A Journey Through Iconic Shows of the 1980s

In the 1980s, major networks were in a fierce battle against a formidable rival — cable television. Cable TV became a fixture in households, and it brought along a wave of new channels, and each was eager to capture the audience’s attention. Thursday evenings were a particularly hotly contested battleground!

While these shows carry the quirks, they also transport us back in time and evoke a wave of nostalgia and the comforting hum of familiar theme songs. Here are 10 of our favourite ‘80s shows that you can rewatch right now.

1. Cheers

Cheers is a comedy series that graced NBC for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993. The story is set in a fictional bar in Boston with a witty and womanizing bartender-owner, Sam Malone. His romantic pursuit of graduate student-waitress Diane Chambers is a central theme. 

The iconic series, where the camaraderie was as intoxicating as the drinks, provided countless laughs and a sense of belonging.

2. The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls ran from 1985 to 1992, with 180 half-hour episodes across seven heartwarming seasons with a title song, Thank You for Being a Friend. The premise is simple: four older women share a Miami home and weave tales of friendship, laughter, and love in their golden years. The show was showered with critical acclaim, securing Emmy Awards and Golden Globes. 

3. Magnum, P.I.

Magnum, P.I. is a true classic, run from 1980 to 1988. Starring Tom Selleck as the charismatic Thomas Magnum, a private investigator is living the dream on the beautiful Oahu, Hawaii. Of course, every hero needs a foil, and Higgins was the yin to Magnum’s yang. As the stern caretaker, his dynamic with the easygoing Magnum added a delightful layer of humour.

4. Saturday Night Live

SNL is a sketch comedy, political satire, and variety show that has been a fixture on NBC since its premiere in 1975. The show has an ever-changing ensemble cast, which delivers rib-tickling comedy sketches that parody contemporary American culture and politics. 

Each episode is anchored by a celebrity host with an opening monologue, and they later join the sketches with the cast. 

5. Miami Vice

Miami Vice followed the adventures of two Metro-Dade Police Department detectives as they went undercover in the city of Miami. Airing from 1984 to 1989, Miami Vice was a departure from the traditional police procedural. It had a distinctive integration of contemporary pop and rock music and stylish, stylized visuals. 

People magazine noted that it was the first show to look really new and different since colour TV was invented.

6. Dallas

Dallas (1978-1991) showed the lives of the feuding and affluent Ewing family of Texas, owners of the oil giant Ewing Oil and the sprawling Southfork ranch.

With 357 episodes, the series initially centred around the tumultuous marriage of Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes. Then, it shifted its focus to J.R. Ewing, who developed into a breakout character. The episode “Who Done It” holds the record as the second-highest-rated prime-time telecast.

7. Macgyver

MacGyver follows (surprise-surprise) MacGyver, a secret agent for the Department of External Services (DXS), a fictional United States government agency. He’s armed not with weapons but with his exceptional scientific resourcefulness. 

The series lasted from 1985 to 1992 and became a global sensation. The popularity led to two television films and even a reboot in 2016.

8. Saved By The Bell

Saved by the Bell holds a special place in the hearts of those who cherished their ‘80s and ‘90s school days. It was created by Sam Bobrick in 1989 and introduced us to the lives of students at Bayside High School in Los Angeles.

The show was targeted at kids and teens and mixed lighthearted comedy with occasional dives into serious social issues, such as substance use, relationships, and environmental concerns. 

9. Family Ties

Family Ties graced the TV screens from 1982 to 1989. It beautifully captured the evolving social landscape in the United States as it transitioned from the cultural liberalism of the ‘60s to the conservatism of the ‘80s.

At the heart of the show was Young Republican Alex P. Keaton. His ideological clashes with his ex-hippie parents provided the series with its charm.

10. Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues transported viewers to the daily lives of the dedicated police officers of a single, nameless large city precinct on Hill Street. The blues referred to these officers in their iconic blue uniforms.

Running from 1981 to 1987, the series pushed the boundaries of production innovations that would go on to influence countless dramatic series in the UK and the United States.

These shows continue to leave an indelible mark, whether it’s a stroll down memory lane or a chance to introduce these classics to a new generation.

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