By popular demand, Gildshire returns to the way back machine for a look into the entertainment of a decade long gone. The 1980s was a time of big events, loud music, and big hair. The television offerings were as iconic and memorable as Farrah Fawcett’s blonde locks. How many of these shows do you remember? How many of them do you still miss?
The Golden Girls: Fans of Bea Arthur believed she had hit the high point of her career when CBS spun her from “All in the Family” to “Maude.” But “Golden Girls” and the ensemble cast became the biggest hit in Ms. Arthur’s long career. Co-starring Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, “The Golden Girls” was ratings gold from it’s beginning. Four elderly ladies moved to Florida, and the state was never the same. Each of the four actresses received Emmy Awards and the show was named outstanding comedy series by the Golden Globes three times.
Magnum P.I.: Cops and robbers weren’t as prominent during the 80s, but they were present nonetheless. Tom Selleck’s sexy, witty Oahu-based private investigator was the top such show of the decade. Magnum lived the best life ever! He worked when he pleased. He had the use of a benefactor’s Ferrari. His every case involved a beautiful woman in distress who he could comfort after. Selleck won an Emmy in 1984 for his portrayal of Magnum.
The Wonder Years: Debuting in 1988, “The Wonder Years” saw Fred Savage (playing Kevin Arnold) grow from boy to man in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The trials of pre-pubescence and pubescence is a journey everyone can recall. And “Wonder Years” cast a brilliant group of characters with whom to tell the story. Every little boy remembers Winnie Cooper. She was girl-next-door, dream girl, and back again. But Winnie wasn’t the only part of Kevin’s life that rang true. Best friend Paul Pfeiffer, long-suffering Mom, hard-working and conservative Dad, tormenting big brother Wayne, and hippy sister Karen. These were true to life folks in the age depicted in “The Wonder Years.”
Night Court: A loose spinoff from “Barney Miller,” “Night Court” was an overnight in a courtroom run by free-wheeling Judge Harry Stone. Harry Anderson played the judge. Other memorable characters were public defender Christine Sullivan, prosecutor Daniel Fielding, and bailiff Nostradamus “Bull” Shannon. They were played by Markie Post, John Larroquette, and Richard Moll respectively. During the run of the show, the plot became less true-to-life and more whimsical in tone.
Family Ties: No show in history more reflected the changing times and culture in America than did “Family Ties.” The free-loving, free-thinking 60s and 70s had given way to the conservative 80’s. “Family Ties” reflected the change in the relationship between Michael J. Fox’s Alex P. Keaton and his parents. Fox was to receive three consecutive Emmy Awards for Best Actor in a comedy series. Fox’s popularity came as a bit of a surprise to show-runners. Originally the series was to focus on Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter-Birney, who played the parents. Scriptwriters quickly seized on Fox’s cachet and bent the storylines to feature Alex.
Moonlighting: Today, “dramedy”, or a mixture of comedy and drama, is one of the most popular genres. “Moonlighting” is credited with being the first of its kind. The series dealt with the doings at the “Blue Moon Detective Agency” which consisted of partners Maddie Hayes and David Addison. Played respectively by Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, the stylish show combined fast-paced witty dialogue, sexual tension, and a bit of crime fighting. While just the seventh-highest rated show on the list, “Moonlighting” was the most-awarded of the lot. Seven Emmys and numerous Golden Globes were given to the show.
Cheers: Sing with me. “Sometimes you wanna’ go, where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came…” The intro song was a big part of the identity of “Cheers.” The Cheers bar was a place to be accepted, liked and greeted with a hearty “NORM!” “Cheers” debuted in 1982 and helped America become acquainted with some of the most memorable characters in TV history. Lady-killer Sam Malone tended bar. Sexy Diane Chambers served drinks and wisdom. The aforementioned Norm took frequent beer breaks from his postal service job. Cliff Clavin knew it all and was glad to share his knowledge. The show also introduced a character later to have his own iconic show. That would be Frasier Crane.