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The 30 Most Beloved TV Characters of the '80s

Mike Seaver, Growing Pains

Mike Seaver, played by Kirk Cameron, was the teenage son of Jason and Maggie Seaver on the hit TV series Growing Pains. He entertained audiences with his charming personality and hilariously relatable high school antics. Whether he was chasing girls, slacking on his homework, or causing mayhem, Mike became a fan favorite.

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Samuel "Mayday" Malone, Cheers

Sam Malone, portrayed by Ted Danson, was a hit character on the American TV show Cheers. He dropped out of high school, joined an MLB team, and became the owner of a bar called Cheers. Although he was an alcoholic and a womanizer for the majority of the series, viewers couldn’t help but to love him. He provided his friends with a place to come together and tackle social issues.

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George Costanza, Seinfeld

It’s almost impossible not to love George Costanza. Jason Alexander’s portrayal of the Seinfeld character garnered attention and laughs. George was extremely self-aware and understood that he was overly neurotic, bitter, greedy, and dishonest. His numerous psychological problems made him the hilarious counterpart to Jerry Seinfeld.

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Natalie Green, The Facts of Life

Natalie Green remains to be one of the most memorable ‘80s TV characters. Her role on The Facts of Life redefined TV. Natalie was played by actress Mindy Cohn and grew up throughout the series. She became an advocate for controversial topics—body image, sexual assault, premarital sex, etc. Viewers were excited to have an on-screen role model that was genuine and relatable.

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Gordon Shumway, ALF

The leading character of the popular sci-fi sitcom ALF was the lovable puppet Gordon Shumway—nicknamed ALF (an acronym for Alien Life Form). This creature crash-landed in the garage of the Tanner family and into the hearts of viewers. He was a quirky alien that was forced to adjust to a new planet. His culture shock, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD were humorous and heartwarming.

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Kimmy Gibbler, Full House

Kimmy Gibbler, who’s better known as the Tanners’ next door neighbor and D.J. Tanner’s best friend, was constantly showing up unannounced. The quirky Full House character offered comic relief. Her smelly feet, eccentric outfits, and annoying hijinks were a bother to the Tanner family, but happily welcomed by viewers. It was almost impossible not to admire her self-confidence and carefree spirit.

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Angus MacGyver, MacGyver

Macgyver introduced America to a new protagonist in the ‘80s: Angus “Mac” MacGyver. He was a science geek with a big heart. His ability to solve logistical problems and conflicts using unlikely weapons kept viewers interested, but it was his intelligence and optimism that made him a sensation.

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Daisy Duke, The Dukes of Hazzard

The fierce female protagonist Daisy Duke starred alongside cousins Bo and Luke Duke on the ‘80s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. Even if you haven’t seen any episodes of this hit TV show, it’s (extremely) likely you’ve heard of or worn “Daisy Dukes,” the iconic cut-off denim shorts. She was a major sex symbol during this decade. Women admired her because she rewrote the rules for fashion and men drooled over her because of her good looks and revealing outfits.

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Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls

Let’s be honest—every character from The Golden Girls could be on this list, but we had to narrow it down. Sophie Petrillo, the loud-mouthed, opinionated, and cynical old lady, was downright hilarious. Although she was often too honest and overly sarcastic, she taught us not to worry about what people think.

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Mr. Rogers, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Fred Rogers was the long-time host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. This heartwarming children’s show became wildly successful because Fred Rogers was so kind and thoughtful. His signature look was a cardigan and sneakers and his co-hosts were typically puppets and marionettes. He appreciated the intelligence of children and worked hard to make a show that would benefit them.

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Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli, Happy Days

Fonzie was one of the leading characters of Happy Days that was played by the beloved Henry Winkler. He was the stereotypical greaser. He rode his motorcycle, always wore his iconic leather jacket, and knew he was cool. He was a pop culture phenomenon during the ‘80s.

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Kermit the Frog, The Muppet Show

Kermit the Frog, a fictional character that has been around since the 1950s, has always been beloved by children. But it wasn’t until the ‘80s that his popularity skyrocketed. He became the host of The Muppet Show, and his silly voice, fun songs, and animal friends made the show a hit. Before producers knew it, he was a sensation!

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Elaine Benes, Seinfeld

Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character Elaine Benes was added to Seinfeld after the pilot episode. NBC executives worried that the TV show was too male-centric, so Benes became the female friend of Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza, and Cosmo Kramer. Viewers quickly fell for her character. She was a powerful woman who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.

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Alex P. Keaton, Family Ties

How can you not love Michael J. Fox? In the ‘80s, he became the star of the hit TV series Family Ties. His teenage character, Alex P. Keaton, was witty and entertaining. He was young, self-absorbed, and focused on what he believed to be the most important thing in life—money. Audiences couldn’t help but laugh at the lengths he would go to in order to gain wealth and power.

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Thomas Magnum, Magnum, P.I.

Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum was the leading character of the CBS TV series Magnum. P.I. His character was handsome, charismatic, and masculine. He was the private investigator on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and kept viewers entertained as he recklessly solved cases and irresponsibly enjoyed his luxurious lifestyle. Most fans remember Magnum by his iconic hawaiin shirt, mustache, and Detroit Tigers ball cap.

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Hawkeye, M*A*S*H

Benjamin Franklin Pierce, who is known to friends and fans as “Hawkeye,” was the leading character on the show M*A*S*H. This series was an American war comedy-drama that introduced us to characters in a medical unit during the Korean war. Hawkeye Pierce served in this medical unit and became a prominent character. His energetic and passionate personality captured viewers and made him extremely popular.

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George Jefferson, The Jeffersons

George Jefferson was the only character to appear in every single episode of the comedic TV series The Jeffersons. Although he could be opinionated and rude at times, he was loved by viewers. He always made up for his flaws by being clever and cunning. He was the ideal family man. He took pride in his family, business, and son. He also managed to leave a lasting cultural impact on the entertainment industry.

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Blake Carrington, Dynasty

Dynasty was one of the most popular TV shows during the 1980s and rightfully so. This show, which was based around the wealthy Carrington family, gave viewers an insight to the glitz and glamour that accompanies fame and fortune. John Forsythe’s character Blake Carrington was the patriarch of the family. Although he was initially a ruthless and angry businessman, he eventually softened into a kinder and more genuine father figure that was liked by fans.

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Arnold Jackson, Diff'rent Strokes

Gary Coleman played the adorable Arnold Jackson in Diff’rent Strokes. Arnold was one of two brothers adopted by a wealthy white widow in New York City. He was charming, comical, and hard to ignore. You may remember him from his popular catchphrase, “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”

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Diane Chambers, Cheers

Diane Chambers, a cocktail waitress at a bar in Boston, became a leading character and an unforgettable part of the hit show Cheers. Diane’s on-and-off relationships with men were always entertaining and her personality was consistently overbearing and snobby (in the funniest way).

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James "Sonny" Crockett, Miami Vice

Sonny was the hardworking and idealistic cop on Miami Vice. He was responsible, he had great style, and he always did the right thing. He knew how to fight crime, yet still remain cool, confident, and caring.

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Jack E. Tripper, Jr., Three's Company

Jack Tripper, the lead of Three’s Company, was a dynamic character. His popularity stemmed from his humor. His slapstick comedy and klutzy, accident-prone behavior made him a hit. He was also very protective of women and loyal to his friends, which made him endearing and almost impossible to dislike. Also, how can you not love John Ritter as an actor?

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Penelope "Punky" Brewster, Punky Brewster

Punky was a popular TV character among children in the 1980s. Soleil Moon Frye, the little girl who snagged the role of Punky on the NBC sitcom Punky Brewster, portrayed her as spunky and warm. Although she was orphaned at a very young age, Punky made the best of her situation and remained optimistic. Her colorful clothing and signature pigtails made up for the show’s grim storyline.

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Judge Harry T. Jones, Night Court

During the ‘80s, adults would tune into Night Court. The name of the show sounds judicial, but in reality, this show was a comedy. The judge of the court, Harry T. Jones, was completely unorthodox. Each Thursday night, he would proudly lead public defenders, prosecutors, clerks, and bailiffs through night court. His unconventional shenanigans were undoubtedly hilarious and made him a success.

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Kevin Arnold, The Wonder Years

This coming-of-age TV series was beloved during the 1980s. All of the characters were relatable and funny, but Kevin Arnold became everyone’s favorite. As he navigated his way through adolescence, he learned many lessons about growing up. His good-natured and accepting personality made him an extremely likeable character.

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Dr. Frasier Crane, Cheers

Kelsey Grammer’s Cheers character, Fraiser Crane, wasn’t intended to last. He was initially cast as a short-lived character but was asked to stick around due to his unexpected popularity. Fraiser’s career as a psychologist would humorously irritate other characters on this show. His ethical beliefs and fierce honor made him an interesting and dynamic addition to the cast.

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Bo Duke, The Dukes of Hazzard

Bo Duke was the youngest of the Dukes and almost always in a bind. His impulsivity and rebellious attitude would cause him trouble. Even though he was a troublemaker, he captured the hearts of fans. His shaggy blond hair, cheeky smile, and comedic moments made him irresistible.

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Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs, Miami Vice

Rico Tubbs was the laid-back counterpart to Sonny Crockett. Tubbs moved to Miami, became a detective, and worked alongside Crockett. But unlike Crockett, Tubbs dealt with a great amount of personal tragedy. During the TV series, he was wounded several times and also had many family and close friends that were wounded or killed. Viewers often had more sympathy for Tubbs than they did Crocket, which is why he became a favorite character as well.

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Cosmo Kramer, Seinfeld

Michael Richard’s character, Cosmo Kramer, became one of Seinfeld’s most popular characters. His conflicting personality traits and consistent scheming amped up the humor of this sitcom. He moved in next to Jerry Seinfeld and immediately stole the hearts of viewers. Although he does kind of remind us of that one wacky neighbor that we all secretly worry about...

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Edna Garrett, The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life was a popular ‘80s TV show that was a spin-off of Diff’rent Strokes. This TV series was centered around a matriarchal figure—Edna Garrett. Edna, who was better known as “Mrs. G,” was played by Charlotte Rae. She was a middle-aged woman who took the difficult job as housemother for a New York girls’ boarding school. She guided these girls through adolescence and was essentially the sweet grandmotherly figure that we all love so dearly.

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