The Best 1980’s Sitcoms Revealed
The 1980s was a golden era in terms of TV sitcoms. Many popular sitcoms dominated the ratings and spawned a new era of comedy that is still revered today. There were so many greats, that it’s probably extremely different to choose your favourite. But the guys over at Ranker compiled a list and asked you to vote on which sitcom made you split your sides the hardest! In the article below, we count down the top 80s sitcoms of all time, as voted for by internet users.
Scroll down the list below to relive some of your favourite comedy programmes of the 1980s. Enjoy!
This American sitcom was short-lives and aired between 1984 and 1985. The show was developed from the play of the same name, produced and created by the Organic Theatre Company. Shuko Akune and Bruce A. Young reprised their roles from the original production. Two of the show’s stars, George Clooney and Mary McDonnell would later go on to be cast in NBC’s long-running drama ‘ER’ (the one without the forward slash.)
49. What’s Happening?
This sitcom aired on ABC from August 5th 1976 to April 28th 1979. It was loosely based on the Eric Monte-penned film Cooley High. After the series finished in 1979, a sequel series called What’s Happening Now aired between 1985 to 1988 with most of the main cast returning to their original roles.
48. My Two Dads
Another American favourite, this show premiered on NBC on September 20th 1987 and aired a total of three series until 30th April 1990. The story revolves around two men who are given joint custody of 12-year-old Nicole Bradford. The two men had both competed for her mother’s affection the summer before she was born. The two men are former friends who hated one another due to their mutual interest in Mary. It is the mix-up of these two single men raising a teenager that provided the story each week.
47. Kate and Allie
This show ran on CBS from March 1984 through until May 1989. It starred Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin as two divorced women, both with children, who decide to live together in the same house. It originally was only commissioned for six episodes, but the favourable response from critics and viewers persuaded the network to commit to a full series.
This NBC show began on September 14th 1985 right through until May 6th 1990. It stars Marla Gibbs as the acid-tongued, inner-city resident, housewife and gossiper, Mary Jenkins. Just like E/R, 227 was originally adapted from a play written by Christine Houston about the lives of women in a mainly black apartment building in Chicago.
45. The Tracey Ullman Show
The Tracey Ullman Show was an American television variety show. It starred English-born comedienne and pop singer Tracey Ullman. It ran on Fox for three years between 1987 and 1990. The show was a mix of sketch comedy shorts and musical numbers featuring choreography by Paula Abdul. It is perhaps most famous for producing a series of shorts featuring the Simpsons family, which was adapted into the hugely successful TV phenomenon The Simpsons.
Produced by MGM and airing between 1977 and 1983, CHiPs follows the lives of two motorcycle police officers from the California Highway Patrol. It ran in total for 139 episodes over six seasons. It also spawned its own reunion TV movie in October 1998.
43. Gimme A Break!
Running on NBC for six season, Gimme a Break! is an American sitcom starring Nell Carter as the housekeeper for a widowed police chief and his three daughters. Overly dramatic freeway pileups were a signature of the show and occurred frequently during the later seasons. Most of the chase scenes were filmed on back roads.
42. Fawlty Towers
The first British sitcom on the list, Fawlty Towers stars John Cleese as the eccentric and loveable hotel owner, Basil Fawlty. Basil is known for his short temper and over-the-top tantrums, once famously beating up his own car with a branch because it wouldn’t work. It was written by Cleese and his then-wife Connie Booth, who also starred in the show as the housemaid, Polly.
41. Police Squad
Police Squad was first broadcast in 1982. The show pokes fun at police procedures and is a parody of many television shows and movies. The show was cancelled after only six episodes, but it spawned the successful Naked Gun film series. Police Squad was ranked number 7 on the TV Guide’s 2013 list of 60 shows that were cancelled too soon.
40. Silver Spoons
In this sitcom, Ricky Stratton (played by Ricky Schroder) turns up at the mansion of his father, whom he has never met. He moves in to get to know him better. However his father has never taken responsibility for anything in life, including his toy business ‘Eddie’s Toys.’ Ricky believes that his father needs to grow up and Edward believes his son is too uptight and needs to have fun whilst he’s young.
39. Punky Brewster
Punky Brewster is an American sitcom that ran on NBC from September 16th, 1984 to September 7th 1986. The show spawned an animated spin-off It’s Punky Brewster and featured the original cast voicing their respective characters.
38. Mama’s Family
Starring Vicki Lawrence as Thelma Harper (Mama), this American sitcom is a spin-off of a recurring series of comedy sketches called ‘The Family,’ which featured on The Carol Burnett Show. The story revolves around the crazy misadventures of the Harper family, extended non-family members and their friends.
37. The A-Team
A classic of the TV world, the American action-adventure series ran from 1983 to 1987. The plot centres around a fiction group of ex-U.S Army Special Forces personnel who are imprisoned as war criminals for a crime they didn’t commit. They escape and whilst on the run from the army, work as soldiers of fortune. In 2010, a feature film based on the series was released by 20th Century Fox.
36. Family Matters
Family Matters aired on ABC from September 22nd 1989 through until May 9th 1997, and then on CBS until 1998. This was a spin-off of Perfect Strangers and revolves around the Winslow family, a middle-class African American family living in Chicago, Illinois. Halfway through the first season, the show introduced the nerdy neighbour ‘Stever Urkel,’ who quickly become its breakout character and eventually, main protagonist.
35. Too Close for Comfort
The American show ‘Too Close for Comfort’ was modelled on the British series ‘Keep it In the Family,’ which debuted nine months before ‘Too Close For Comfort.’ The show got a rebrand for its final season and became ‘The Ted Knight Show.’
34. Bosom Buddies
That’s right, Tom Hanks once appeared on television disguising himself as a woman. This was so the he, and his friend (played by Peter Scolari) could afford the apartment in which they lived. Frequent themes of the show were gender stereotypes and male/female interpersonal relationships. It became known for its quirky humour and Hanks’ and Scolari’s use of improvisation.
33. Charles in Charge
Charles in Charge stars Scott Baio as 19 year old Charles, a Copeland College student in New Brunswick. In exchange for room and board, he works as a live-in babysitter. Baio directed many of the episodes himself. The show was broadcast on CBS from October 3rd 1984 to April 3rd 1985. it was then revived from January 1987 until November 1990.
32. Mr. Belvedere
The sitcom Mr Belvedere is based on the Lynn Aloysius Belvedere character which was created by Gewn Davenport for her 1947 novel Belvedere. The novel was later adapted into the 1948 film Sitting Pretty. It stars Christopher Hewett in the lead role. He takes the job as housekeeper with an American family headed by George Owens, played by Bob Uecker.
Running on ABC from 1977 until 1981, Soap was created as a night-time parody of daytime soap operas and was broadcast as a weekly half-hour prime time comedy. Similar to soaps, the story was presented in serial format with melodramatic plot elements including alien abductions, demonic possession and kidnapping.
30. The Jeffersons
The Jeffersons lasted an impressive 11 seasons on its home network CBS. It ran for a total of 253 episodes between January 18th 1975 and July 2nd 1985. This stint makes it one of the longest-running sitcoms in American television history. It focuses on George and Louise Jefferson, an affluent couple living in New York City.
29. Head of the Class
Head of the Class follows a group of gifted Monroe High School students in their Individualised Honours Program in Manhattan, with their history teacher Charlie Moore. Hesseman, who played Moore, left the programme in 1990 and was replaced by Scottish Comedian Billy Connolly for its final season.
This sitcom is a spin-off from number 31 on the list – Soap. Benson got rid of the soap opera format of its parent show in favour of a more conventional sitcom structure.
27. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Launching its main actor Will Smith to international stardom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air focuses on Smith playing a fictionalised version of himself. The street-smart kid from West Philadelphia is sent to move in with his wealthy aunt and uncle in their Bel-Air mansion after his gets into a fight at a local basketball court. Comedy ensues when his lifestyle often clashes with that of his relatives. The theme tune is instantly recognisable and has itself become its own pop-culture phenomenon.
26. Saved By The Bell
As a rehash of the Disney Channel series Good Morning, Miss Bliss, Saved By The Bell follows a group of friends and their principal. It mostly focused on lighthearted, comedic situations but would, on occasion, touch on serious local issues such as drug use, drink driving and homelessness.
25. Perfect Strangers
Perfect Strangers ran for eight seasons between March 1986 and August 1993. Created by Dale McRaven, it chronicles the bumpy coexistence of Larry Appleton and his eastern Mediterranean cousin, Balki Bartokomous. It originally aired on Tuesdays as a short, six-episode stint. However, it moved to a prime time Wednesday slot in 1986 and remained there until ’88 when it moved to Fridays.
24. The Dukes of Hazzard
The American sitcom Dukes of Hazzard was inspired by the film Moonrunners, and had many identical and similar character names and concepts. The popular series spawned a film of the same name in 2005 which, whilst financially successful, gained many negative reviews from the critics.
23. Laverne and Shirley
Laverne & Shirley starred Penny Marshall as Laverne De Fazio and Cindy Williams as Shirley Feeney, single roommates who worked as bottlecappers in the fictitious Milwaukee brewery called “Shotz Brewery.” This show, like many on the list, was a spin-off…in this case, of Happy Days.
Coach ran for nine series on ABC from 1989 until 1997. It stars Craig T. Neslon as head coach, Hayden Fox, coaching for the Division I-A college football team, the Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles. For the final two season, Fox and other supporting characters coached the ‘Orlando Beakers.’
21. Murphy Brown
Murphy Brown starred Candice Bergen as the main character, Murphy Brown, a famous investigative journalist and news anchor for FYI, a fictional CBA television news magazine. It aired on CBS from November the 14th 1988 until May 18th 1998 and ran for a total of 247 episodes.
Another very famous face starred in this sitcom. Hard-man Bruce Willis worked alongside Cybill Shepherd as private detectives. It was a mixture of drama, comedy and romance. It is considered by some as one of the first successful examples of ‘comedy-drama,’ or ‘dramedy.’ The show is credited with making Willis the star he is today.
Interesting fact – ALF was the first television series to be presented in Dolby Surround Sound. Its title character is Gordon Shumway, a friendly extraterrestrial nicknamed ALF. He crash-lands his spacecraft in the garage of the suburban middle-class Tanner family.
18. Designing Women
The sitcom Designing Women was created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and aired on CBS from September 29th 1986 until 24th May 1993. It revolves around the lives of four women and one man working together at an interior designing firm in Atlanta, Georgia.
17. Full House
Full House tells the story of a widowed father who, with the help of his best friend and brother-in-law, raises his three daughters. The programme ran from September 22nd 1987 until May 23rd 1995. It was announced in August 2014 that plans were underway to reboot the series and that it would reunite most of the original cast.
16. WKRP in Cincinnati
Created by Hugh Wilson, WKRP in Cincinnati chronicles the misadventures of staff at a struggling radio station in Ohio. It was based upon Hugh’s experiences working in advertising radio sation WQXI in Atlanta.
Taxi is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from 1978 until 1982 and then on NBC between 1982 and 1983. It won a whopping 18 Emmy Awards and focusses on the everyday lives of a handful of New York City taxi drivers.
14. Who’s the Boss?
Coming in at 14th on the list, Who’s the Boss? was created by Martin Cohan and Blake Hunter. It stars Tony Danza as a retired major league baseball player who relocates to Connecticut to work as a live-in housekeeper for a divorced advertising executive, played by Judith Light.
The series finale of this American sitcom was named by TV Guide, TV Land and A&E as one of the most memorable in television history. The series stars Bob Newhart and actress Mary Frann as author and wife who own and operate an inn situated in a rural Vermont town.
12. Three’s Company
Like ‘Too Close for Comfort,’ Three’s Company is based on a British sitcom – this time, Man About the House. It centres around three single roommates, Janet, Chrissy and Jack, who all live together in Santa Monica, California.
11. Growing Pains
Growing Pains, which started on ABC in 1985, is an American television sitcom created by Neal Marlens. In Long Island, New York, Dr. Jason Seaver (played by Alan Thicke) and his wife, Maggie (Joanna Kerns), take care of their kids, while learning from each other.
10. Happy Days
We now reach the top ten of our list, and taken 10th spot is the very popular, Happy Days. The show aired its first-run from January 15, 1974, to September 24, 1984, on ABC. Created by Garry Marshall, the series shows an idealised vision of life in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s America. Happy Days is one of the highest-rated shows of the 1970s.
8. The Wonder Years
At number nine of the list we have the Primetime Emmy Award-winning sitcom The Wonder Years, created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black. The pilot aired following ABC’s coverage of the 22nd Superbowl. TV Guide named it one of the best shows of the 1980s. In addition, at age 13, Fred Savage became the youngest actor ever nominated as Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series. Pretty impressive right?
The hit series M*A*S*H was developed by Larry Gelbert and adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH. The series follows a team of doctors and support staff who are stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in South Korea. It was developed after a failed attempt to film the book’s sequel, M*A*S*H Goes to Maine. It is one of the highest rated shows in American Television history.
7. Married…With Children
At number seven we have Married…With Children. The sitcom aired for 11 seasons and featured a dysfunctional family living together in a Chicago suburb. It was known for handling nonstandard topics for the period, which gave fledgling network Fox a standing among the Big Three television networks. It went on the become the longest-lasting live action sitcom on the network.
6. The Cosby Show
Starring Bill Cosby as its lead, The Cosby Show aired for eight seasons on NBC from September 20th 1984 until April 30th 1992. It focusses on the Huxtable family, an upper middle-class African-American family living in New York. According to TV Guide, the show “was TV’s biggest hit in the 1980s, and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC’s ratings fortunes.”
Roseanne was incredibly popular and aired for nearly ten years between October 1988 and May 1997. It stars Roseanne Barr and was based around the Conners, an Illinois working-class family. It reached number one on the Nielsen ratings, becoming the most watched show in the US from 1989 to 1990, and remained in the top four for six of its nine seasons.
4. Night Court
Just missing out on a spot in the top three, Night Court is an American television situation comedy that aired on NBC from January 4th 1984, to May 31st 1992. Its setting was the night shift of a Manhattan court, presided over by the young and unorthodox Judge Harold T. “Harry” Stone. It was created by comedy writer Reinhold Weege, who had previously worked on Barney Miller in the 1970s and early 1980s.
3. Family Ties
Taking the bronze is Family Ties, a show which reflected the move in the United States from the cultural liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s to the conservatism of the 1980s. It won several awards, including three Emmy Awards for Michael J. Fox as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series. So what has beaten this into silver spot…
2. The Golden Girls
That’s right, it’s none other than The Golden Girls! The show stars Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty as four older ladies who share a home in Florida. It received critical acclaim throughout the majority of its run and won several awards, including Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy twice.
If your favourite programme hasn’t appeared on our list yet, then it must mean that it tops the list of the 50 greatest 80s sitcoms of all time. And that sitcom is *drum roll* the one and only…
Cheers! Or at least, that’s what the cast of the number one most popular ’80s sitcom will be saying when they discover they’ve taken the top spot. It ran for a total of eleven seasons between 1982 and 1993. The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts where a group of locals meet to drink.
During its run, the programme became one of the most popular series of all time and received critical acclaim from start to finish. The show also spawned the hugely successful series Frasier, continuing the story of psychiatrist Frasier Crane as he returned to his hometown of Seattle and started building a new life as a radio host.