The 20 Best Shows of the 1980s, Ranked !

The ’80s were a time of great change in America. The World was on the brink of war, the Cold War had thawed, and the AIDS virus threatened to destroy lives. This decade brought us some of the best television ever made. From Miami Vice to Hill Street Blues and Cheers to The Cosby Show: the 1980s were a decade for great T.V. And on this blog, I’ll be counting down the twenty best shows of that decade, one every other day.

It was a different time, and now that the 80s are back in style, so is the television. Cable has brought us the AMC channel with series such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and let us not ignore all of the remakes on network T.V. Of course; we have also been graced with Netflix and Amazon Prime, which offer up their original series that are just too good to be missed. So whether you were watching in the 80s or you’re just getting into it now, From the beloved comedy show Cheers to the groundbreaking The Simpsons, these are the twenty best shows of the 80 s.

20. Magnum, P.I.

Released Year:1980-1988
Cast:Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley, Larry Manetti, Gillian Dobb
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Action, Adventure, Crime
No. of Seasons:8

Magnum P.I. is a 1980-1988 American television series starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living in Oahu, Hawaii. The series ran for eight seasons, with 253 episodes broadcast over 222 days, making it one of the longest-running shows in television history. The series aired in its first season on the CBS network; then moved to the CBS affiliate and independent station KIRO-TV in Seattle for two seasons before returning to CBS proper for its final four seasons.

19. Cheers

Released Year:1982-1993
Cast:Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, George Wendt, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
Genres: Sitcom
No. of Seasons:11

It’s been a while since we’ve had our fingers to the pulse of late 20th century Bostonian culture. The last time we checked in, the Celtics were trying to overcome a 3-1 deficit against the four-time defending champion Lakers. But now that’s all in the past. The Cheers Bar was a Boston bar filled with characters that we came to know and love. The brand of Cheers had an American sitcom feel, and almost every episode drew us deeper into the lives of these characters. Though short-lived, the show left a legacy layered with humor, friendships, lovable characters, and conversations so realistic we felt like it was our neighborhood bar.

18. Married… with Children

Released Year:1987-1997
Cast:Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal, David Faustino, Ted McGinley, David Garrison
Where To Stream:Hulu, Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Sitcom
No. of Seasons:11

Married…With Children was a television show that ran from 1987 -1997 on the Fox network. The show was set in Chicago, Illinois, and centered around the life of Al Bundy, a shoe salesman who is stuck in a dead-end job working for his boss at the Great Midwest chronicles. Al is most famous for being irresponsible and lazy and was constantly looking for shortcuts to get what he wants. Al is married to Peggy, one of his high school sweethearts he has remained married to since graduation. They have two children together; Kelly (their oldest) and Bud (the middle child).

17. Moonlighting

Released Year:1985-1989
Cast:Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Wills, Allyce Beasley
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Videos
Genres: Mystery
No. of Seasons:5

Our next one of the popular shows in the ’80s is Moonlighting by Glenn Gordon Caron. In this movie, David Addison (Bruce Willis) and Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) have become good stories for the will-or-won’t-TV they’ trope since the Blue Moon Detective Agency has stopped investigating the crimes. However, no T.V. a couple, such as Willis and Shepherd, did have sexual stress during the day of Moonlighting. They burned the House when they finally decided to complete their relationship. Although the show was full of struggles behind the scenes (beginning with the failure of Shepherd and the burgeoning film star Willis), it always entertained, pioneered the dramatic genre, which is so popular today, and regularly innovatively broke the fourth wall.

16. Knight Rider

Released Year:1982-1986
Cast:David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, Patricia McPherson, Rebecca Holden, Peter Parros
Where To Stream:Hulu, Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Crime Drama, Fantasy
No. of Seasons:4

The original Knight Rider is an American television series that first aired on NBC from 1982 to 1986. The show follows the exploits of a sophisticated, highly advanced, artificially intelligent Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (KITT) that is essentially a highly sophisticated supercomputer with the ability to move.
Take a dash of jut-jawed, genetically engineered supercop Michael Knight and a pinch of maverick government agent Devon Miles and add them both to the master of all evil – KITT – an indestructible, artificially intelligent, heavily armed, talking car with turbo boosters!

15. The Golden Girls

Released Year:1985-1992
Cast:Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White, Estelle Getty
Where To Stream:Hulu, Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Sitcom, Comedy, Drama
No. of Seasons:7

The Golden Girls is an American Situation Drama starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan & Estelle Getty. The series originally aired from 1985-1992 on NBC for seven seasons (226 episodes). The sitcom was a joint production of Witt/Thomas Productions & MTM Enterprises and was filmed at Warner Bros Studios’ Television City in Burbank, California. This collection of stories spans the golden years (1985-1992) of this classic sitcom. Enjoy a nostalgic glimpse at the past with this collection of favorite episodes. And don’t miss out on a special feature at the end, where fans can submit their own Golden Girls memories!

14. Happy Days

Released Year:1974-1984
Cast:Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Tom Bosley, Marion Ross, Anson Williams
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Comedy, Family, Sitcom, Musi
No. of Seasons:11

Happy Day is an American boxed sitcom that opened first-run from January 15, 1974, to September 24, 1984, on ABC, with 204 half-hour episodes spanning eleven seasons. Created by Garry Marshall, the series presented an idealized vision of life in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s United States. The series began as a spin-off of Welcome Back, Kotter. They centered on milquetoast high school history teacher Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), his family, and his circle of friends.

13. The Dukes of Hazzard

Released Year:1979-1985
Cast:Tom Wopat, John Schneider, Catherine Bach, Denver Pyle, Sorrell Booke
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Adventure, Comedy
No. of Seasons:7

The Dukes of Hazzard is an American box series that aired on CBS from 1979 until 1985. The program ran for seven seasons and aired 147 episodes. The show was inspired by the 1975 film Moonrunners, which was also created by Gy Waldron and had many identical or similar characters and even events taken from Moonrunners. Unlike the movie, though, the television program was set in fictional Hazzard County, Georgia. When the show was originally aired on CBS, it was classified as a comedy series, but the re-runs on cable television and most home video releases.

12. The A-Team

Released Year:1983-1987
Cast:George Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Melinda Culea
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
Genres: Drama, Action
No. of Seasons:5

The A-Team is a T.V. series about four American Vietnam War veterans who work as soldiers of fortune. The story follows the militia group which was led by Col. John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard), who was an expert in guerrilla tactics and hand-to-hand combat, as well as Major Alan “Howling’ Mad” Murdock (Dwight Schultz), a master mechanic and pilot of the A-Team’s black van during missions. The team’s resident tech geek was Sgt. Bosco “B.A.” Baracus (Mr. T), who could drive anything. Followed by Mr. T, a former professional wrestler whose real name is Laurence Tureaud.

11. MASH

Released Year:1972-1983
Cast:Alan Alda, McLean Stevenson, Wayne Rogers, Mike Farrell, Gary Burghoff
Where To Stream:Hulu, Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Sitcom, War, Comedy, Drama
No. of Seasons:11

Set during the Korean War, this Neil Simon sitcom followed the lives of a group of eclectic Army doctors. Without the slightest hesitation, surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, and nurse Margaret Houlihan sink their teeth into some serious mischief in the U.S. Army’s 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital—or MASH—during the Korean War. Brought together by a peculiar mix of circumstances, these men and their nurses were forced to work together as they faced incredible hardships and oddball cases that came through the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Their only chance of survival was each other.

10. MacGyver

Released Year:1985-1992
Cast:Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar, Bruce McGill, Elyssa Davalos
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Drama, Adventure, Action
No. of Seasons:7

MacGyver is an American action-adventure television series designed by Lee David Zlotoff. The show ran for seven seasons from 1985–92 on ABC in the United States and CTV in Canada. Matheson Productions produced it in association with Paramount Television. MacGyver is an American action-adventure T.V. series starring Joyce DeWitt as the title character. He is a secret agent proficient in strange problem solving and bombastic improvisation who is often tasked with resolving dangerous situations. The T.V. show was filmed in the USA and ran for seven seasons from 1985 to 1992.

9. Late Night With David Letterman

Released Year:1982-1993
Cast:David Letterman, Paul Shaffer
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Chat Show
4No. of Seasons:4

This show was the most exciting late-night show in the 1980s. When David Letterman made his debut in 1982, it seemed that a canonized talk show rulebook was thrown out of his studio’s fake window (to the sound of breaking glass, of course). Her unique comedy brand swung from zany (starts into a Velcro wall with a velcro suit) to absurd (letting an audio host search it for a missing tooth). Still, the jokes from his opening monologues to his top 10 lists were always smarter than expected. And nobody like Letterman appreciates the drummer.

8. Family Ties

Released Year:1982-1989
Cast:Michael J. Fox, Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video, Paramount plus
Genres: Sitcom
No. of Seasons:7

Family Ties, which followed the life of Steven Keaton and his conservative parents, Elyse and Michael, and their families. Gary David Goldberg created the show. Steven Keaton grew up with hippie parents in the 1970s. However, in 1979 (when this show begins), they suddenly change their beliefs and move to San Diego, becoming considerably more conservative. Sure enough, the kids all grow up to hold some political office. The show captured a key period in American history (the late 80s). If you weren’t alive then, look it up and see what’s so great.

7. Quantum Leap

Released Year:1989
Cast:Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Wolfberg, W. K. Stratton, Carolyn Seymour
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Drama, Science fiction, Fantasy
No. of Seasons:5

Our next best show of the ’80s is Quantum Leap, released in 1989, premiered on NBC. Starring Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, and featuring a young Dean Stockwell, Quantum Leap was about Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist who time travels and leaps into the body of another person in trouble or pain to correct something in the past that will change history for the better. The program won an Emmy and a Golden Globe award, and though its ratings started with respectable figures, they began to fall off towards the end of its run – making it the second longest-running sci-fi show to get canceled once it hit 100 episodes.

6. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Released Year:1987
Cast:Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
Genres: Science fiction, Fantasy, Adventure
No. of Seasons:7

Star Trek: The Next Generation propelled in the federation in the United States on September 28, 1987. Set in the 24th century, the series tracks the adventures of a new crew aboard a Galaxy-class starship called Enterprise. Their purpose is to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life forms and new civilizations, and boldly go anywhere no one has gone before! Back in 1966, the country was going through great strides in civil rights and gender equality. Women weren’t allowed into Mission Control until the early 1970s, just a few years before Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic fictional universe took viewers by storm.

5. At The Movies

Released Year:1982-2010
Cast:Gene Siskel, Roget Ebert
Where To Stream:Youtube, Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Entertainment
No. of Seasons:8

Our next TV show from the ’80s is Gene Siskel’s At The Movies. The combination of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel essentially revolutionized the concept of film criticism, both entitled At The Movies of various production enterprises. Much admired because they were able to summarise the most recent films briefly, as well as their honesty and integrity when opinions differed from each other, they were also criticized by many for degrading the integrity of film critics by reducing them to arbitrary “thumbs up” and “thumbs down.” Gene Siskel’s and Roger Ebert’sone of the best performances, so if you are a 90’s kid, you can still watch this show. It’s full of fun!

4. Night Court

Released Year:1984-1992
Cast:Harry Anderson, John Larroquette
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Sitcom
No. of Seasons:9

The animated, absurd comedy is next on our list of best 80’s family Sitcom based on the graveyard shift of a courtroom in Manhattan was a nine-season success in the NBC comedy lineup. The strange cast of personalities and risqué mood brought them to the bench in every single episode, into the diversity of language-in-check antics, all around the trivial, nonviolent, and small crime. The ensemble was based on the slightly corrupt prosecutor Dan Fielding and Harry Stone, the kooky Judge (and the Amateur Magician), played by Harry Anderson (John Laroquette). The “bull,” the towering yet doltish court man (Richard Moll), and fierce, witty women courtiers were also notable and distinguished characters.

3. The Wonder Years

Released Year:1988-1993
Cast:Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Drama
No. of Seasons:6

The Wonder Years is a family show, and yes, some of its episodes are not far away, but don’t make a mistake: revisiting the staples as an adult in the late 1980s/early 1990s is just as – if not more – fun than seeing him the first time. It is unquenchable and nostalgic, but in the background of Vietnam’s era and the changing social landscape of our country, it chronicles the risings and downs of Kevin Arnolds, Winnie Cooper, and Paul Pfeiffer. You’ll laugh when Kevin’s brother, Wayne, calls him a ‘scrot’ (try to sneak him by Nick’s censors at Nite n) for the umpteenth time. So, we must suggest you watch this amazing Tv show of the ’80s.

2. Growing Pains

Released Year:1985
Cast:Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, Jeremy Miller
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video
Genres: Sitcom
No. of Seasons:7

Growing Pains is the T.V. show for just about anyone who grew up in the ’80s. It even had a memorable theme song, “Picking Up The Pieces,” which I used to sing all the time as a kid! But I loved a lot of episodes from Growing Pains because they carried some great lessons. The program was a success with audiences, but as time went by and the star Kirk Cameron got older, the ratings started to drop, so ABC decided to cancel. Growing Pains was the brainchild of Sean (then Cathy) Clements, his cousin, Andrew Reich, and their buddy Adam Busch. The three gents worked on a show called Big Shot for Lorne Michaels at Paramount and moved to Los Angeles early that year from New York.

1. Miami Vice

Released Year:1984-1990
Cast:Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Edward James Olmos, Saundra
Where To Stream:Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
Genres: Crime, drama, Action, Crime
No. of Seasons:5

Miami Vice is an American television offense drama series produced by Anthony Yerkovich and executive produced by Michael Mann for NBC. The series starred Don Johnson as James “Sonny” Crockett and Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs, two Metro-Dade Police Department agencies operating undercover in Miami. The series continued for five seasons on NBC from 1984 to 1990. This series starred Don Johnson as James “Sonny” Crockett plus Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs, two Metro-Dade Police Department agents operating undercover in Miami. The group ran for five seasons on NBC from 1984 to 1989.


The ’80s is an iconic decade, especially in terms of T.V. Some of the best shows were created during this period and remain popular today. So, we put together a list with exactly 20 entries about what they feel were the best of the best when it came to shows in that decade.

Related Articles

Latest Articles