Classic '80s Sitcoms

Many classic '80s sitcoms revolved around a family theme, echoing values found in Golden Age sitcoms from the 1950s. While these shows didn't shy away from the issues of the day, they were generally less gritty than the office-based sitcoms that were popular throughout the 1970s. 

Cheers, 1982 - 1993
It was the a top 10 show for more then 7 years, and made Kirstie Alley, Ted Danson, George Wendt and Woody Harrelson household names. It also led to the spin off Frasier, which gave Kelsey Grammer his own long-running hit.

Set in a fictional Boston barroom, shot using exteriors of the Hampshire House in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood, this show followed the freinds as family theme that was popular during the 1970s. Cheers found humor in the friendships and failed relationships of its cast of perpetually single adults who saught solace in each other's company.

The Cosby Show, 1984-1992
The top sitcom of the decade featured Bill Cosby as an upper-middle-class doctor with a large family. What made the show unique is that it didn't dwell on racial issues, but focused on universal family issues. Cosby's standup comedy inspired many of the scripts and situations throughout the series' run.

Although the Huxtable family faced some real problems along the way, each episode handled family dynamics with humor and ended on a positive note. Many well-known jazz musicians made guest appearances, and the show helped launch the careers of several young actors.

Family Ties, 1982-1989
Family Ties began as a comedy about two hippie parents dealing with their materialistic children, but quickly evolved to include dramatic elements as powerful as its jokes. Steven and Elyse Keaton, '60s idealists, find themselves raising the hard-driving, businesslike Alex, the fashion-obsessed Mallory and the tomboyish, athletic Jennifer. This show spotlighted the cultural gap between the liberals of the Kennedy era and the drive to be rich that dominated the Reagan era.

The show dealt with some of the most difficult family issues of the day, often in realistic ways. It wasn't uncommon for the Keatons to have fights, storm off or not want to talk to each other. But each story ended with the characters realizing that no matter what life threw at them, they could always count on each other.

Who's the Boss 1984-1992 
The laughs on this show came from watching Tony Danza's tough man character take on the work of a woman, specifically a housekeeper. Judith Light played the boss lady and Alyssa Milano was Tony-s daughter. The show was a lightweight, but it lasted for seven seasons.

Newhart, 1982-1990
This surrealist comedy cast Bob Newhart as a writer who went to Vermont to run an inn with his wife. Presented in Newhart's dry style and far more subtle than many 1980s sitcoms, the show found humor in the ways that city people differ from those in the country. Much of the comedy involved Bob's dealings with a colorful cast of local characters, including politicians, his ditzy housekeeper and the local jacks-of-all-trades Larry, Daryl and Daryl.

Growing Pains1985-1992
Another family sitcom, this one starred Alan Thicke and Kirk Cameron as father and son. A light sitcom that rarely veered into serious topics, it launched Cameron's career and featured guest appearances by many notable actors, including Leonardo DiCaprio, who played a recurring role, Dennis Haysbert, Olivia d'Abo, Matthew Perry, Hilary Swank and Heather Graham.

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