This post was originally posted in 2011. I’ve since updated it a smidge to reflect a few things we’ve learned in the years since then. No matter what, it’s still fun to look back at the sitcoms that ruled the 80s. That, unlike feathered bangs and stonewashed jeans, is timeless!


Yesterday was a big day. Well, a big day for those of us in our 30s-ish who love TV. Last night, Friends debuted on Nick at Nite. Linda Holmes wrote a great piece about this at NPR, but the gist of it (at least for me) is this: Putting 90s sitcoms on Nick at Nite, former home of Mister Ed and The Dick Van Dyke Show, makes me feel too dang old!

I understand that Nick at Nite may be looking for shows a bit more contemporary than those old black and white sitcoms. Sure, sure, I can see that. But Friends? Already? How about we travel back just one more decade for a pool of “clever, old shows that people want to watch again.”

I give you – in alphabetical order, not order of preference or show quality – Top 20 Sitcoms from the 80s (according to my family). Yes, that’s right. I was a child in the 80s – and not one of those privileged kids with her own TV. So the vast majority of my TV-viewing in this particular decade was heavily influenced by my parents’ taste, humor, and overprotective (or so I thought at the time) tendencies.

Top 20 Sitcoms from the 80s

  1. ALF – Remember, I said this was not in order of preference! I know this show was awful. I mean, a muppet alien named, essentially, alien (ALF = Alien Life Form)? But that thing about him eating cats just cracked up my dad!
  2. Charles in Charge – I think I watched this several years later, in reruns. But it was one of my favorites so I included it anyway. Before we knew about his grown-up politics (or thought about the fact that he was “babysitting” teenaged girls just a few years younger than his character?!), ol’ Charles was cute!
  3. Cheers – Looking back, it seems odd that my parents would have let us watch Cheers. I suppose my brother and I must have been too young to understand any of the adult themes or jokes.
  4. Designing Women – Never do I pass up the opportunity to say again that when I grow up, I want to be Julia Sugarbaker.
  5. Doogie Howser, M.D. – Before he was Barney or Dr. Horrible (or even a great Glee guest star), Neil Patrick Harris was an adorable little genius. Who’s hearing the electronic keyboard theme song in their heads right now? (And don’t miss this: Barney doing a Doogie impression.)
  6. Family Matters – Did you think Steve Urkel was annoying? Well, my family thought he was hilarious. Thankfully we never had a Nielsen box, so I don’t actually have to apologize for keeping this one on the air.
  7. Family Ties – If I watched it today, I’d probably (maybe?) appreciate Family Ties for its sweet, close-knit family. Back then, though? I watched for Michael J. Fox. Obviously.
  8. Full House – Cut it out! You know, I actually thought Stephanie and the twins were more annoying than Kimmy. But who didn’t love DJ . . . or Uncle Jesse? (Let’s just not talk about Aunt Becky…)
  9. Growing Pains – I loved this one from start to finish. Who didn’t? (And did I ever tell you about the time I met Kirk Cameron and his daughter bought my book? Yeah. It happened. And I totally reacted like young Mary who wished her parents would allow posters on her wall, because HELLO, Mike Seaver instead of old, cynical Mary who mocks any new movie starring Kirk Cameron. In other words, totally cool on the outside; total fan girl on the inside!)
  10. Just the Ten of Us – I don’t remember much about this show, and it’s not on DVD. But I do remember one episode in particular where one of the characters hated the fact that she wore glasses. I could really identify. And then she got kissed by a boy. I could not identify with that at all, but it gave me hope.
  11. Major Dad – Did you watch this show? I remember watching it, but that’s about where the memories end.
  12. Mr. Belvedere – I definitely loved this one. And I’ll never forget the episode about AIDS. That was the first time I’d heard of it, and it was so confusing (at the time. Obviously.).
  13. My Two Dads – Oh, how I loved this show! It’s such a silly premise – and I suppose the show would be about something totally different if it were on today. But I loved watching Nicole learn to live with both her [very different] dads – especially when they added the Monkees’ Davy Jones to the show.
  14. Night Court – This is another on I’m not sure why my parents let us watch. I think there may have been quite a lot of adult humor. But, since I’m not even sure, I suppose that means I was too young to be affected.
  15. Perfect Strangers – Ahhh, Larry and Balki! For some reason, I think of this show every single time I hear “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Well, I know the reason. Balki sang it in one episode. Briefly. What I don’t know is why that moment is seared into my brain!
  16. Roseanne – I actually was not allowed to watch this show. (And chose not to watch the recent reboot.) But it was so popular, it didn’t seem right to leave it off the list. Did you watch it?
  17. The Cosby Show – Well, this is awkward. We did love the show then. But now that we know so much about the man, even the beloved opening credits feel tainted…
  18. The Facts of Life – You take the good, you take the bad . . . I guess those facts of life could be applied to 80s TV, too, huh?
  19. The Wonder Years – Kevin and Winnie FOREVER! That’s all.
  20. Who’s the Boss – Will they or won’t they? I think they did, in the end, but I enjoyed every moment leading up to that end, too. And another moment permanently stuck in my weird brain is Samantha trying to get Tony’s permission to go to a Beastie Boys concert. You really do have to fight. For the right. To parrrrrrrty.

What were your favorite sitcoms in the 1980s?

This post will be linked to Top Ten Tuesday at OhAmanda, in hopes that nobody notices I actually listed the equivalent of two top ten lists…

What should you watch next?


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