It’s basically impossible to look back on the 1980s without thinking about the TV shows of the era. These were the years in which the words ‘less is more’ seemed to disappear from the vernacular altogether: we wanted everything bigger, louder, stronger and faster than ever before. That mindset absolutely included our small-screen viewing, from which we demanded laughs and thrills in a quick and plentiful supply, albeit with just enough breathing space for ad breaks.

The 70s had seen small-screen action grow larger in scale and more colourful in content, thanks to such hit shows as The Six Million Dollar Man, Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch and Wonder Woman. The 80s caught that ball and ran with it, bringing us all manner of larger than life heroes who made the 20″ box in your living room feel like a panoramic cinema screen.

That’s not to say that 80s TV didn’t give us plenty of more down to earth entertainment too, however. The decade saw the launch of some of the most popular sitcoms of all time, on both sides of the Atlantic. These shows reflected the changing times, and launched the careers of many stars who remain successful to this day.

These were the days before streaming and binge-watching; the days when you had to wait a full week for the next episode, and if you weren’t home in time (or hadn’t programmed your VCR) then you were going to miss it. Back then, when TV wasn’t all there on demand, these were the shows we most anticipated sitting down to watch together – the ones which brought us the most joy.

Scroll on down, and give a thumbs up to all your most beloved 80s TV shows – and if your personal favourite from the decade hasn’t made the list, go ahead and add it.

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Airwolf

When it came to small screen action in the 80s, no TV show went to such soaring heights as Airwolf. Centred on the high-tech military helicopter of the title, this show was to the air what Knight Rider was to the land, and fuelled the heroic fantasies of viewers young and old alike. Jan-Michael Vincent took the lead as Stringfellow Hawke, ace test pilot trying to locate his brother who's been missing in action since Vietnam. When top secret experimental super-chopper Airwolf is hijacked, Hawke and his fellow pilot/mentor Dominic Santini (film legend Ernest Borgnine) are sent in to get it back, and wind up becoming Airwolf's pilots full-time in an uneasy alliance with the enigmatic Firm. Considering that Airwolf was a big favourite of many kids at the time, it's easy to forget the show began as a fairly hard-edged action drama, whose storylines dealt with the very real tensions of the Cold War era. The producers veered away from this by the second season, toning things down for a more light-hearted, family friendly adventure series. Airwolf was also caught in a ratings battle early on, as it premiered in the same year as another show which centred on a high-tech helicopter: Blue Thunder, a small-screen spin-off of the 1983 movie of the same name. However, as Blue Thunder was cancelled after only 11 episodes, it's quite clear who won that particular war. Unfortunately, production on Airwolf was far from plain sailing. Though the ratings were high, the show was expensive to make, and struggles behind the scenes saw series creator Donald P. Bellisario (also the creator of Magnum, P.I.) walk away after two seasons. Meanwhile, lead actor Jan-Michael Vincent struggled with personal problems and alcoholism. This ultimately resulted in a total makeover of the show in season 4: Vincent and Borgnine were fired, and Barry Van Dyke was introduced as Hawke's long-lost brother, taking over as Airwolf's pilot. However, the new-look Airwolf failed to win over audiences, and the series was ultimately axed in 1987 after 80 episodes. Sadly the series has a tragic postscript, as years later the screen-used Airwolf helicopter would be sold off and refashioned as an ambulance helicopter in Germany, which crashed in a 1993 storm killing everyone on board.

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ALF

E.T. proved that 80s audiences loved cute little men from outer space, and Mork & Mindy demonstrated that aliens could front a successful TV sitcom. Small wonder, then, that someone thought to create a sitcom centred on a cute little alien with an E.T.-like acronym for a name: ALF (Alien Life Form). Launched in 1986, ALF centres on the hairy, goofy creature of the title who crash-lands into the home of American family the Tanners. They allow him to secretly stay with them until he gets his spacecraft fixed. However, ALF quickly becomes part of the family, getting involved in the daily troubles that make up a standard sitcom. Though a largely cute, family-friendly show which made a merchandising icon out of its furry lead, ALF has its oddly dark elements. For one, there’s the fact that ALF is always trying to eat the Tanners’ pet cat. For another, there’s the revelation that he is among the last of his kind, his planet having been destroyed by ecological disaster, which informs the show’s eco-friendly, anti-nuclear ethos. As fun as ALF may have been for viewers, the cast and crew reportedly found it nightmarish dealing with the time-consuming problems of a puppet lead. For this reason the show wasn’t taped live, and had a laugh track added afterwards. Dwindling ratings saw ALF unexpectedly cancelled in 1990, notoriously ending on a sinister cliffhanger which saw ALF captured by shady government agents. This was later resolved in 1996 TV movie sequel, Project ALF.

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Blackadder

Blackadder holds a unique place in sitcom history. While it features the same central actors, each new instalment takes place in a different time period, following the history of a most despicable British family. Launched in 1983 as The Black Adder, the first season was set in the Middle Ages and cast Rowan Atkinson as the simpering son of King Richard IV (Brian Blessed), and Tony Robinson as his shrewd servant Baldrick. The show wasn’t a huge success, and when a second series came along significant changes were made. Whilst Atkinson had co-written The Black Adder with Richard Curtis, 1986’s Blackadder II saw Atkinson leave the writing to Curtis and Ben Elton, who radically reworked the characters. Blackadder became a duplicitous schemer with a barbed tongue, eager to increase his standing in the court of Queen Elizabeth (Miranda Richardson), whilst Baldrick became an unhygienic idiot. This mix of alternative history and venomous wit made Blackadder II a smash. The series continued down this path with 1987’s Blackadder the Third, casting the anti-hero as the butler of Prince George (Hugh Laurie). Two one-off specials were made in 1988 (Blackadder: the Cavalier Years and Blackadder’s Christmas Carol), before they ended with the most celebrated series: 1989’s Blackadder Goes Forth, which moved the action to the trenches of World War 1. Later, the cast and crew reunited for a final 1999 episode, Blackadder: Back and Forth, specially commissioned for screening at London’s newly-opened Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena).

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Buck Rogers In The 25th Century

After 1977 sci-fi adventure Star Wars unexpectedly became the biggest movie in history, everyone in Hollywood rushed to follow suit – on the small screen as well as the big. Producer Glen A. Larson, having already masterminded 1978’s acclaimed but short-lived Battlestar Galactica, tried his hand at space opera again the following year. This time, Larson and company drew on an established franchise that pre-dated Star Wars by almost 50 years. Launched in 1979, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century cast Gil Gerard as Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers, space-faring pulp hero created in 1928.  This new take on the character saw Buck rocket into space in 1987, but accidentally sent into an extended hyper-sleep. Buck awakens in the year 2491, to find a very different world. The show played heavily on a culture clash angle, with Buck as a brash and cocky 20th century man very much out of time in the far future. Kids were drawn in by the colourful characters and sets, while older viewers enjoyed the sexual tension, as Buck found himself caught in a love triangle between the villainous Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley), and his courageous co-pilot Wilma Deering (Erin Gray, whose performance and costumes made her a major sex symbol). To save money, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century recycled a lot of props and costumes from Battlestar Galactica. Even so, high production costs in the face of low ratings saw the series cancelled in 1981 after 37 episodes.

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Cheers

Millions of people around the world spent the bulk of the 80s at a bar in Boston, named Cheers. The eponymous drinking ground served as the location for what was, until recently, the longest-running live action sitcom of all time. Sam Malone (Ted Danson) is a former baseball player who now runs the homely bar where - as the show's unforgettable theme song puts it - everybody knows your name. He works alongside Coach (Nicholas Colasanto) and Carla (Rhea Perlman), serving regulars including Cliff (John Ratzenberger) and Norm (George Wendt). Things are shaken up by the arrival of new waitress Diane (Shelley Long), a collegiate intellectual who's out of sorts among the bar’s less sophisticated staff and clientele. Curiously, although Cheers proved to be one of the most popular sitcoms ever, it wasn't plain sailing to begin with. After premiering in September 1982, low ratings almost saw the show axed. However, it soon became staple viewing on both sides of the Atlantic. By the end of its run in 1993, Cheers was one of the most widely watched shows on television, garnering a record 114 Primetime Emmy award nominations (with 28 wins). Plus, with 275 episodes to its name it was the longest-running sitcom ever: The Big Bang Theory broke that record in 2019, ending on episode 276. Cheers even proved successful enough to survive major cast changes. When Nicholas Colasanto died suddenly in 1985, Woody Harrelson was introduced as Woody; and when Shelley Long quit in 1987, Kirstie Alley took over as Rebecca. Later seasons added another notable supporting character in Kelsey Grammer's Frasier, initially a love interest to Diane who wound up a Cheers regular. Frasier proved popular enough to get his own spin-off show, which premiered shortly after Cheers ended and became hugely successful in its own right. Still close to the heart of audiences, Cheers catapulted its cast to stardom, and most of them are still prolific actors to this day. Woody Harrelson surprised everyone by becoming a major movie star, and Ted Danson went on to further TV success with Becker, CSI and The Good Place. However, perhaps the most unexpected success story to come out of Cheers is John Ratzenberger, officially one of the most successful actors of all time thanks to his long working relationship with Pixar.

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Dallas

Few TV shows were quite such staple viewing in the 80s as Dallas. Though the all-American soap opera first hit the airwaves in 1978, it's fair to say it pretty much dominated the decade that followed, keeping audiences worldwide transfixed with its peek into the lifestyles of the rich and shameless, and its succession of increasingly outlandish, melodramatic plot devices. Set in the Texas city of the title, Dallas centres on the Ewing family, a wealthy clan of thoroughbred Texans who've amassed a vast fortune from oil and cattle. As we all know, where there's money, there's drama, and Dallas was never short on this. In the show's early days the focus was on the conflict between the Ewings and the Barnes family, a long-standing feud complicated by the romance between Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal). However, the spotlight was soon stolen by the dirty dealings of Bobby's duplicitous, perpetually-stetson clad older brother, J.R. (Larry Hagman). American soaps in particular have long been notorious for their readiness to go to some crazy places in the name of drama, and Dallas pretty much wrote the rule book for that. To this day, the mystery over who shot J.R. in 1980's third season remains one of the most iconic story threads in TV history.  And of course, who can forget the first episode of season 10, in which it was revealed that the entire previous season had just been Pamela's dream. After many more twists and turns, Dallas ended its initial run in 1991, after 14 seasons (and with Larry Hagman's J.R. having appeared in all 357 episodes). By this time it had spawned spin-off series Knots Landing, also a huge success, running from 1979 until 1993. Three Dallas TV movies followed in the 90s, and in 2012 Dallas was relaunched, bringing back several key stars from the original series alongside a new cast. This new incarnation of the beloved soap lasted three seasons.

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Diff'rent Strokes

As the theme song to this beloved sitcom classic reminded us, “the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum.” Launched in 1978, Diff’rent Strokes took the ever-sensitive topics of class and race relations and made them the basis of a much-loved sitcom which ran until 1985. Diff’rent Strokes centred on two orphaned African-American brothers, the teenage Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges) and his smart-mouthed little brother Arnold (Gary Coleman). After their mother’s death, the boys are taken in by her previous employer Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain), a wealthy white middle-aged businessman. They share Phillip's family home with his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato) and their housekeeper Edna (Charlotte Rae, who went on to star in spin-off series The Facts of Life). Conrad Bain was the nominal lead, coming to the show from earlier sitcom success on Maude; but even those who’ve never seen Diff’rent Strokes can tell you that Gary Coleman was the real star. The diminutive young actor won over audiences with his achingly cute demeanour, and wrote himself into the annals of pop culture history with his unforgettable and frequently repeated one-liner, "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" Sadly, Diff’rent Strokes doesn’t have the happiest of legacies. Coleman struggled with poor health (his 4’8” frame and child-like appearance were due to a congenital kidney disease), and he battled depression and financial difficulties before dying in 2010 aged just 42. Co-star Dana Plato’s was an equally sad story - she later descended into drug and alcohol addiction, before committing suicide in 1999 aged 34.

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Dynasty

The huge success of CBS's soap opera Dallas proved that audiences couldn't get enough of the lifestyles of the rich and shameless - so when rival network ABC decided to launch a new soap of their own in 1981, they knew they only way to go was glitzier, gaudier and even more ridiculous. The result was Dynasty, which centred on another wealthy family that made its fortune in oil, but learned its manners from the school of hard knocks. Spearheaded by super-producer Aaron Spelling (responsible for such TV hits as Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels, Fantasy Island and later Beverly Hills 90210), Dynasty was created by Richard and Esther Shapiro and centred on the Carringtons, mansion-dwelling millionaires in Denver, Colorado. Initially centred on Blake Carrington (John Forysthe) and his new wife Krystle (Linda Evans), the show didn't do so well until the introduction of English actress Joan Collins as Blake's ex-wife Alexis at the start of season 2. One of the most legendarily catty characters in TV history, Alexis's introduction finally took Dynasty into arch-camp territory. The combination of Collins with Evans, along with other glamorous actresses including Heather Locklear and Catherine Oxenberg, made Dynasty a ratings sensation. Big hair, big shoulder pads and bad attitudes were the only way to go. Later, Collins was joined on Dynasty by fellow English actresses Stephanie Beacham as Sable Colby and Kate O'Mara as Caress Morrell, increasing both the British presence and the catfight factor. It just wasn't an episode without these heavily made-up, lavishly-dressed women venomously badmouthing one another before getting into a slapping, scratching, hair-pulling brawl. Audiences all over the world ate it up. Still, as absurd as Dynasty may have been, it was bold enough to delve into serious areas that other dramas of the time didn't, exploring sexual and racial issues. It also proved topical for giving film legend Rock Hudson his last role: the actor had hidden his homosexuality throughout his career, and in his last days on the soap it came to light that he had AIDS, which he sadly became the first celebrity to die from in 1985. Eventually ending in May 1989 after 220 episodes, Dynasty spawned short-lived spin-off series The Colbys (which also starred Beacham), and two-part miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion in 1991, before being rebooted by US network the CW in 2017.

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Family Ties

Family-based sitcoms inevitably explore the generation gap, but few made such a point of reflecting the political divides of the 80s as Family Ties. Launched in 1982, the popular series followed the trials and tribulations of the Keatons, a family with hippy parents who are somewhat dismayed to find their children embracing the ‘greed is good’ ethos of the Reagan era. Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter are Steven and Elyse Keaton, veterans of the 60s counterculture who still hold up their liberal values, in stark contrast to their kids – in particular their self-proclaimed Young Republican son Alex, played by Michael J. Fox (who landed the role after first choice Matthew Broderick declined). Family Ties creator Gary David Goldberg did not intend for Alex to become the hero of the show, but the audience-pleasing charm of Michael J. Fox saw the character developed into the de facto lead. Family Ties made Fox a huge star, paving the way for his casting in 1985 film classic Back to the Future, which he famously shot back-to-back with the sitcom. The cast was filled out by Justine Bateman as Mallory, Tina Yothers as Jennifer and later Brian Bonsall as youngest son Andy. The show notched up some illustrious guest stars including Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, River Phoenix and Fox’s Back to the Future co-star Crispin Glover, while future Friends star Courteney Cox also had a recurring role in the last two seasons. Family Ties ended in 1989 after 176 episodes, plus a 1985 TV movie.

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Growing Pains

Growing Pains was an American sitcom which ran from 1985 to 1992. While a lot of the most popular 80s sitcoms made a point of highlighting different kinds of family units, this show kept it traditional with a focus on a standard middle-class white family. However, it brought enough charm to win a devoted audience. The series centres on the Seavers, a well-to-do family based in Long Island, New York. The father, Dr Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) is a psychiatrist, whilst his wife Maggie (Joanna Kerns) is a journalist. Their children are teen lothario Mike (Kirk Cameron), bookworm Carol (Tracey Gold), and young troublemaker Ben (Jeremy Miller). In later seasons a fourth child was added in newborn daughter Chrissy (first played by twins Kelsey and Kirsten Dohring, and later by Ashley Johnson). While Growing Pains was a big success which brought fame to its cast, today it’s best remembered for the two film legends who made early appearances on the show. Brad Pitt was on the show twice, playing different characters in 1987 and 1989. Meanwhile, Pitt’s future Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood co-star Leonardo DiCaprio became a main cast member in the show’s last season as Luke, a homeless teen who moves in with the Seavers. Growing Pains spawned a spin-off series, Just the Ten of Us, centred on Bill Kirchenbauer’s supporting character Coach Lubbock. Later, the Growing Pains cast reunited (sans DiCaprio) for two TV movies in 2000 and 2004.

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Happy Days

Happy Days is one of the best loved sitcoms of all time. Set in 1950s Milwaukee, it followed the life of loveable everyman Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) with his family and his friends – of whom leather-jacket clad cool guy Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) became a prominent figure. Whether we can really class it as a great 80s TV show is a slightly thornier issue. Happy Days began in 1974, and was at its peak in its first few years. The popular phrase ‘jump the shark,’ used to pinpoint a moment when a TV show runs out of ideas but keeps going anyway, originates from a 1977 Happy Days episode in which Fonzie jumps over a shark on his motorbike. By 1980, original star Ron Howard had left to pursue his directing career, and even die-hard fans would agree the show had run out of steam by its last few seasons, before it was finally cancelled in 1984. Even so, reruns of Happy Days were a TV staple throughout the 80s. Children of that decade still grew up knowing all the words to theme song, and associating the utterance “ayyyy!” and the suffix “-amundo!” with Fonzie. Such was its popularity that Happy Days spawned an astonishing seven spin-off shows: Laverne & Shirley, Blansky's Beauties, Out of the Blue, Joanie Loves Chachi, and most famously Mork & Mindy. There were also two animated offshoots, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and Laverne & Shirley with The Fonz.

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Hill Street Blues

Cop shows are as old as television itself, but the tried-and-tested format got a significant update in the 80s thanks to top-rated drama Hill Street Blues. Noted for its grittier, more realistic take on police work, the show helped pave the way for a new era of harder-edged TV. Premiering in January 1981, Hill Street Blues centred on the staff of the Hill Street police station, based in an unspecified American city. Most episodes took place over the course of a single working day, following the regular routines of the everyday cops on the beat. The series broke new ground for television in its shooting style, utilising handheld cameras which closely followed the cast for a fly-on-the-wall documentary feel. By sharp contrast with a lot of cop shows, Hill Street Blues kept its focus on street level and the lower end of the social spectrum, and often showed crimes that went unsolved. This lack of glamour lent the show an edge over other investigation-based dramas of the time, and saw it win big at the Emmys: it was the first show to be given the Outstanding Drama award four times. This record has since been matched, but not beaten, by LA Law, The West Wing and Game of Thrones. Hill Street Blues was co-created by Steven Bochco, who was later responsible for the even edgier 90s cop drama NYPD Blue. One of the stars of NYPD Blue, Dennis Franz, appeared in the last two seasons of Hill Street Blues beforehand.

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Knight Rider

Knight Rider was the stuff that every 80s kid's dreams were made of. What in the world could be cooler than being a tough secret agent fighting in the name of what's right, with an ultra-high tech talking car as your partner? The pilot episode of Knight Rider introduced Michael Long, a police detective who is almost killed in the line of duty. Saved by a reclusive billionaire, Long is renamed Michael Knight, given a new face (the devilish good looks of David Hasselhoff), and is enlisted into a privately funded crime-fighting organisation. There, he’s provided with top of the line transportation in the form of the Knight Industries Two Thousand, otherwise known as KITT. Filling out Knight Rider's supporting cast were Edward Mulhare as Devon Miles, Michael Knight's commanding officer at FLAG, and Patricia McPherson as KITT's chief technician Bonnie Barstow. However, young viewers at the time would be hard pressed to even recall the names of these characters, so preoccupied were we by the central hero and his iconic car. Indeed, Patricia McPherson's Bonnie was replaced for one season by an entirely different character, April Curtis (Rebecca Holden), and the audience barely noticed. When it came to KITT, however, viewers really paid attention. Everyone fantasised about owning such a car of their own, with its indestructible body, intelligent self-driving computer, and incredible extras - the most famous of those being its Turbo Boost, which propelled the car to extraordinary speeds. All that aside, the black Pontiac Firebird Tran Am is simply a cool-looking car, made even cooler by its red scanner light - a feature which series creator Glen A. Larson borrowed from the Cylons, the robotic bad guys of his earlier TV hit Battlestar Galactica. Still, even a self-driving car is only as good as the man behind the wheel, and David Hasselhoff became an 80s icon as Michael Knight. This success paved the way for Hasselhoff’s later role in Baywatch, as well as his singing career; famously, he got very big in Germany before the decade was out. Knight Rider ran for 90 episodes from 1982 to 1986. It spawned 1985 spin-off series Code of Vengeance, and has been revived in several TV movies and two short-lived reboot shows.

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Magnum P.I.

One thing 80s TV excelled at was presenting us with beautiful people whose lifestyles we could all feel thoroughly envious of. This was most definitely the case with Magnum, P.I., the smash hit series detailing the ongoing investigations of Hawaii-based private investigator Thomas Sullivan Magnum the third. Magnum (Tom Selleck) is a former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran who now works as a P.I. out of Robin's Nest, an idyllic beachfront guest house owned by the perpetually unseen Robin Masters (whose few 'appearances' in the show were voiced by film legend Orson Welles). Here, Magnum lives the dream, driving Ferraris, romancing beautiful women, and generally taking it easy. Of course, the nature of his work means that trouble is never far away; and if he doesn't have bad guys to deal with, Magnum also has to face the wrath of Higgins (John Hillerman), the uptight manager of the Robin's Nest estate and a stickler for the rules, which leaves him constantly at loggerheads with our more rebellious hero. These days Magnum, P.I. is probably best remembered for prompting a legendary movie casting near-miss. Tom Selleck's contractual obligation to do the show forced him to say no to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who had offered him the lead role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This, of course, resulted in Harrison Ford being cast in that role instead, and Indiana Jones became a big screen phenomenon with four films made to date (and a fifth in the pipeline). As such the temptation is there to regard Selleck as one of the unluckiest actors ever, but he has insisted that signing on for Magnum, P.I. was "the best thing that ever happened to me." The show was, after all, a huge success in its own right, making a superstar and sex symbol out of Selleck, and prompting plenty of 80s men to attempt the bushy moustache/Hawaiian shirt combination (including but not limited to Jim Hopper in season three of Stranger Things). Magnum, P.I wound up running for 162 episodes, from December 1980 to May 1988. During that time, Selleck and John Hillerman both won Emmy awards for their work, and there were crossover episodes with two other hit shows of the era: Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote. (A crossover with The Equalizer was also discussed, but never happened, alas.) 2018 saw the launch of a Magnum, P.I. reboot series, with Jay Hernandez taking over from Selleck in the title role.

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Miami Vice

Like most decades, the 80s has long been defined largely by a particular aesthetic. Where the 60s brought flower power and the 70s brought glitter and disco, the 80s went sleek, metallic, neon-lit. Anytime you see the silhouette of a city skyline against a hazy twilight, it immediately screams 80s - and no TV show captured that vibe more perfectly than Miami Vice. Premiering in September 1984, Miami Vice centred on Sonny Crocket (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas), partnered Detective Sergeants in the vice unit of the Miami Dade PD. Working undercover in a glamorous world of high-price criminals, these cops aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, but they struggle with their inability to make real lasting changes to drugs and crime in the city. Though created by Anthony Yerkovich (also a writer on Hart to Hart and Hill Street Blues), Miami Vice is best remembered as the baby of showrunner Michael Mann, who had not long since made his film directorial debut with 1981's Thief and would later make such hits as Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans and Heat. Mann is largely held responsible for ensuring that Miami Vice wouldn't look and sound like any other cop show, bringing the fashions of the time to the forefront to create something way more stylish. As well as dressing the stars in designer suits and giving them top of the range sports cars, Miami Vice also boasted a cutting edge contemporary soundtrack: the synth-driven theme music by Jan Hammer became a classic of the era. As they were aiming a bit higher than the average small screen police drama, they looked beyond the small screen when casting. Jeff Bridges, Nick Nolte and Mickey Rourke were among the big name stars considered for the role of Crockett before Don Johnson landed the role, which won him superstardom - as well as the 1986 Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Drama. The years that followed saw endless men try (and usually fail) to pull off Crockett's distinctive dress sense: linen suits, pastel-coloured T-shirts and espadrilles. A popular sensation for its first three seasons, Miami Vice's ratings eventually dwindled until its cancellation in 1990. Michael Mann revisited the property with the 2006 Miami Vice movie, starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx as Crocket and Tubbs.

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Moonlighting

Plenty of TV shows in the 80s centred on private investigators, but Moonlighting did something particularly new and surprising with that set-up. Blending detective drama with romance and overt comedy, the show gave audiences something new. It also introduced a star of the future in Bruce Willis – even if initially he was playing second fiddle to the more established leading lady, Cybill Shepherd. Hitting the air in 1985, Moonlighting introduced audiences to Maddie Hayes (Shepherd) and David Addison (Willis). Maddie is a formerly wealthy model who loses everything to an embezzling accountant, and finds herself lumbered with David’s failing detective agency, originally purchased as a tax write-off. Reluctantly, Maddie teams up with David to run the agency full-time. Thanks to its knowing play on the genre, its sharp dialogue and plots, and the chemistry between Shepherd and Willis, Moonlighting wasn’t quite like any other show on TV at the time. It got bolder as the series went on, with surreal, fourth-wall breaking humour. It was a critical hit, scooping 7 Emmy Awards and 3 Golden Globes throughout its run. It also attracted a wealth of noteworthy guest stars, among them Whoopi Goldberg, John Goodman, Pierce Brosnan (in character as Remington Steele), and – in his final live action appearance – Orson Welles. Eventually Moonlighting was scuppered by dwindling ratings, off-camera tensions and Willis’s burgeoning film career (he shot the last season back-to-back with Die Hard). It was cancelled in 1989 after 66 episodes.

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Mork & Mindy

Few spin-off shows have taken on such a life of their own as Mork & Mindy. After debuting the role in one particularly outlandish episode of 50s-set sitcom Happy Days, comedian Robin Williams was catapulted to superstardom by playing the quirky extra-terrestrial Mork from the planet Ork in a show of his own, running from 1978 to 1982. Set in what was then the present day, Mork & Mindy saw the titular alien take up residence in Boulder, Colorado under orders from his commanding officer Orson (the voice of Ralph James), to whom he reported back every episode with updates on his observations of human behaviour. Eccentric but innocent, Mork befriends Mindy (Pam Dawber). Promising to keep Mork’s alien identity secret, Mindy allows him to move in with her and continue his ongoing studies of humanity. It was through Mork & Mindy that the previously unknown Williams really announced his comic genius to the world. His high-energy performance was an extension of the comedian’s own persona, and it quickly brought him close to the heart of millions, even if his co-stars could scarcely get a look in at times. Despite Williams’ increasing fame, the show’s ratings slumped until it was cancelled after four seasons. Still, Mork & Mindy remained prominent in syndicated reruns, and despite Williams’ later big screen success it remained one of his best-loved works. Shortly before his death in 2014, Williams reunited with Pam Dawber on another sitcom, The Crazy Ones.

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Only Fools And Horses

Britain produced more than its share of memorable sitcoms in the 80s, but surely none proved as popular or stood the test of time quite so well as Only Fools and Horses. First airing in 1981, the BBC 1 comedy introduced south-east London wheeler-dealer Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter (David Jason), his brother Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst), and their Grandad (Lennard Pearce). The show centred on the ambitious but dim-witted Del Boy’s ill-advised get-rich-quick schemes. Following Lennard Pearce’s death in 1984, Buster Merryfield was introduced as Uncle Albert, and in 1988 Del Boy and Rodney got love interests in Raquel (Tessa Peake-Jones) and Cassandra (Gwyneth Strong). The supporting cast was filled out with such memorable characters as Trigger (Roger Lloyd Pack), Denzil (Paul Barber) and Boycie (John Challis). The uniquely working-class British sensibility of Only Fools and Horses won over audiences nationwide, and the show became a national institution with a wealth of iconic catchphrases, among them “Next year, Rodney, we could be millionaires!” and “you plonker!” One particularly memorable scene – Del Boy falling through the bar – has been repeatedly declared the funniest moment in TV history. When the show’s initial run came to an end in 1996, the series finale was the most watched British sitcom episode ever, with over 24.3 million viewers. 16 Christmas special episodes were produced before Only Fools and Horses shut up shop for good in 2003. It’s since spawned Boycie-based spin-off The Green Green Grass and prequel Rock & Chips, as well as inspiring a West End musical.

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Spitting Image

The 80s were turbulent years politically - and the best way for entertainers to react to political turmoil is with satire. Spitting Image delivered this in the form of an adult-oriented puppet show, which became one of the most distinctive British TV comedies ever. Spitting Image creators Roger Law and Peter Fluck were newspaper cartoonists who hit upon the idea of making live action caricatures with latex puppets. Once ITV launched the series in 1984 it became a sensation, thanks to its bold send-ups of the Royal Family, world leaders Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and other politicians of the day including opposition figures like Neil Kinnock. Not that Spitting Image only went after political figures, as actors, sportspeople and other celebrities were all fair game. Interestingly, many of those targeted were happy to be sent up: rock group Genesis used their Spitting Image puppets in the music video for their 1986 single Land of Confusion. Nor was this the only musical impact of Spitting Image, as the series also produced a satirical pop chart hit, The Chicken Song, in 1986. While the puppets were the stars, a wealth of British comedians provided the voices including Harry Enfield, Rory Bremner, Steve Coogan, Alistair McGowan and Chris Barrie. The series ran until 1996, when decreasing ratings saw ITV pull the plug. After a number of aborted revival plans, a new take on Spitting Image is now confirmed to be in the works for UK streaming service Britbox.

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Street Hawk

Knight Rider and Airwolf proved that 80s TV audiences loved a bit of super-charged vehicular action with a secret agent twist - so why shouldn't that work on two wheels? 1985 action series Street Hawk set out to give us just that, and though it sadly proved short-lived, it still made a big impact on viewers at the time. Rex Smith took the lead as Jesse Mach, a cop and expert motorcyclist who  leads a double life as crimefighter Street Hawk, part of a top secret government project utilising a high-tech motorcycle. Under a sleek black biker suit and helmet, Jesse battles local criminals, as well as evading his own police colleagues who consider Street Hawk a vigilante menace. With its shadowy, neon-lit title sequence, synthesizer-based soundtrack from electronica pioneers Tangerine Dream, and of course its abundance of extravagant bike chases (utilising specially customised Honda models), Street Hawk was compelling viewing, particularly for excitable younger viewers. It may be surprising, then, that only 13 episodes were ever made; but, not unlike Knight Rider, Airwolf and others of its ilk such as Automan, fans most vividly remember Street Hawk for its central vehicle and action sequences, rather than anything plot or character-related. Rex Smith didn’t get much time to make a big impression, but he was an engaging lead, and was joined by some notable guest stars: the pilot featured Christopher Lloyd, whilst the second episode boasts an early appearance by George Clooney.

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Taxi

In the wake of notorious 1976 film classic Taxi Driver, New York cabbies probably weren't the most obvious choice as the focal point for a sitcom. Nonetheless, it proved to be a winning set-up for Taxi, one of the most acclaimed TV comedies of its time, and one which helped launch a number of its key players to stardom. First aired in 1978, Taxi centred on the employees of the Sunshine Cab Company. The bulk of the action took place in their Manhattan fleet garage, and followed the lives of the mismatched souls there. While the cynical Alex (Judd Hirsch) considers himself a cabbie for life, most of his co-workers harbour bigger dreams, including actor Bobby (Jeff Conaway), artist Elaine (Marilu Henner) and boxer Tony (Tony Danza). Officially Hirsch was Taxi’s lead, but the show is best remembered now for giving breakthrough roles to Danny DeVito as dispatcher Louie, and Christopher Lloyd as washed-out hippie Jim. Taxi is also the best-known work of the late cult comedy icon Andy Kaufman, whose bizarre performance as Latka startled audiences (and reportedly riled his co-stars). Another notable figure to come out of Taxi was co-creator James L. Brooks, who went on to massive success as the writer-director of hit movies Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and As Good as It Gets. Brooks is also one of the key figures behind The Simpsons. Taxi ended in 1982 after 114 episodes, by which time it had been awarded 18 Emmys including three wins for Outstanding Comedy Series.

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The A-Team

The 80s is remembered for its wealth of militant tough guys, exemplified on the big screen in the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. However, if you asked any kid at the time who their biggest heroes were, in all likelihood the answer would be The A-Team. Our four heroes are John 'Hannibal' Smith (George Peppard), Templeton 'Faceman' Peck (Dirk Benedict), Bosco 'B.A.' Barracus (Mr. T), and 'Howling Mad' Murdock (Dwight Schultz). Formerly a US Army Commando unit during the Vietnam war, they were falsely imprisoned for - as the opening voiceover told us - "a crime they didn't commit." After escaping, they became soldiers for hire in LA, always ready to come to the aid of those in need. For children of the 80s, The A-Team defined what it was to be a man of action. Our heroes carried the heaviest firepower and drove the coolest vehicles: there wasn't a kid around at the time who didn't want to ride in their signature black GMC van with the red stripe, although riding shotgun in Face's white Corvette would come a close second on that childhood wish list. The A-Team were fast talkers too, never short of a wisecrack. It just wasn't a proper episode without Hannibal declaring "I love it when a plan comes together," or the notoriously aviophobic B.A. objecting, "I ain't gettin' on no plane!" However, although Mr. T is closely associated with the line "I pity the fool," he never actually said these words as B.A. Baracus; this line came from his earlier role as Clubber Lang in the film Rocky III. Still, while The A-Team packed the most explosive, high-octane entertainment kids at the time had ever seen, it was a slightly odd spectacle given that almost no one ever got shot, or badly hurt at all. Despite this, The A-Team was still highly controversial, many critics complaining it glamorised violence. The A-Team ran for 98 episodes, from 1983 to 1987. 23 years later a big screen take on The A-Team arrived with Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson and Sharlto Copley taking over as everyone's favourite soldiers of fortune. A small screen reboot was announced in 2015, but has yet to materialise.

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The Dukes Of Hazzard

Most of the popular action-based TV shows of the 80s were notable for their sleek, high-tech, glamorous sensibility - yet one of the most beloved of them all was quite the opposite. Launched in 1979, The Dukes of Hazzard was an action comedy series with a Southern-fried flavour, blending country bumpkin humour with thrilling car stunts, and more than a dash of sex appeal. Broadly reworked from series co-creator Gy Waldron's 1975 film Moonrunners, the show centred on Bo and Luke Duke (John Schneider and Tom Wopat), their cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach), and their ongoing conflict with the crooked local lawmen, Commissioner Boss Hog (Sorrell Booke) and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane (James Bast). Pivotal to the show's popularity was its iconic car: a souped-up orange Dodge Charger nicknamed the General Lee. The presence of a Confederate flag on the roof might raise eyebrows today, but it was a car every kid wanted to ride in back then - so long as we got to slide across the hood, climb in through the window, beep the horn that played Whistling Dixie and scream "yee-ha!" as it jumped the river. Meanwhile, the slightly older boys were equally interested in Daisy Duke. Catherine Bach became a major pin-up off the back of the role, and her signature denim hot-pants. It's a sign of the character's impact and the show's success that such shorts are still referred to as Daisy Dukes. However, the show’s success did lead to some troubles. Before the fifth season, actors John Schneider and Tom Wopat got into a contractual dispute with the network over royalties, which saw them replaced for one season by Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer as two more Duke boys, Coy and Vance. Viewers weren’t best pleased, and ultimately things were ironed out for Schneider and Wopat to return for the last two seasons, before the plug was pulled in 1985. The Dukes of Hazzard spawned an animated spin-off, 1983's The Dukes. The original cast returned for two TV movies (1997’s The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! and 2000’s Hazzards in Hollywood), before the franchise was rebooted with 2005’s Dukes of Hazzard movie starring Sean William Scott, Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson, which was in turn followed by 2007 prequel The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning.

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The Fall Guy

Lee Majors became one of the most prominent small screen heroes of the 70s as Colonel Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man. However, he wasn’t about to rest on his laurels in the 80s, and took on another popular action man role in The Fall Guy. Launched in 1981, The Fall Guy cast Majors as Colt Seavers, a professional Hollywood stunt man with an interesting side line in bounty hunting. Working alongside two other stunt performers - his young cousin Howie ‘Kid’ Munson (Douglas Barr) and Jody Banks (Heather Thomas) – Seavers utilises his brawn, skills and guts to get his man. Created by prolific producer Glen A. Larson (responsible for such TV classics as Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, Magnum, PI and more), The Fall Guy had an interesting origin, as it was pitched to TV network ABC almost entirely on the strength of theme song The Unknown Stuntman, which Larson co-wrote. As the show centres on the world of professional stunt performers, it’s no surprise that The Fall Guy features more than its fair share of eye-popping stunts, frequently involving vehicles. The bulk of this was in fact stock footage or notable scenes lifted from movies. It didn’t prove as big a hit for Majors as The Six Million Dollar Man, but The Fall Guy was still hugely popular, clocking up 113 episodes before its cancellation in 1986. Plans for a movie reboot were announced in 2010 with Dwayne Johnson linked to star, but this has yet to materialise.

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The Golden Girls

The 80s may well have been a time in which youth culture became ever more prominent, yet one of the top-rated TV shows of the decade centred on four women in their twilight years. That show was NBC sitcom The Golden Girls, which ran for seven seasons from 1985 onward. The Golden Girls centred on four middle-aged women: the dry Dorothy (Bea Arthur, a 70s sitcom veteran thanks to All in the Family and Maude), the dim-witted Rose (national treasure Betty White), the lusty Blanche (Rue McClanahan), and Dorothy’s mother Sophia (Estelle Getty, in reality the second-youngest member of the cast). The quartet live together in the widowed Blanche’s Miami mansion, where conflict and hi-jinks constantly ensue. Though naturally popular with older viewers, the appeal of The Golden Girls spread across the generations. Its humour was often quite eye-opening for younger viewers, showing these grandmotherly figures still enjoying active and often turbulent love lives, challenging preconceptions of what getting old entails. On top of being a hit with audiences, The Golden Girls also received widespread critical acclaim and awards recognition: it’s one of the few sitcoms for which all the central cast won Emmys. The Golden Girls ended in 1992 when Arthur chose to leave: White, McClanahan and Getty went on to spin-off The Golden Palace, which ran for one season. Two other spin-offs were made in Empty Nest and Nurses. The Golden Girls also spawned numerous international remakes, including short-lived British sitcom Brighton Belles.

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The Incredible Hulk

Today, audiences worldwide immediately think of Marvel's Hulk as a CGI-embellished Mark Ruffalo, but back in the 80s two men were the embodiment of the character: Lou Ferrigno as the Green Goliath himself, and Bill Bixby as his human alter-ego Dr David Bruce Banner (the character's name changed from simply Bruce Banner at producer Kenneth Johnson's behest; he felt alliterative names were a comic book cliche). Premiering with a two-hour pilot episode in November 1977, The Incredible Hulk sent the monstrous comic book superhero into a relatively grounded world. Following an experiment gone wrong, Banner is zapped with gamma radiation which transforms him into the Hulk in moments of great anger: hence Banner famously tells reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), "Mr McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." Bixby, Ferrigno and Colvin were the main recurring stars of The Incredible Hulk. The series followed Banner on the run, coming to a new town in every episode and trying to keep a low profile - but inevitably winding up involved in some sort of trouble that only the Hulk can solve, with both his strength, and his inherent sense of right and wrong. Bodybuilder Ferrigno was an eleventh-hour replacement for Richard Kiel (Bond villain Jaws), who the producers realised didn’t look the part once photography had begun on the pilot. Arnold Schwarzenegger also auditioned, but was rejected for being too short. The series ran until 1982: three TV movies followed at the end of the decade.

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The Waltons

A far cry from the action-packed, high-energy entertainment that 80s TV is best remembered for, The Waltons was a considerably more homely, down to earth drama which was among the most popular shows around at the time. While the bulk of its run was in the 70s, it made it all the way into the 80s, ending after 221 episodes in 1981, but living on in reruns. Set in rural Virginia of the 1930s during the Great Depression, The Waltons centred on the family of the title. Three generations lived under the same roof, from Grandma (Ellen Corby) and Grandpa (Will Geer) all the way down to little Elizabeth (Kami Cotler). Caught more or less in the middle is eldest son John Walton Jr, aka ‘John-Boy’ (Richard Thomas), from whose perspective the story is mostly told. Adapted from Earl Hamner Jr.’s novel The Homecoming, the series began life as 1971 TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. This proved successful enough for network CBS to order a series continuing the story of the Walton family, which premiered in September 1972. The Waltons was warmly received, and picked up numerous Emmy Awards during the 70s. Audiences appreciated its good-natured representation of old-fashioned American family values. Infamously, President George HW Bush declared in 1992 that American families should act “more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons.” After The Waltons ended in 1981, three TV movies followed in 1982, and a further three in 1993, 1995 and finally 1997.

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The Wonder Years

Four years after Happy Days ended, another nostalgic American TV show arrived – but this time, with a distinctly more nuanced approach acknowledging the real troubles of yesteryear. This was comedy drama The Wonder Years, which ran from 1988 to 1993, setting its action exactly two decades earlier: 1968 to 1973. The Wonder Years centred on average White suburbanite Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage, cast on the strength of his performance in The Princess Bride). Initially aged 12, the series charts his growth into adolescence. Similar in tone to acclaimed 1986 movie Stand by Me, it featured narration from Kevin’s adult self (future Home Alone star Daniel Stern). As well as following the standard day-to-day life of Kevin with his family and friends, The Wonder Years also touched on the social unrest of the time. The opening episode saw Kevin’s future girlfriend Winnie (Danica McKellar) learn her brother has died in Vietnam. Later, Kevin’s sister Karen (Olivia d’Abo) clashed with their conservative parents (Dan Lauria and Alley Mills) over her hippie lifestyle. The series played a significant role in the 60s nostalgia that became prominent by the 90s, not least thanks to its use of the era's music: memorably, the opening credits played out to Joe Cocker’s version of The Beatles' With a Little Help from My Friends. The Wonder Years earned an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, and, at 13, Savage became the youngest actor ever to be nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy award.

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The Young Ones

Times were changing in the 80s. Few comedy shows reflected this so directly, yet with such eccentricity, as BBC cult favourite The Young Ones. First airing in 1982, it showcased the cream of the new ‘alternative comedy’ movement. Co-written by actor Rik Mayall, Lise Mayer and Ben Elton, The Young Ones centred on a quartet of student flatmates: would-be anarchist Rick (Mayall), heavy metaller Vyvyan (Ade Edmondson), hippy Neil (Nigel Planer) and lothario Mike (Christopher Ryan). Filling out the ensemble was Alexei Sayle, who appeared as different characters in every episode: usually either their landlord Jerzei Bolowosky, or members of the Bolowosky family. As well as showcasing alternative youth culture, The Young Ones delighted viewers with its surreal humour, sporting frequent bizarre developments and asides which defied all logic. There were also abundant guest appearances from a wealth of future big names including Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Lenny Henry and more besides. Curiously, The Young Ones wasn’t technically a sitcom; the makers realised they’d get a bigger budget if it was classed as a variety show, hence the regular appearances from recording artists; most famously Motörhead in series 2 episode Bambi. Following the example of Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones opted to quit while they were ahead, ending after only twelve episodes. However, the core four reunited in 1986 for Comic Relief charity single Living Doll, performing alongside Rick’s idol Cliff Richard. Later, Mayall and Edmondson reunited on 90s sitcom Bottom.

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Three's Company

Launched in 1977, sitcom Three’s Company proved to be among the most enduringly popular shows of its kind. Although it’s remembered as one of the quintessential American sitcoms, the show actually has its roots on the other side of the Atlantic: it was a remake of Man About the House, a British sitcom which ran from 1973 to 1976. Three’s Company cast John Ritter as Jack Tripper, a clumsy but good-hearted former Navy serviceman who shares an apartment in Santa Monica with two women, the sharp Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and the ditzier Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers). Relations between the three are entirely platonic, but a lot of the show’s humour derives from the misunderstandings and tensions that arise from the gender clash. Filling out the original ensemble were Norman Fell and Audra Lindley as the Ropers, landlords of our three young leads. However, the Three’s Company cast went through some changes over its eight seasons. Fell and Lindley left after season three to star in spin-off series The Ropers (a remake of Man About the House spin-off George and Mildred), whilst Suzanne Somers quit after season five to be replaced by Jenilee Harrison as Chrissy’s sister Cindy, who was in turn replaced by Terri Alden as Priscilla Barnes. Three’s Company called it a day in 1984, after which Ritter and Barnes reprised their roles in spin-off Three’s a Crowd (again, a remake of Man About the House spin-off Robin’s Nest).

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Who’s The Boss?

By the early 80s, the standard nuclear family structure and traditional gender roles (men go to work, women stay home) were no longer so readily accepted as the norm. This was addressed by Who’s the Boss?, a sitcom which brought together two single-parent families in a household where the standard gender roles are reversed. Tony Micelli (Tony Danza, a sitcom veteran thanks to Taxi) is a retired baseball player who takes a job as a live-in housekeeper for advertising executive Angela Bower (Judith Light). Tony moves into Angela’s luxurious home with his daughter Samantha (Alyssa Milano), which they share with Angela’s son Jonathan (Danny Pintauro), with regular visits from Angela’s free-spirited mother Mona (Katherine Helmond). An unconventional family unit forms, and along with it a ‘will-they-won’t-they’ romantic tension between Tony and Angela. Premiering in 1984, Who’s the Boss? became one of the most popular sitcoms of the time. From its second season to its fifth, it was in the top ten most watched TV shows in America. As well as keeping its adult stars in the public eye, the show also made a teen idol out of Alyssa Milano. Famously, Disney animators used the young actress as the basis for Ariel in 1989’s The Little Mermaid. Who’s the Boss? ended in 1992 after 196 episodes. By this time it had formed the basis for British sitcom The Upper Hand, which ran from 1990 to 1996. Further Who’s the Boss? remakes have since been produced in Mexico, Germany and India, amongst others.

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