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The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s 

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Updated October 18, 2019 13k votes 834 voters 52.6k 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.

 

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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

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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#72 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #3 of 214 The Most Important TV Sitcomslisted 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

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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#7 of 69 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series #56 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

3
Quantum Leap is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Deborah Pratt

Premiered: 1989

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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#140 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #19 of 341 The Best Sci-Fi Television Series Of All Time #212 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

4
Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago

Premiered: 1984

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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#14 of 69 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series #306 of 461 The Best Duos of All Time #52 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

5
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

Premiered: 1985

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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#284 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #70 of 214 The Most Important TV Sitcoms #10 of 69 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series

6
Knight Rider is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, Richard Basehart

Premiered: 1982

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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#71 of 341 The Best Sci-Fi Television Series Of All Time #59 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #25 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows

7
Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz

Premiered: 1981

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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#473 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #112 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing #183 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate

8
MacGyver is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar, Bruce McGill

Premiered: 1985

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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#75 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate #153 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #33 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows

9
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
curly67 added Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

Premiered: 1988

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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#125 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #39 of 94 The Best Dramedy TV Series #51 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing

10
Dallas is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Larry Hagman, Ken Kercheval, Patrick Duffy

Premiered: 1978

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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#548 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #62 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

11
The A-Team is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
George Peppard, Mr. T, Dwight Schultz

Premiered: 1983

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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#44 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #71 of 283 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time #76 of 571 TV Shows Canceled Before Their 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

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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#38 of 69 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series #237 of 461 The Best Duos of All Time #38 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows

13
The Love Boat is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange

Premiered: 1977

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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#75 of 214 The Most Important TV Sitcoms #60 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Timelisted on The Longest Running US Sitcoms

14
Star Trek: The Next Gene... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
LanaYoshii added Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

Premiered: 1987

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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Famous People You Didn't Know Were On 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' #89 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watchlisted on Longest Running Sci-Fi TV Shows

15
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts

Premiered: 1982

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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#18 of 69 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series #29 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows #159 of 283 The Best Cult TV Shows of All Time

16
Dynasty is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins

Premiered: 1981

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, ...more

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#284 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #51 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Showslisted on Longest Running US Soap Operas

17
The Greatest American He... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
William Katt, Connie Sellecca, Robert Culp

Premiered: 1981

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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#88 of 341 The Best Sci-Fi Television Series Of All Time #46 of 94 The Best Dramedy TV Series #35 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

18
Murder, She Wrote is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Angela Lansbury, William Windom, Ron Masak

Premiered: 1984

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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#212 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #65 of 295 The Best Female-Led TV Showslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

19
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
lloyd-barker added Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith

Premiered: 1976

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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#169 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #75 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows #42 of 295 The Best Female-Led TV Shows

20
St. Elsewhere is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Ed Begley Jr., William Daniels, Howie Mandel

Premiered: 1982

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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#495 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #177 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing #330 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time

21
Highway to Heaven is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Michael Landon, Victor French

Premiered: 1984

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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#286 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #69 of 510 The Best Shows of the 1980s, Ranked #96 of 107 The Best Fantasy TV Shows

22
Matlock is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Andy Griffith, Linda Purl, Kene Holiday

Premiered: 1986

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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#131 of 293 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #183 of 422 The Best TV Shows to Rewatchlisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

23
Fantasy Island is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Ricardo Montalban, Hervé Villechaize, Christopher Hewett

Premiered: 1978

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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#162 of 214 The Most Important TV Sitcoms #182 of 341 The Best Sci-Fi Television Series Of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

24
L.A. Law is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
curly67 added Corbin Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Alan Rachins

Premiered: 1986

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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#151 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing #370 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

25
Taxi is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Judd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway, Danny DeVito

Premiered: 1978

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 ...more

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#293 of 807 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #33 of 214 The Most Important TV Sitcoms #35 of 94 The Best Dramedy TV Series