The 1980s had something for everyone — from big hair to rap to parachute pants to Mr. Microphone, you were bound to find something you liked. The same went for television, where classics like The Cosby Show, Hill Street Blues, Cheers, and Punky Brewster appealed to a wide swath of society. And, even in reruns, the popular TV shows of the 1980s can satisfy just about any taste, as evidenced by this amazing “fantasy lineup” of television splendor from our loudest and proudest decade.
The Cosby Show
A family sitcom starring comedian Bill Cosby as a doctor and father, it ran from 1984 to 1992 on NBC. Featuring the Huxtables and set in New York City, The Cosby Show presented an image of the American household that hadn’t been seen before.
The series is regarded as a defining show of 1980s popular culture and one of the greatest sitcoms in TV history, having received 29 Emmy Award nominations
Hill Street Blues
This police procedural aired for seven seasons between 1981 and 1987 on NBC. It’s credited with having influenced the style of many subsequent TV dramas, which typically adopt its dramatic serial format of multiple episodes per week or season that build upon previous storylines. Its title is said to be based on both the Bob Dylan song “Ballad Of A Thin Man” (“You wear your hair like Woody Guthrie did”) and Los Angeles’ Skid Row district.
Family Ties aired for seven seasons, spanning from 1982 to 1989. Michael J. Fox stars in this comedy as a teenager who grows up into adulthood while living with his parents and their family of friends (who have different political views).
Fox’s character, Alex P. Keaton, is a Republican, which was the party affiliation of most members of his family.
The Wonder Years
This popular sitcom ran on ABC TV for six consecutive years between 1988-1993, telling the story of a boy growing up in the 1960s.
Kevin Arnold, played by Fred Savage, deals with everyday teenage issues like dating, peer pressure and school while also watching his parents deal with their marriage.
This show aired for five seasons from 1980-1984 on NBC, starring an orphaned girl who is adopted by the owner of the building where she squats in an empty apartment after becoming homeless.
Punky, played by Soleil Moon Frye, was a spunky pre-teen with a spunky attitude who always wore her hair in braids and sneakers rather than dresses or heels. Punky would find herself having to deal with bullies, mean girls, homework drama and her first crush.
Centered around a neighborhood bar in Boston, this popular sitcom aired for eleven seasons between 1982-1993.
“Cheers” was the prototype of what is now known as “the beercave”, and it became one of America’s most popular TV shows in history with an ensemble cast led by Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman.
With the oil-baron Ewing family at its core, Dallas broke new ground as the prototype for the nighttime soap opera. Running from 1978 to 1991, “Dallas” was one of the most popular shows on TV with a constant high-stakes drama.
The A Team
This action thriller series ran for five seasons from 1983-1987 and followed Hannibal Smith who assembled an elite team or soldiers led by Mr. T’s B.A. Baracus. The show also starred Dirk Benedict as Face, George Peppard as Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, and Dwight Schultz as Sergeant Bosco Albert Baracus.
This popular show from 1982-1986 followed the exploits of Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) who is a lone crimefighter driven by an electronic talking car named KITT to fight injustice in Los Angeles County’s Southern California region. The series also starred William Daniels as the voice of KITT.
Starring Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson, Isabel Sanford as Louise Jefferson and Mike Evans as Lionel, this TV show ran from 1975-1985. It featured the business exploits of George as he tried to make it big in the world of high-stakes real estate, all the while dealing with t.
This show broke cultural boundaries in the 1970s and 1980s by following three single people, roommates living together. The most controversial part of the setting was that the roommates were co-ed: Jack, played by John Ritter; Janet, played by Joyce DeWitt; and Chrissy, played by Suzanne Somers.
Three’s Company ran from 1977-1984 with a total of 172 episodes.
(Like Popular TV Shows of the 1980s? Then you might like our article on 1980s Cop Shows, click here.)