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Late 80s TV Shows: Bridge to a New Decade

As the 1980s drew to a close, the world was changing in dramatic ways. The Cold War came to a crashing halt, the first Bush presidency took root, and leg warmers fell out of favor. Heck, Mimi Rogers and Tom Cruise called it quits during those years! What chance, what HOPE did us mere mortals have? Well, we had a bevy of late 80s TV shows to help us catch our breath and drown our sorrows, for one thing. Which of these decade-chasers were your favorites?

Roseanne

A family comedy about a working-class US matriarch, her construction worker husband Dan and their three children. Roseanne took the polish off the way TV usually depicted American families.

Roseanne aired from 1988-1997 and starred Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalfe, Michael Fishman and Sara Gilbert.

The show was set in the fictional suburb of Lanford Illinois with a focus on family life: all too often parents were barely scraping by while their kids did best they could to get by.

The Cosby Show

This wildly popular sitcom followed Dr. Huxtable’s (Bill Cosby) humorous attempts at raising his five kids to be upstanding and productive adults.

The Cosby Show aired from 1984-1992 and starred Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Malcolm Jamal Warner and Lisa Bonet.

In the late 80s the show was an unapologetically wholesome depiction of a successful working American family.

Seinfeld

You might be surprised to find Seinfeld on any 1980s list, but the truth is, it did premiere in 1989.

This wonderfully witty sitcom was about nothing – or rather, it was about the little things happening to Jerry Seinfeld and his friends (including George Costanza) as they go about their days in New York City.

Seinfeld probably produced more water cooler moments and oft-repeated lines than any TV show before or since.

Married … With Children

Possibly the most famous late 1980s TV show, Married … With Children ran for 11 seasons.

It depicted a dysfunctional American family led by Al Bundy and his wife Peggy, who had two kids: Kelly (the daughter), Bud (the son) and their dog named Bud.

Ed O’Neill starred as former high school football star and then-current shoe salesman Al Bundy.

Married… with Children was one of the first shows to depict a nuclear family in which both parents were present, yet bickering constantly.

The Simpsons

The late 80s saw the rise of The Simpsons, which broadcast its 30th season in 2018-19.

The iconic cartoon features a dysfunctional family led by Homer Simpson and Marge Simpson with their three children: Bart, Lisa, and baby Maggie.

The Simpsons is the longest-running American sitcom, and, like Seinfeld, spawned countless social markers — from characters to catch phrases to ridiculous situations.

Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap is an American science fiction series that ran on NBC from September 26, 1989 to May 13, 1993.

The show starred Scott Bakula as Doctor Sam Beckett who was a scientist who had discovered the secret to time-traveler by night — leaping into the body of people through time to try and fix wrongs that had gone down in those people’s life’s the first time around.

The Equalizer

The Equalizer is an American television series, starring Edward Woodward which aired on CBS from September 26th 1985 to April 16th 1989.

Woodward played Robert McCall, a retired member of an unnamed U.S. intelligence agency who established a private detective agency — with a twist.

Taking out ads in local newspapers, McCall sought out people who were being victimized and provide them with a form of vigilante justice.

McCall was only able to take on one case at any given time, so he would provide the complainants his home phone number and ask for their patience until he became free from other commitments.

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