Last Year Rolling Stone conducted a readers’ poll where it asked people to rate the top ten shows of the 1980s.
That’s a click-bait type of piece if ever there was one, but the results were actually pretty reasonable. That said, the voters got the order a bit wrong and remember one lovable alien from the planet Melmac a little more fondly than he deserves to be. Here’s a breakdown of the RS list with our thoughts and comments.
10. Night Court: This show might be the most criminally underrated of any of them on the list. It is actually funny, not just 80s sitcom funny and it had an excellent slow-boiling love affair with Harry Anderson and the criminally underrated Markie Post. It also had a smart premise which allowed for new, amusing characters each week without it felling forced.
9. Moonlighting: If the series had maintained the quality it had when it started, you could argue that this show should actually top the list. Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd were perfect co-stars until the show became a hit and Willis became an actual celebrity. By the end there were whole episodes starring supporting players like Curtis “Booger” Armstrong, which sullied the series’ legacy before it went off the air.
8. Family Ties: A flip on a sitcom trope in this case the parents were liberal while the oldest son (Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton) was the conservative. It’s a simple idea that was executed well and this show could have placed higher than it did.
7. The A-Team: While it introduced the world to Mr. T and it had lots of cool moments, The A-Team suffered from delivering essentially the same episode each week. There was no real danger and no real surprises because you knew there would be welding, the team would need to trick B.A. onto a plane, and after a scare the day would be saved.
6. ALF: As much as I like, even love, the puppet known as ALF, the show was just preposterous and it was never all that well done. The idea of a cat-eating alien living with a human family had a lot of potential, but the series was rarely clever. ALF was a likable fellow, but this show is remembered as being much better than it actually was.
5. The Wonder Years: A different concept for a family show, The Wonder Years was honest in ways that most 80s sitcoms weren’t. It was also very well done, especially the early seasons where the awkward romance between Kevin and Winnie rang true to lots of nerdy pre-teens who had felt the same emotions.
4. Married with Children: This show was groundbreaking if you like dumb humor. It had its moments, but the writing was generally awful and the jokes were repeated over and over. This might be the least deserving program on the list.
3. Hill Street Blues: It’s easy to forget Hill Street Blues, but the show paved the way for so many that came after it. It may not hold up as well as a sitcom, but the writing and acting were top-notch.
2. Miami Vice: This was a series that
had its moments. When it was good it crackled, but the show burned out as quickly as Philip Michael Thomas’ career.
Not on the list: It’s easy to leave The Cosby Show off the list because Bill Cosby turned out to be such a creep, but it’s also not fair. The program was groundbreaking not only in the stars being black, but also in how it portrayed life. Cosby may be a bad guy, but he led a great sitcom which should have placed in the top 3.
1. Cheers: It’s hard to argue this one as Cheers was a perfect sitcom. The romantic tension between Sam and Diane literally perfected the will they or won’t they trope that has become a sitcom staple. This show has also aged well (aside from the lack of cell phones or the Internet) and it’s a top show of all time, not just the 80s.