The Best 1980s Sitcoms & Comedy TV Shows, Ranked By Fans
The 1980s were a golden age of television comedy, with many of the most popular sitcoms of all-time launching during that decade. Choosing favorites may be a challenge, but sometimes you’ve just gotta make the big decisions: The Golden Girls or The Wonder Years? Night Court or Newhart? Married… with Children or Family Ties? Vote up the ‘80s sitcoms you love the most, vote down and you don’t like, and feel free to re-rank the list in your own preferred order.
Of course, back in those days, there weren’t many channels to choose from. NBC has long been synonymous with quality sitcoms, and the ‘80s helped solidify that reputation. The future home of Must-See TV gave us such classics as The Cosby Show and Cheers - both of which are in contention among the greatest sitcoms in television history. ABC, meanwhile, gave us Who's the Boss? and, of course, the inimitable Balki Bartokomous in Perfect Strangers. And last but not least, CBS continued its generation-defining M*A*S*H until 1983 and helped define a new generation with Murphy Brown.
Given their popularity, is it any wonder that some of these top programs are among the longest running US sitcoms? Many of these '80s shows also went on to become the best NBC comedies of all time.
- Premiered: September 30, 1982
Cheers was a beloved sitcom that expertly combined humor with a complex web of interpersonal relationships. Focusing on the lives of the bar's staff and patrons, the show's ensemble cast included Ted Danson as bartender Sam Malone, Shelley Long as high-strung waitress Diane Chambers, and Rhea Perlman as sassy barmaid Carla Tortelli. The series explored themes of belonging, love, and the search for happiness amidst imperfect circumstances, reminding viewers that "everybody knows your name" in the tight-knit community of a local watering hole.
- Premiered: September 14, 1985
As one of the few shows centered on older women, The Golden Girls broke new ground in television comedy. Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty starred as four widowed or divorced friends who shared a home in Miami. With sharp wit and humor that defied ageist stereotypes, the show explored topics such as friendship, aging, love, and independence – all while introducing unforgettable catchphrases like "Thank you for being a friend."
- Premiered: September 22, 1982
This popular sitcom depicted the culture clash between liberal parents Steven and Elyse Keaton (Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter) and their conservative children, mainly their eldest son Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox). Reflecting the socioeconomic shifts of the Reagan era, the show explored themes of family dynamics and intergenerational differences while showcasing Fox's breakout comedic talents.
- Premiered: April 5, 1987
Ed O'Neill starred as Al Bundy, a bumbling, down-on-his-luck shoe salesman in this boundary-pushing sitcom that focused on the often dysfunctional lives of the Bundy family, including Al's wife Peggy (Katey Sagal), daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate), and son Bud (David Faustino). Despite its raunchy humor and controversial storylines, the show became a cultural phenomenon, paving the way for future sitcoms to push the envelope.
- Premiered: January 4, 1984
Set in a Manhattan municipal court presided over by the eccentric Judge Harry T. Stone (Harry Anderson), Night Court showcased an offbeat cast of characters, including the lovable but dimwitted bailiff Bull Shannon (Richard Moll) and the perpetually unlucky prosecutor Dan Fielding (John Larroquette). The series was praised for its creative approach to exploring the quirks of the justice system and its emphasis on the importance of empathy and understanding.
- Premiered: January 31, 1988
With its innovative use of voiceover narration from an adult perspective, The Wonder Years provided a poignant look at the trials and tribulations of adolescence through the eyes of protagonist Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage). The show tackled serious themes like teenage love, friendship, and self-discovery alongside its nostalgic depiction of life in the late 1960s and early 1970s.