The 1980’s were the decade of the television comedy sitcom as reality shows began to rear their ugly head as early as 1979. As television shows such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Three’s Company dominated the air waves late in the 70’s heading into the 80’s, other new situational comedies began in the early to mid 80’s to carry the genre into the 90’s. The 80’s were the beginning of the end for the situational comedy dominance on network television.
Happy Days 1974-1984.
Happy Days is a tweener television comedy that could make the top of the best of the 70’s and 80’s. The television sitcom dominated the Nielson ratings into the 80’s and was an integral part of Americana. The characters created on the show from The Fonz (played by Henry Winkler) to Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) were instant television classics.
The television show set in Milwaukee, in the late 50’s to early 60’s showed an innocent time in Midwest America. The televsion show began to deal with more serious topics as it evolved but it was cutting edge in many ways. The show spawned three spin off television series that were successful in their own right. Laverne & Shirley, Joanie Loves Chachi (believe it or not it was the number one television show in the country briefly) and Mork and Mindy with new star Robin Williams.
Three’s Company 1977-1984.
Three’s Company was cutting edge in many ways. The network television censors weren’t sure what to do with it. There was a gay man living with two girls but he wasn’t really gay, lots of sexual innuendo and plenty of cleavage. The television show used plenty of physical shtick, with the main character Jack played by John Ritter.
The television show became so popular, it eventually led to in fighting and one of the stars, Suzanne Somers, finally leaving the show due to a salary dispute. The television show was still relatively popular after Somer’s departure but it faded over the years.
Bob Newhart found his second hit television sitcom, Newhart, six years after he ended his first, The Bob Newhart Show. The two television shows were nothing alike and both were funny in a sneaky way. No one can pull off dead pan humor better than Bob Newhart. The television show was popular with a larger audience than the Bob Newhart Show and survived a longer run of eight years on network television.
Too Close for Comfort 1980-1987.
Too Close for Comfort followed the typical 80’s television sitcom formula. The over bearing Dad, the two daughters, one blond,busty and promiscuous and the other smart, brunette and more down to earth. Ted Knight played the father and was a little over the top but it worked because Ted Knight is funny enough to pull it off.
Night Court 1984-1992.
Night Court was one of the well written television sitcoms of the 80’s. Night Court also starred John Larouquette in the best role of his career. A tenacious, cold hearted, lawyer that would stop at nothing to win a case. Harry Anderson played the Judge that could never take anything seriously. The cast assembled was on of the best of the 80’s and it’s eight year run was one of the longest of the 80’s.
Family Ties 1982-1989.
Family Ties starring Michael J Fox was a quietly funny show that was one of the more family oriented shows on network television at the time. The parents were former hippies that still had the same beliefs but had acclimated to suburban life. Michael J Fox played the oldest son that was a young Republican and was obsessed with money.
One of the greatest casts ever assembled for a television show was Cheers, even when one cast member would leave another great cast member would join. Ted Danson played a retired former baseball player that was a recovering alcoholic. He owned the bar Cheers and the entire show rarely if ever left the bar. The television show launched the spin off Frasier and launched he careers of Shelley Long, Kelsy Grammer, Kirstie Alley and Woody Harrelson.
Cosby Show 1984-1992.
The Cosby Show was another of the 80’s television sitcoms that was more family oriented. Due to the backlash of shows that many felt pushed the sexual envelope, The Cosby Show was for the families that wanted to gather around and have a laugh together. The Cosby Show was the Ozzie and Harriet of the 80’s.
Police Squad 1982.
Police Squad was short lived, only six episodes but every episode was an instant classic. The television show spawned several Police Squad movies and the DVD’s of the show are still selling 20 years later. Leslie Nielsen as the clueless Frank Drebin did some of his best work on the television series. To see all the gimmicks and nuances of a show it would take five to six viewings to catch everything. The television show was ultimately just too smart for it’s own good.
Growing Pains 1985-1992.
Growing Pains was yet another family oriented television sitcom from the mid 80’s. Another great cast of characters, although most did not go on to much success after the show. Alan Thicke played the father in the family series that was also a bit of push back against the sexually explicit shows that were popping up. Kirk Cameron was an instant star in the show as the smart mouth oldest son.
Who’s the Boss 1984-1992.
Who’s the Boss put together a hard nosed boxer (Tony Danza), as a maid and daytime TV soap opera star (Judith Light) as they led a nice ensemble cast that pushed the boundaries on occasion but was pretty tame even by 80’s network television standards. Who’s the Boss was also the first show for Alyssa Milano.
Bosom Buddies 1980-1982.
Laverne & Shirley 1976-1983.
Mork and Mindy 1978-1982.
Great American Hero 1981-1983.
www.project80s.com Series details.
www.imdb.com Series details.