1980s TV Shows: What Did People Watch?

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Yes! 1980s TV SHOWS! We all remember these don’t we? Oh, we don’t? I’m really that old?

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The 80s had arguably the best cartoons of any decade. Animation was starting to get more advanced and the script writing was finally starting to get some real beef.

From Transformers to G.I. Joe to She-Ra, the 80s pumped out great cartoon after great cartoon.

And how ’bout them sitcoms? 80s sitcoms are some of the funniest and quirkiest TV shows ever made. I mean, who can forget about Alf?

Keep reading below for detail on each year, from 1980-1989, listing the most popular 1980s-era television shows.

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Top 10 1980s TV Shows

What were the most popular TV shows in the 1980s?

The most-watched television shows, from 1980 to 1989, were:

  • Dallas (1980)
  • Dallas (1981)
  • 60 Minutes (1982)
  • Dallas (1983)
  • Dynasty (1984)
  • The Cosby Show (1985)
  • The Cosby Show (1986)
  • The Cosby Show (1987)
  • The Cosby Show (1988)
  • The Cosby Show (1989)

TV Shows in 1980

What were the most popular TV shows in 1980?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1980 were:

1. Dallas (CBS)
2. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
3. 60 Minutes (CBS)
4. M*A*S*H (CBS)
5. The Love Boat (ABC)
6. The Jeffersons (CBS)
7. Alice (CBS)
8. House Calls (CBS)
9. Three’s Company (ABC)
10. Little House on the Prairie (NBC)

TV Shows in 1981

What were the most popular TV shows in 1981?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1981 were:

1. Dallas (CBS)
2. 60 Minutes (CBS)
3. The Jeffersons (CBS)
4. Three’s Company (ABC)
5. Alice (CBS)
6. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
7. Too Close for Comfort (ABC)
8. ABC Monday Night Movie (ABC)
9. M*A*S*H (CBS)
10. One Day at a Time (CBS)

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TV Shows in 1982

Knight Rider starring David Hasselhoff (1982)

Knight Rider starring David Hasselhoff (1982)

Due to protests over sexually suggestive material, escapist action-adventure shows proliferated, threatening to bring more violence to the airwaves. That would include shows like: “The Quest”, “Knight Rider”, “Voyagers” and “The Powers of Matthew Star.” However, most of these shows bombed and were quickly cancelled.

Among the new series, only “Gloria” and “Newhart” appeared among the 20 most popular prime-time series during the first half of the season. Otherwise, the old favorites such as “Dallas”, “MASH”, “60 Minutes”, and “Three’s Company” continued their domination.

“Simon & Simon”, which was cancelled in 1981 briefly, surged back into popularity in late 1982. That maybe owes some thanks to its placement after Magnum P.I. on the schedule.

What were the most popular TV shows in 1982?

The top ten TV shows in 1982 were:

1.) 60 Minutes (CBS)
2.) Dallas (CBS)
3.) M*A*S*H (CBS)
4.) Magnum, P.I. (CBS)
5.) Dynasty (ABC)
6.) Three’s Company (ABC)
7.) Simon & Simon (CBS)
8.) Falcon Crest (CBS)
9.) The Love Boat (ABC)
10.) The A-Team (NBC)

TV Shows in 1983

What were the most popular TV shows in 1983?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1983 were:

1. Dallas (CBS)
2. 60 Minutes (CBS)
3. Dynasty (ABC)
4. The A-Team (NBC)
5. Simon & Simon (CBS)
6. Magnum, P.I. (CBS)
7. Falcon Crest (CBS)
8. Kate & Allie (CBS)
9. Hotel (ABC)
10. Cagney & Lacey (CBS)

TV Shows in 1984

What were the most popular TV shows in 1984?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1984 were:

1. Dynasty (ABC)
2. Dallas (CBS)
3. The Cosby Show (NBC)
4. 60 Minutes (CBS)
5. Family Ties (NBC)
6. The A-Team (NBC)
7. Simon & Simon (CBS)
8. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
9. Knots Landing (CBS)
10. Cagney & Lacey (CBS)

TV Shows in 1985

What were the most popular TV shows in 1985?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1985 were:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Family Tie (NBC)
3. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
4. 60 Minutes (CBS)
5. Cheers (NBC)
6. Dallas (CBS)
7. Dynasty (ABC)
8. The Golden Girls (NBC)
9. Miami Vice (NBC)
10. Who’s the Boss? (ABC)

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TV Shows in 1986

What were the most popular TV shows in 1986?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1986 were:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Family Ties (NBC)
3. Cheers (NBC)
4. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
5. The Golden Girls (NBC)
6. 60 Minutes (CBS)
7. Night Court (NBC)
8. Growing Pains (ABC)
9. Moonlighting (ABC)
10. Who’s the Boss? (ABC)

TV Shows in 1987

Pee Wee's Playhouse (1987)

Pee Wee’s Playhouse was extremely popular with kids in 1987

With Ronald Reagan’s blessing, the Fairness Doctrine was abolished. The Fairness Doctrine required television and radio stations to air all sides of controversial issues.

Valerie Harper left “Valerie” due to contract issues and Joan Rivers was removed from her late night gig due to poor ratings.

Speaking of Fox, the new broadcasting company aiming to become the “fourth network” was making waves with its Saturday and Sunday lineups with the hopes of gradually adding more. Fox affiliate stations were independent stations that were not aligned with NBC, ABC or CBS.

Some Fix shows like “Married with Children” and “The Tracy Ullman Show” pleased viewers, but Fox was hardly competitive with the major networks in ratings.

Pee-Wee Herman became wildly popular with kids in his new show called “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” Although it began in 1986, the show really took off in 1987.

The major networks had less of a grip on people as they did in decades past, because many more people had cable TV and could choose from a much larger selection of channels.

What were the most popular TV shows in 1987?

The top ten shows in 1987 were as follows:

1.) The Cosby Show (NBC)
2.) Family Ties (NBC)
3.) Cheers (NBC)
4.) Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
5.) The Golden Girls (NBC)
6.) 60 Minutes (CBS)
7.) Night Court (NBC)
8.) Growing Pains (ABC)
9.) Moonlighting (ABC)
10.) Who’s The Boss? (ABC)

TV Shows in 1988

What were the most popular TV shows in 1988?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1988 were:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Roseanne (ABC)
3. A Different World (NBC)
4. Cheers (NBC)
5. 60 Minutes (CBS)
6. The Golden Girls (NBC)
7. Who’s the Boss? (ABC)
8. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
9. Empty Nest (NBC)
10. Anything But Love (ABC)

TV Shows in 1989

What were the most popular TV shows in 1989?

The Top Ten TV Shows in 1989 were:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Roseanne (ABC)
3. Cheers (NBC)
4. A Different World (NBC)
5. America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC)
6. The Golden Girls (NBC)
7. 60 Minutes (CBS)
8. The Wonder Years (ABC)
9. Empty Nest (NBC)
10. Monday Night Football (ABC)

In-Depth 1980s TV Shows Profiles

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He-Man and the Masters of the Universe »

He-Man was my favorite toy and cartoon until Transformers took over. I had at least 50 different action figures. "He-Men" is what I called them.
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3 thoughts on “1980s TV Shows: What Did People Watch?

  1. David Cashell

    I Remember Them All Really, Like, Dallas, Knight Rider, Baywatch, China Beach, The Golden Girls, Dynasty, The Colbys, Kate & Allie, The Dukes Of Hazzard, Miami Vice, MT USA, Magnum P.I, Kojak, Columbo, Blue Thunder, Airwolf, Stingray, Simon & Simon, Murder She Wrote, The Streets Of San Francisco, The A Team, The Fall Guy & Fame. (I Could Go On The List Is Endless)

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