We were subjected to a whole lot of TV shows in the 80s…ranging from great to WTF. There were quite a few shows based on movies as well as a whole lot of programming aimed at kids. A lot. Of all the 80s TV shows we had to wade through, there were some significant shows that made their mark on the decade (or, on occasion, pop culture). I couldn’t narrow the list to 10, so I had to split the list in two. In alphabetical order (so I don’t get yelled at for my ranking):
21 Jump Street (1987) — This show (which has since been revived in movie form) featured Johnny Depp (in the role that jumpstarted his career) and Richard Grieco (what happened to him?) as hot, young-looking cops who investigated crimes in high schools and colleges…wherever you could find young people.
The A-Team (1983) — This wildly popular show (possibly propelled to fame after airing after the 1983 Super Bowl) featured Mr. T as the member of a crew of former U.S. Army Special Forces personnel. The show had a healthy amount of over-the-top violence, machine guns, and helicopters. Fun.
ALF (1986) — This silly show was based on the premise that an Alien Life Form crashed into the garage of a suburban family and was subsequently taken in as a member of the family. Hailing from the planet Melmac, ALF was particularly fond of cats (as food) although he resisted devouring the family pet.
The Cosby Show (1984) — Possibly the most popular (and definitely the most successful) of the 80s TV shows, it was based on the stand-up routine of Bill Cosby. The show featured an upper middle class black family of 7 in Brooklyn, with a doctor father and attorney mother. The Cosby Show is credited with breaking barriers, but it was also quite funny.
Dancin’ On Air (1981) — This “reality” show was a dance music show that was generally broadcast from Philadelphia, airing in seven states on the East Coast. It featured popular performers like Duran Duran (their first American TV appearance!), Fresh Prince, Madonna, and New Kids on the Block. It was awesome.
Diff’rent Strokes (1978) — Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato (three prime examples of the curse of being a child star) starred in this show. Coleman and Bridges portrayed two children from Harlem who went to live with a rich, white businessman on Park Avenue. This show is probably most famous for the catchphrase “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
Double Dare (1986) — This kids’ game show on Nickelodeon pitted two teams of kids against each other, to answer trivia questions and perform physical challenges. The Double Dare final challenge was an obstacle course with eight obstacles that needed to be completed within 60 seconds. At the end of each obstacle the contestant would have to grab (or find) an orange flag and hand it off to their partner.
Dukes of Hazzard (1979) — Who didn’t love the Duke Boys, and cousin Daisy? Or at least the General Lee, their souped-up Dodge Charger?
The Facts of Life (1979) — This show was actually a spin-off of Diff’rent Strokes and was set at an all-female boarding school. The show centered around Blair, Jo, Tootie, and Natalie. Loved this show.
Family Ties (1982) — This show brought us the charming and adorable Michael J. Fox as young (and proud) Republican Alex P. Keaton during the Reagan era. He played off his parents, two liberal ex-hippies, and his sister Mallory, who was portrayed as a materialistic airhead. Great show.
Did I miss any 80s TV shows that you loved? In A thru F, anyway.