Entertainment

The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s 

Ranker TV
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Updated October 18, 2019 12.6k votes 804 voters 48.9k views 62 items

List Rules Drama series that aired on television between 1980 and 1989

If you’re an avid television fan, chances are there's at least one 1980s drama series that you love. For the first time, television was starting to step away from procedural elements, towards more serialized series. Procedural cop and detective shows were still among the biggest hits of the decade, however, shows like "Dallas," "St. Elsewhere," and "Dynasty" were leaning more towards long-term story arcs. These types of shows remain popular today as well.

The 80s were known for the flashy television shows. "Miami Vice" and "21 Jump Street" were known for their hot lead actors and unique 80s fashion. There was also a push towards fantasy and science fiction television like never before, with dramas such as "Quantum Leap," "Beauty and the Beast," and "The Greatest American Hero."

What were the best dramas of the 1980s? This list of the best dramatic television that aired during 1980-1989 has been ranked by the community. Did the 80s drama series you think are best make the list? Cast your votes below and see where the 1980s dramas you think are great rank.

 

list ordered by
1
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
PayMie added Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

Premiered: 1972

Number of Seasons: 11

Number of Episodes: 251

Network: CBS

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Medical drama, Sitcom, Satire, Military, + more

M*A*S*H is an American television series developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH. The series, which was produced in association with 20th Century Fox Television for ...more

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#78 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #9 of 92 The Best Dramedy TV Serieslisted on The Longest Running US Sitcoms

2
Magnum, P.I. is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley

Premiered: 1980

Number of Seasons: 8

Number of Episodes: 157

Network: CBS

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Drama, Adventure film, + more

Check out our list of the original Magnum P.I.'s best episodes.

Magnum, P.I. is an American television series starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living on Oahu, Hawaii. The series ran from 1980 to 1988 in first-run broadcast on the ...more

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#52 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #4 of 66 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Showslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

3
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
curly67 added Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

Premiered: 1988

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 115

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Drama, Comedy-drama, Comedy

The Wonder Years is an American television comedy-drama created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black. It ran on ABC from 1988 through 1993. The pilot aired on January 31, 1988, following ABC's ...more

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#71 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #13 of 92 The Best Dramedy TV Series

4
Quantum Leap is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Deborah Pratt

Premiered: 1989

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 95

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Procedural drama, Drama, Science Fiction

Quantum Leap is an American television series that originally aired on NBC for five seasons, from March 1989 through May 1993. Created by Donald P. Bellisario, it starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam ...more

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#184 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #14 of 310 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time

5
Dallas is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Larry Hagman, Ken Kercheval, Patrick Duffy

Premiered: 1978

Number of Seasons: 14

Number of Episodes: 357

Network: CBS

Genres (Tv): Soap opera, Drama

Dallas is a long-running American prime time television soap opera that aired from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991, on CBS. The series revolves around a wealthy and feuding Texan family, the ...more

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#204 of 281 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time #74 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

6
MacGyver is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar, Bruce McGill

Premiered: 1985

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 138

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Espionage, Action/Adventure, Adventure film, Action

MacGyver is an American action-adventure television series created by Lee David Zlotoff. Henry Winkler and John Rich were the executive producers. The show ran for seven seasons on ABC in the ...more

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#53 of 281 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time #112 of 396 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate #113 of 2,298 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time

7
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

Premiered: 1985

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 66

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Drama, Romantic comedy, Mystery, Comedy-drama, Comedy

Moonlighting is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 3, 1985, to May 14, 1989. The network aired a total of 66 episodes. Starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis as ...more

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#82 of 281 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time #126 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

8
Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz

Premiered: 1981

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 146

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama

Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that was first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran for 146 episodes on primetime into 1987. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a single police ...more

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#49 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #35 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

9
Star Trek: The Next Gene... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
LanaYoshii added Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

Premiered: 1987

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 178

Genres (Tv): Action/Adventure, Drama, Adventure film, Action, Science Fiction

Star Trek: The Next Generation is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry twenty-one years after the original Star Trek series debuted in 1966. Roddenberry, ...more

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#1 of 310 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time Where Is The Cast Of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Now?listed on Longest Running Sci-Fi TV Shows

10
Knight Rider is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, Richard Basehart

Premiered: 1982

Number of Seasons: 4

Number of Episodes: 90

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Drama, Adventure film, Action, + more

Knight Rider is an American television series that originally ran from September 26, 1982, to August 8, 1986. The series was broadcast on NBC and stars David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a ...more

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#69 of 310 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time #147 of 281 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time #59 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

11
Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago

Premiered: 1984

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 111

Network: USA Network, FX, NBC

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama

Miami Vice is an American television drama series created by Anthony Yerkovich and produced by Michael Mann for NBC. The series starred Don Johnson as James "Sonny" Crockett and Philip ...more

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#222 of 508 The Best Duos of All Time #222 of 281 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time #224 of 2,298 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time

12
Cagney & Lacey is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Tyne Daly, Al Waxman, John Karlen

Premiered: 1982

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 125

Network: CBS

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama

Cagney & Lacey is an American television series that originally aired on the CBS television network for seven seasons from March 25, 1982 to May 16, 1988. A police procedural, the show stars ...more

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#197 of 508 The Best Duos of All Time #475 of 2,298 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time #25 of 62 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series

13
The A-Team is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
George Peppard, Mr. T, Dwight Schultz

Premiered: 1983

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 98

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Military, Adventure film, Action, + more

The A-Team is an American action-adventure television series, running from 1983 to 1987, about a fictional group of ex–U.S. Army personnel who escape and, while still on the run from the army, ...more

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#33 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #124 of 578 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time

14
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
lloyd-barker added Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith

Premiered: 1976

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 110

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Adventure film, Action

Charlie's Angels is an American drama television series that aired on ABC from September 22, 1976 to June 24, 1981, producing five seasons and 110 episodes. The series was created by Ivan Goff ...more

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#79 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #34 of 265 The Best Female-Led TV Shows

15
St. Elsewhere is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Ed Begley Jr., William Daniels, Howie Mandel

Premiered: 1982

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 137

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Medical drama, Drama, Comedy-drama, Medical fiction

St. Elsewhere is an American medical drama black comedy television series that originally ran on NBC from October 26, 1982, to May 25, 1988. The series starred Ed Flanders, Norman Lloyd and ...more

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#386 of 779 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #247 of 2,298 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time

16
The Love Boat is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange

Premiered: 1977

Number of Episodes: 249

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Soap opera, Action/Adventure, Sitcom, Anthology, Drama, + more

The Love Boat is an American television series set on a cruise ship, which aired on the ABC Television Network from September 24, 1977, until February 27, 1987. The show revolves around the ...more

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#55 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #230 of 2,298 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Timelisted on The Longest Running US Sitcoms

17
Fantasy Island is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Ricardo Montalban, Hervé Villechaize, Christopher Hewett

Premiered: 1978

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 13

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Drama, Comedy-drama, Fantasy television, Fantasy

Fantasy Island is an American television series that originally aired on the American Broadcasting Company network from 1977 to 1984. A revival of the series originally aired on the same network ...more

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#243 of 310 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time #167 of 205 The Most Important TV Sitcomslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

18
Dynasty is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins

Premiered: 1981

Number of Seasons: 9

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Soap opera, Drama

Dynasty is an American prime time television soap opera that aired on ABC from January 12, 1981 to May 11, 1989. The series, created by Richard and Esther Shapiro and produced by Aaron Spelling, ...more

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#46 of 66 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows #92 of 260 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

19
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts

Premiered: 1982

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 94

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Drama, Comedy, Detective fiction

Remington Steele is an American television series co-created by Robert Butler and Michael Gleason. The series, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan, was produced by MTM Enterprises ...more

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#13 of 62 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series #27 of 66 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows

20
Murder, She Wrote is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Angela Lansbury, William Windom, Ron Masak

Premiered: 1984

Number of Seasons: 12

Network: The Biography Channel, CBS

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Crime, Procedural drama, Drama, Cozy mystery, + more

This show is a television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for 12 seasons with 264 episodes from 1984 to 1996 on ...more

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#208 of 281 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time #208 of 2,298 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

21
L.A. Law is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
curly67 added Corbin Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Alan Rachins

Premiered: 1986

Number of Seasons: 8

Number of Episodes: 172

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Drama, Legal drama, Legal

L.A. Law is an American television legal drama series that ran for eight seasons on NBC from September 15, 1986 to May 19, 1994. Created by Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher, it contained ...more

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#225 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #45 of 217 The TV Shows with the Best Writinglisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

22
The Greatest American He... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
William Katt, Connie Sellecca, Robert Culp

Premiered: 1981

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 44

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Action/Adventure, Adventure film, Comedy-drama, Comedy, Action, + more

The Greatest American Hero is an American comedy-drama television series that aired for three seasons from 1981 to 1983 on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, it premiered as a two-hour ...more

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#36 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #188 of 578 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time

23
Highway to Heaven is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Michael Landon, Victor French

Premiered: 1984

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 111

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Supernatural, Drama, Fantasy

Highway to Heaven is an American television drama series which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1989. The series aired for five seasons, running a total of 111 episodes. It was shot entirely in ...more

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#650 of 2,298 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Time #470 of 594 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #78 of 103 The Best Fantasy TV Shows

24
Matlock is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Andy Griffith, Linda Purl, Kene Holiday

Premiered: 1986

Number of Seasons: 9

Number of Episodes: 195

Network: American Broadcasting Company, NBC

Genres (Tv): Police procedural, Drama, Comedy-drama, Legal drama, Legal

Matlock is an American television legal drama, starring Andy Griffith in the title role of attorney Ben Matlock. The show, produced by The Fred Silverman Company, Dean Hargrove Productions, ...more

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#183 of 260 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #10 of 44 The Best Serial Legal Dramas of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

25
Doogie Howser, M.D. is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Neil Patrick Harris, Max Casella, Belinda Montgomery

Premiered: 1989

Number of Seasons: 4

Number of Episodes: 97

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Drama, Comedy-drama, Comedy, Medical fiction, + more

Doogie Howser, M.D. is an American comedy-drama television series that ran for four seasons on ABC from September 19, 1989 to July 28, 1993, totaling 97 episodes. Created by Steven Bochco and ...more

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#152 of 578 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time #94 of 205 The Most Important TV Sitcoms