It’s easy enough to figure out which of the TV shows in the 1980s were the most popular. You only needed to check the Nielsen ratings and you’ll get the answer. But determining the best TV shows in the 80s is much more difficult, and much more fun to talk about too!
So of course, this list is highly subjective, but then again if you object you can just come up with your own list.
Tour of Duty
Here’s one 80s TV show that avoids all the decade’s fashion excesses entirely, as it was about a light infantry platoon fighting in Vietnam. The action was much more realistic, as its tone was influenced by Oliver Stone’s Platoon. The music was great as well, and they highlighted several rock classics of the era. Its opening theme song was “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones.
Tour Of Duty 1987-1990
This show pre-dated Donnie Brasco by a good ten years! Ken Wahl plays a federal agent who allows himself to be incarcerated so that he can then infiltrate a Mafia family. The entire show (especially the first season) examined the effects of such divided loyalties on an undercover cop.
“Wiseguy” Series Intro 1987-1990
21 Jump Street
In many ways this show epitomized the 1980s era. Johnny Depp plays a cop who enters a special police department comprised of police officers who look young enough to pose as high school students. Our beloved hairstyles and 80s fashions are all here, but the music was great and the themes were timeless. It mixed humor, action, and drama perfectly.
21 Jump Street 1987-1991
This is the TV show which catapulted Bruce Willis to stardom, and it’s also the show where he first displayed his wiseass persona that would become his trademark. This show was ostensibly about a private detective ad his fashion model boss, but it also perfectly illustrated a TV truism: when lead characters fall for each other, the end of the series is near.
“Moonlighting” Series Intro 1985-1989
Yes the premise is quite absurd, but so what? Okay, so it’s about a former spy who turns private detective who runs an ad that says if the odds are against you call the Equalizer. And yes, the lead character is English. But it was a fun ride seeing spy skills turned against criminals.
The Equalizer 1985-1989
A crack Special Forces team was sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit, and so they escaped from prison. Now they help solve crimes while evading the law. Who says military skills won’t work against criminals? Now when you have Mr. T with you.
The A-Team 1983-1987
The Twilight Zone
Do we even have to explain why this is great? For fans of fantasy and horror, this was Must Watch TV show.
So how did these shows get on this list? Simple: They were great then, and even now you won’t get embarrassed when you’re caught watching them. Even with the weird hairstyles and cringe-inducing fashion, these shows rocked.