetime Soap Operas Will Twist the Knife

You can find just about any sort of genre you fancy thanks to today’s streaming services — romance, comedy, horror. But if you like a little old-school television drama before you drift off to sleep each night, then these 1980s primetime soap operas should be on your must-watch rerun list.

Dallas (1978-1991)

A favorite among 1980s primetime soap opera audiences, this show was all about the Ewings and their family ranch. This is one of those 1980s primetime soap operas that’s considered a classic — in fact, it ran for 14 seasons! You’ll be living vicariously through them as they make life decisions. What will happen when Bobby finally tells Jock who he really loves? Who knows…but you can’t miss an episode!

The series stars Larry Hagman as JR Ewing, Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Shepard and Ken Kercheval as Cliff Barnes.

Although the show was already popular through its first couple of seasons, it became an absolute sensation in the summer of 1980, when the whole world wanted to know, “Who shot J.R.?”.

Dallas got a reboot in 2012 when TNT added a mostly new cast to holdovers from the original show.

Dynasty (1981-1989)

Another beloved 1980s primetime soap opera, this show stars John Forsythe as oil tycoon Blake Carrington and Linda Evans as his scheming wife Krystle. They are the epitome of 1980s primetime soap operas with their lavish lifestyles, power struggles and betrayal! Keep an eye on who will emerge victorious in these battles for control over business empires or marriage.

The series stars John Forsythe as Blake Carrington, Linda Evans-Smith as Krystal Carrington Colby and Joan Collins as Alexis Davis.

Knots Landing (1979-1993)

This show, which lasts for 14 seasons, is the longest running primetime soap opera of all time. This series stars Michele Lee as Valene Ewing and Joan Van Ark as Julie Parrish. The setting takes place in a coastal Californian community known as Knots Landing where you will find plenty of drama! Watch these ladies deal with cheating husbands and clandestine affairs while maintaining their daily lives! The 1980s brought us many popular primetime soap operas but this one was an all-time favorite!!

As you can tell by the recurrence of the Ewing name (Valene and others), Knots Landing had strong ties to Dallas. In fact, the pilot of Knots Landing, which spun off of Dallas with plenty of J.R. Ewing to draw in fans, was the only episode of the news series to appear in the 1970s.

Falcon Crest (1981-1990)

This show is set in the fictional Tuscany Valley where you will find yourself not only watching a soap opera but also taking a journey through the wine industry. The series stars Jane Wyman as Angela Channing, Robert Foxworth as Lance Cumson and Al Corley as Mason Capwell.

Flamingo Road (1983-1988)

Flamingo Road was set in the Florida panhandle and starred Morgan Fairchild, Mark Harmon, Barbara Rush, Stella Stevens, and others. The plot centered on the opulent lifestyle of the Weldon family, and the turmoil in their lives. You know — basic soap opera stuff.

St. Elsewhere (1982-1988)

This NBC series is set in the fictional town of St. Eligius, which ironically enough has a hospital that is constantly understaffed and overworked. The premise centers on how various groups function within an institution setting and each character’s struggles with their own profession as well as life outside the hospital walls at home or work. It may have been a stretch to call St. Elsewhere a “soap opera” during its heyday, as the show likely aspired to a higher calling, but human drama pushed this baby along more than any medical considerations.

It was an early-day “E.R.” ten years ahead of its time.

(Like 1980s Primetime Soap Operas? Then you might like our article on Cancelled Soap Operas, click here.)

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