Best American Sitcoms of the Eighties

In a way, the sitcoms of the eighties were a reaction to the social consciousness of TV in the 70’s. Eighties’ shows were lighter and featured more ensemble casts and family style comedies.

The Wonder Years that ran from 1988 to 1993 showed how far 80s comedies had come from the 70s. Designed for the aging “Baby Boomer” generation the show, in a fun, light-hearted and nostalgic way, dealt with some of the social issues of the late 60s and early 70s. In one memorable episode Kevin Arnold, the main character, inadvertently started a school walk out to protest against the Vietnam War.

Cheers was on from 1982 to 1993. Cheers was set in a Boston sports bar owned by washed-up ballplayer and aging Lothario named Sam “Mayday” Malone (Ted Danson). The bar was inhabited by a cast of odd ball characters; know-it-all mail man, Cliff (John Ratzenberger), acerbic waitress Carla (Rhea Perlman) and Coach (Nicholas Colosanto), the loveable ex ballplayer who had taken one too many balls to the noggin. The real appeal of the show was the obvious chemistry between the cast.

Alf was on from 1986 to 1990 and starred a puppet named Gordon Shumway. Gordon was an alien from the planet Melmac, who escaped the destruction of his planet only to crash into the average American family’s garage. The Tanner family called Gordon, “Alf” short for “alien life form”. Gently snarky in tone, Alf observed and commented on contemporary American life, while trying to avoid capture by the government.

The Cosby Show ran for eight years from 1984 to 1992. Cosby demonstrates the other main theme of 80s TV. No more characters with dirt on their hands, instead the upper middle class ruled. In The Cosby Show, the Huxtable family father was a medical doctor and the mother was a lawyer. The parents rarely argued and the kids never talked back.

Night Court was on from 1984 to 1992, another great cast that featured comedian Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone. Night Court showed the comic goings-on in the Manhattan City court during the night shift. Odd situations and quirk characters were the bread and butter of this show.

Newhart ran for eight years from 1982 to 1990. “Newhart” starred TV veteran Bob Newhart as Dick Louden, writer of “Do It Yourself Help” books and owner of the Stratford Inn, in Connecticut. Dick, with lots of dry humor and low key reactions dealt with the daily odd happenings in the town. The show was full of wit and charm with great writing and memorable characters. Also, the series finale is a true classic of TV.


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