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Best Shows From The 80s: 10 Nostalgia-Inducing Shows From The 80s That Still Captivate Audiences Today”

The 1980s were a golden era of US television. In this period, several iconic shows were telecast which are referred to as classics and talked about to date. From talk shows to animated series to science fiction, the decade had it all. If you’re a fan of nostalgia, then check out our list of the 10 best shows from the 80s. These shows were the best of the best, and they’re guaranteed to take you back to a time when TV was at its finest.

The Joy of Painting

IMDb Rating: 9.3

With more than 400 episodes and 31 seasons, The Joy of Painting has been one of America’s most beloved shows since the 1980s. Bob Ross created the instructional show, and he was also its host. In each episode, he shared his techniques for Landscape oil painting while completing a masterpiece. But that was not all – the show also featured guest artists who demonstrated unique painting styles and techniques. This program followed in the footsteps of “The Magic of Oil Painting,” hosted by Bob Ross’s mentor, Bill Alexander. “A Walk in the Woods,” a painting by Bob Ross from the debut episode of The Joy of Painting, was put up for sale in 2023 for a $9.85 million selling price.

Hosted By: Bob Ross

Created By: Bob Ross

Release Date: January 11, 1983

Running Time: 30minutes

Seinfeld

IMDb Rating: 8.9

If you’re a fan of sitcoms, you will want to watch the nine-season masterpiece co-created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Alongside co-creating the show, Jerry Seinfeld played the central character, a fictionalized version of himself. The show is set in a fictional world and follows the personal lives of Jerry and his three friends: his best friend, George Costanza, former girlfriend Elaine Benes, and their neighbor across the hall, Cosmo Kramer. Seinfeld has enjoyed a good chunk of viewership, reaching millions, throughout its 180 episodes.

Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander, and others

Created By: Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David

Director (s): Art Wolff, Tom Cherones, Andy Ackerman, David Steinberg, David Owen Trainor, and Jason Alexander

Release Date:  July 5, 1989

Running Time: 22–24 minutes

Twin Peaks 

IMDb Rating: 8.8

Twin Peaks received nominations in fourteen prominent categories for its first season at the 42nd Primetime Emmy Awards. The show centers on an investigation into Laura Palmer’s death in the made-up town of Twin Peaks, Washington, led by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper and local Sheriff Harry S. Truman. The show’s plot is inspired by detective fiction. Still, it borrowed from American soap operas and horror clichés, from its eerie tone, supernatural aspects, and campy, dramatic presentation of quirky people. Like many of David Lynch Lynch’s works, it stood out for its unique cinematography, surrealism, and strange humor.

Cast:  Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Michael Ontkean, Richard Beymer, Dana Ashbrook, Lara Flynn Boyle, Warren Frost, Sherilyn Fenn, Peggy Lipton, James Marshall, Everett McGill, Jack Nance, Ray Wise, Joan Chen, Piper Laurie, Eric Da Re, Harry Goaz, Kimmy Robertson, Sheryl Lee, Michael Horse, and Russ Tamblyn

Created By: Mark Frost and David Lynch

Release Date: April 8, 1990

Running Time: 45–60 minutes

The Simpsons

IMDb Rating: 8.7

The Simpsons is an innovative and entertaining animated series that humorously depicts American life through the eyes of the Simpson family – Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is a clever caricature of various aspects of society, Western culture, television, and the human condition, all set in the fictional town of Springfield. If you’re looking for a witty and thought-provoking show that will keep you laughing, The Simpsons is worth a watch.

Voice Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, and others

Created By: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Sam Simon

Release Date: December 17, 1989

Running Time: 21–24 minutes

Star Trek: The Next Generation

IMDb Rating: 8.7

Are you a fan of science fiction? If so, you won’t want to miss Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG)! Created by the legendary Gene Roddenberry, this series aired from 1987 to 1994, spanning an impressive 178 episodes over seven seasons. As the third series in the iconic Star Trek franchise, TNG was inspired by the original series and set in the latter third of the 24th century. In the show, join the intrepid crew of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) as they explore the Milky Way galaxy Alpha quadrant. With thrilling adventures and groundbreaking storytelling, TNG is a must-see for any sci-fi fan.

Cast:  Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Jonathan Frakes, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, and others

Created By: Gene Roddenberry

Release Date:  September 28, 1987

Running Time: 44–45 minutes

Mystery Science Theater 3000

IMDb Rating: 8.6

Mystery Science Theater 3000 featured Joel Hodgson as Joel Robinson, a janitor stuck on a satellite orbiting the Earth with two mad scientists known as “The Mads.” To make the most of his situation, Joel creates a team of sentient robots, including Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and Gypsy, to accompany him as he has to watch a series of B-grade movies. Together, they provide hilarious commentary on each film as it plays, a process known as riffing. This show was perfect for unwinding after a long day and having fun with friends and family.

Featuring: Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Jim Mallon, and others

Created By: Joel Hodgson

Release Date:  November 24, 1988

Running Time: 92–97 minutes

At the Movies

IMDb Rating: 8.6

Talk show “At The Movies,” two Chicago movie critics, Gene Siskel, and Roger Ebert, reviewed whether a new movie is worth a thumbs up or thumbs down. The show was earlier called Siskel & Ebert & the Movies and later named to At The movies and was hosted by Ebert and Roeper. From 1986 to 2001, it was filmed at WBBM-TV in Chicago, Illinois; from 2001 to 2010, it was filmed in the ABC Building in Chicago, Illinois.

Presented By: Gene Siskel (1986–1999), Roger Ebert (1986–2008), Richard Roeper (2000–2008), Ben Mankiewicz (2008–2009), Ben Lyons (2008–2009), Michael Phillips (2009–2010), and Michael Phillips (2009–2010)

Release Date: September 13, 1986

Running Time:  30 minutes

The Wonder Years

IMDb Rating: 8.4

The Wonder Years is a TV series that follows the life of Kevin Arnold, a teenager growing up in a suburban middle-class family during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The show was a huge success, making it to the Nielsen Top 30 for its first four seasons. TV Guide also named it among the 20 best shows of the 1980s. In 1988, after airing six episodes, The Wonder Years won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Fred Savage, the lead actor, became the youngest actor nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series at 13. The show also received a Peabody Award in 1989 for its innovative storytelling and for pushing the boundaries of the sitcom format.

Cast: Fred Savage, Alley Mills, Dan Lauria, Olivia d’Abo, Danica McKellar, Jason Hervey, Josh Saviano, and others

Created By: Neal Marlens and Carol Black

Release Date:  January 31, 1988

Running Time: 22–24 minutes

Police Squad!

IMDb Rating: 8.4

Police Squad! is a TV series that parodied police procedural shows and other television programs and movies. The show was known for using sight gags, wordplay, and non-sequiturs, typical of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker’s style. The series’ opening credits are similar to Lee Marvin’s police show M Squad and also resembles the late 1960s series Felony Squad. Unfortunately, the series was canceled after only six episodes. However, it paved the way for the Naked Gun film series, released from 1988 to 1994.

Cast: Alan North, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Lupus, William Duell, Ed Williams, and others

Created By: Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker)

Director (s): David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, Joe Dante, Reza Badiyi, Paul Krasny, and Georg Stanford Brown

Release Date:  March 4, 1982

Running Time: 24–25 minutes

The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour

IMDb Rating: 8.4

After the 1984-1985 season, CBS gave away the rights to air Warner Bros. cartoons. The show returned to ABC and was renamed The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour. Famous classic cartoons from the Looney Tunes collection were featured on Saturday mornings.

Voice Cast: Roberto Zenca, Mel Blanc, June Foray, and others

Director(s): Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Rudy Larriva, and Robert McKimson

Release Date: 1985

Running Time: 45 minutes

Best Shows From The 80s

Show Name Release Date (United States) Genre IMDb Rating
The Joy of Painting  January 11, 1983 Instructional TV Show  9.3
Seinfeld  July 5, 1989 Sitcom  8.9
Twin Peaks  April 8, 1990 Mystery, Drama, Horror, Surrealism 8.8
The Simpsons December 17, 1989 Animation, Sitcom  8.7
Star Trek: The Next Generation September 28, 1987 Sci-Fi, Drama, Mystery, Action, Adventure 8.7
Mystery Science Theater 3000 November 24, 1988 Science Fiction Comedy, Adult Puppeteering, Film Review 8.6
At the Movies/ Siskel & Ebert & the Movies September 13, 1986 Talk Show, Film Review 8.6
The Wonder Years January 31, 1988 Sitcom, Slice of Life, Coming of Age 8.4
Police Squad! March 4, 1982 Crime Comedy 8.4
The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour 1985 Animation, Comedy, Family 8.4
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Surya Ravi

Surya Ravi, an MBA in HR and Marketing, is an aspiring writer, kindle published author and translator. Hailing from the city of pearls, Hyderabad, her strengths are her spirit and optimism. An avid reader, a die-hard romantic at heart, she is a cinema buff and keenly follows the global tele-world. She has found her calling in writing.