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30 Most Memorable TV Shows of the 1980s

Dallas

The primetime soap opera Dallas is the story of the Ewing Family, a Texas oil family who can't seem to stop feuding. The show is known for dramatic, season-ending cliffhangers like the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode. 

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Magnum P.I.

The hunkiest man of the 1980s was Tom Selleck, who starred as private investigator Thomas Magnum. He was known for his mustache and Hawaiian shirts. He also had the use of his friend's luxurious Hawaiian estate and red Ferrari.

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Murder, She Wrote

From 1984 until 1996 classic actress Angela Lansbury portrayed Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer who helps solve murders in her hometown and during her travels. Fans joke that her hometown, tiny Cabot Cove, Maine, is the murder capital of the world.

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Cheers

A ensemble cast made Cheers a hit. Set in a Boston Bar, owner and former major league baseball player Sam romances Diane and serves regulars Norm, an accountant, and Cliff Clavin, a postman with seemingly unending useless knowledge.

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The A-Team

The A-Team were a group of military special forces who were court-martialed and imprisoned for crimes they didn't really commit. After escaping, they make their living on the run as soldiers of fortune. Most memorable is Mr. T with his gold jewelry portraying B.A.(Bad Attitude) Baracas.

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Family Ties

Actor Michael J. Fox stole the show as a preppy, Reagan-era conservative teenager who clashes with his former hippie parents. 

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The Dukes of Hazzard

The Duke family lives in fictional Hazzard county, Georgia. Cousins Bo and Luke Duke speed around the county in the General Lee, their custom Dodge Charger stock car and try to avoid crooked County Commissioner Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane.

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Diff'rent Strokes

A rich, white Manhattan businessman adopts his African-American employee's children after she dies. The plots involve the boys from Harlem, Willis and Arnold, adjusting to their new, Park Avenue life. The star of the show was undoubtedly Gary Coleman as Arnold.

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Hill Street Blues

Known for presenting a more realistic view of the lives of law enforcement officers, Hill Street Blues ran from 1981 until 1987. Following the many consecutive happenings at a single inner city police precinct, some stories resolved in one episode and some took several.

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Who's the Boss?

Gender roles were examined in Who's the Boss? , which aired from 1984 to 1992. Tony Danza plays Tony Micelli, an ex baseball player who takes a job as a housekeeper for a female advertising executive. 

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Miami Vice

1980s culture influenced the style of Miami Vice. Undercover police detectives Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs fought the cocaine epidemic in Miami--but they did it in designer suits. The music and photography was designed to appeal to the MTV generation.

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St. Elsewhere

This show about the happenings at the St. Eligius teaching hospital is regarded as a dark comedy as well as a drama, often making fun of things that should be serious. It is noted for it's realism surrounding medical staff in poor neighborhoods.

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Designing Women

Starting in 1986, TV viewers couldn't get enough of the characters at Sugarbaker & Associates, an interior design business in Atlanta. Julia Sugarbaker, an outspoken feminist, often grows impatient with her selfish ex beauty queen little sister, Suzanne Sugarbaker.

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Dynasty

Designer Nolan Miller designed glamourous evening gowns, complete with 80s shoulder pads, for the stars of Dynasty. The drama, set among opulent houses, revolved around oil tycoon Blake Carrington, his wife Krystle, and his ex wife Alexis, played by scene stealer Joan Collins.

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Knight Rider

What viewers remember most about Knight Rider was KITT, the 1982 Pontiac Firebird with artificial intelligence and equipped with everything imaginable. Actor David Hasselhoff drove KITT in his role as Michael Knight, an agent for an eccentric billionaire's justice organization.

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The Facts of Life

Ms. Garrett, the housekeeper from Diff'rent Strokes, got her own spin off sitcom. After getting a new job as a house mother at an exclusive girls school, she spends her time corralling teenage girls, including wealthy Blair and street smart Jo.

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Cagney and Lacey

Police detectives Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey approached life differently. Cagney was single and devoted to her career, while Lacey balanced work with a husband and children. They both had to deal with sexism in this 1980s examination of working women.

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Growing Pains

Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist, works at home so he can care for the kids while his wife goes back to work. Kirk Cameron became a teen idol while portraying their teenage son Mike in this 80s hit series. In the seventh season of the show, Leonardo DiCaprio joins the cast as a homeless teenager that the Seavers take in.

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MacGyver

From 1985 to 1992, audiences were fascinated by the things secret agent MacGyver could make from everyday objects. Preferring not to carry a gun, the scientific genius used his Swiss Army Knife, duct tape and matches to help create what he needed.

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Hart to Hart

The opulent 80s are personified by Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a wealthy Bel Air couple who lead a jet-setting life. They often find themselves in the role of amateur detectives, and their butler and chauffeur Max is always on hand to help.

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The Cosby Show

Audiences in 1984 were ready to see affluent African-Americans. Comedian Bill Cosby portrayed obstetrician Cliff Huxtable, who is married to an attorney. The sitcom follows their lives as they raise their family in a beautiful brownstone in Brooklyn.

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A Different World

A spin-off of The Cosby Show, A Different World followed Denise Huxtable to fictional Hillman College, a historically black college in Virginia. Though Denise left after the first year, the show was a hit. Issues such a date rape, racial bias, and the Persian Gulf War were explored.

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L.A. Law

1980s social issues and hot topics were addressed in this series, as attorneys practiced law at the law firm of McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak. There was also drama and romance among the large ensemble cast. 

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Taxi

The Sunshine Cab Company is the setting for this comedy about New York City Cab drivers. Danny DeVito stars as Louie DePalma, the rude and argumentative dispatcher. Cabbies include a struggling actor, a boxer, and a single mom.

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Roseanne

Loud-mouthed comedienne Roseanne Barr starred in this family sitcom set in the Midwest. The number one show of 1989, it portrayed a struggling blue-collar family.

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CHiPs

California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer Jon Baker keeps an eye on his trouble-prone partner "Ponch." Actor Erik Estrada, who played Ponch, became a celebrity heartthrob. 

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Newhart

Hilarious comedian Bob Newhart plays author Dick Loudon who moves with his wife to Vermont to operate a 200-year-old inn. They meet the local characters including Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl.

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Moonlighting

Moonlighting, which aired from 1985 until 1989, was built on the sexual tension and romance between two private detectives. Maddie Hayes, played by Cybil Shepard, is a once-wealthy model who has lost her fortune and must work in the detective agency she once used as a tax write-off. The show made Bruce Willis, who portrayed David Addison Jr., a star.

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The Golden Girls

In this 80s series, four older women share a house in Miami, Florida. Dorothy deals with a cheating ex husband, Rose tells bizarre tales of growing up in St. Olaf, Minnesota, and Blanche chases men. Dorothy's elderly mom Sophia moves in after her retirement home burns down, providing much of the comic relief.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation

The original Star Trek  began in 1966 and had great ratings in syndication, which led to a new series in 1986. The Next Generation followed the crew of the Starship U.S.S. Enterprise 100 years after the time of the first show. Patrick Stewart portrayed the new captain, Jean-Luc Picard.

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