959 voters

The Best 1980s TV Dramas

Updated May 19, 2021 11.7k votes 959 voters 62.7k views60 items

List RulesVote up the best TV dramas that aired new episodes between 1980 and 1989.

If you’re an avid television fan, chances are there's at least one 1980s TV drama that you love. For the first time, television was starting to step away from procedural elements, towards more serialized series - and the '80s always brought the drama. 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. The over-the-top drama of '80s shows and the return of dramatic serials also ushered in a new era of the primetime soap opera that audiences enjoy to this day.

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 are the best 1980s drama TV shows? Did the drama series you think were the best make this list? Vote up the '80s drama shows you think are the best of the decade.


  • 1

    Magnum, P.I.

    December 11, 1980

    ActorsTom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley, Larry Manetti, Gillian Dobb

    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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  • 2


    September 17, 1972

    ActorsAlan Alda, McLean Stevenson, Wayne Rogers, Mike Farrell, Gary Burghoff

    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 CBS,...  more

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  • 3

    Quantum Leap

    March 26, 1989

    ActorsScott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Wolfberg, W. K. Stratton, Carolyn Seymour

    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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  • 4

    Miami Vice

    September 16, 1984

    ActorsDon Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Edward James Olmos, Saundra Santiago, Olivia Brown

    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 Michael Thomas...  more

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  • 5

    Knight Rider

    September 26, 1982

    ActorsDavid Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, Patricia McPherson, Rebecca Holden, Peter Parros

    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 high-tech...  more

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    #7 of 33 The Best 1980s Sci-Fi Shows#12 of 47 The Best 1980s NBC Shows

  • 6

    The Wonder Years

    January 31, 1988

    ActorsFred Savage, Jason Hervey, Olivia d'Abo, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills

    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 coverage of...  more

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  • 7

    The Love Boat

    September 24, 1977

    ActorsGavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy, Ted Lange, Lauren Tewes

    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 ship's...  more

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  • 8

    The A-Team

    January 23, 1983

    ActorsGeorge Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, Melinda Culea

    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, work...  more

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  • 9


    September 29, 1985

    ActorsRichard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar, Bruce McGill, Elyssa Davalos

    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 United...  more

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  • 10


    March 3, 1985

    ActorsCybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley, Curtis Armstrong

    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 private...  more

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    #22 of 82 The Best ABC Shows of All Time#64 of 342 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time

  • 11

    Fantasy Island

    January 14, 1978

    ActorsRicardo Montalban, Herve Villechaize, Wendy Schaal, Christopher Hewett

    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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  • 12

    Hill Street Blues

    January 15, 1981

    ActorsDaniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz, Charlie Haid, Veronica Hamel

    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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  • 13

    ActorsKate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith

    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 and...  more

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  • 14


    April 2, 1978

    ActorsLarry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Victoria Principal, Charlene Tilton

    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 Ewings,...  more

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  • 15

    ActorsWilliam Katt, Connie Sellecca, Robert Culp, Faye Grant, Jesse D. Goins

    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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  • 16

    Highway to Heaven

    September 19, 1984

    ActorsMichael Landon, Victor French

    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 California....  more

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  • 17

    ActorsPatrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden

    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, Maurice...  more

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  • 18

    Cagney & Lacey

    March 25, 1982

    ActorsTyne Daly, Sharon Gless, Al Waxman, Carl Lumbly, Martin Kove

    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 Tyne...  more

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  • 19

    Remington Steele

    October 1, 1982

    ActorsStephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts, James Read, Janet DeMay

    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 and...  more

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  • 20

    ActorsAngela Lansbury, William Windom, Ron Masak

    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 the...  more

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  • 21

    Hart to Hart

    August 25, 1979

    ActorsStefanie Powers, Lionel Stander

    Hart to Hart is an American television series, starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a wealthy couple who moonlight as amateur detectives, much in the style of...  more

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  • 22

    The Fall Guy

    November 4, 1981

    ActorsLee Majors, Douglas Barr, Heather Thomas

    The Fall Guy is an American action/adventure television program produced for ABC and originally broadcast from November 4, 1981 to May 2, 1986. It stars Lee Majors, Douglas Barr, and Heather Thomas....  more

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    #73 of 136 The Best Action-Adventure TV Shows#7 of 50 The Best 1980s Action TV Series

  • 23


    September 12, 1978

    ActorsJudd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway, Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza

    Taxi is an American sitcom that originally aired from 1978 to 1982 on ABC and from 1982 to 1983 on NBC. The series—which won 18 Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series—focuses on...  more

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  • 24

    Bionic Woman

    September 26, 2007

    ActorsMichelle Ryan, Miguel Ferrer, Chris Bowers, Will Yun Lee, Molly Price

    Bionic Woman is an American science fiction television drama that aired in 2007, which was created by David Eick, under NBC Universal Television Group, GEP Productions, and David Eick Productions....  more
  • 25


    January 12, 1981

    ActorsJohn Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins, Heather Locklear, Gordon Thomson

    Dynasty (ABC, 1981) is an American prime time television soap opera created by Richard and Esther Shapiro. The trials and tribulations of two feuding families, the Carringtons and the Colbys, both...  more

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