The Best TV Shows of the 80s

The 1980s were some of the most iconic years in American history. It gave us legendary films like The Terminator (1984), Airplane (1980), Brazil (1985), and ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

It was the first time in a generation that the world had to deal with a widespread pandemic. This is when the first home computers hit the market, sparking a technological revolution in addition to the minor cultural revolution that was already going on.

The 1980s was also a significant time for TV. To this day, some of the most popular shows on streaming platforms are from the 1980s. What were the best TV shows of the 80s, though? Read on to find out.

M*A*S*H* (1972-1983)

We had to include M*A*S*H*, because, while it premiered in the 1970s, it was still beloved up until its 1983 finale. The final episode of M*A*S*H* was watched by over 100 million people. To this day, it remains one of the most watched TV events in history, and the only TV show (i.e. not news or a sporting event) to make the list.

What made M*A*S*H* so popular was that it struck a delicate balance, being a service comedy that never forgot the service aspect. The characters joked, pranked, and mocked each other, but they were also vulnerable. Over the course of the show, one of the main characters died, another lost their hearing, another lost their mind, and most of them flirted with insanity at least once.

Cheers (1982-1993)

A working-class Boston bar might not seem like the best setting for one of the best tv shows of the 1980s, but Cheers proved it could be. The show follows a recovering alcoholic and former baseball player as he manages a bar and attempts to deal with all the characters within it.

It was the characters that really made the show work, from the barflies Cliff and Norm, to later character, like the therapist, Frasier. The chemistry between the protagonist, Sam (Ted Danson) and his eventual love interest (Shelly Long, later replaced by Kirstie Ally) was the main conflict for most of the show.

Honorable Mention: JAG (1995-2005)

JAG gets an honorable mention on this list, mostly because it didn’t premier until 1995. Though it wasn’t an ’80s show, JAG did leave quite a legacy. The success of JAG led to the creation of another military legal drama known as NCIS, which has been on for 18 seasons and is still going strong.

The show hasn’t been over for that long, so much of the JAG cast looks the same as they did back then. 

The Best TV Shows of the 80s: A Guide

Listing all the great TV shows of the 80s would take way more than one article. Even our favorite shows couldn’t all fit on this list. We’ve discussed some of our favorites, but there’s always more to learn.

If you want to know more about entertainment, technology, and health, we encourage you to look around our site a bit more. 


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