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10 Forgotten Shows From The '80s That Deserve A Rewatch

ScreenRant logo ScreenRant 9/23/2022 Dalton Norman
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With shows like Stranger Things re-popularizing classic media from the 1980s, viewers nostalgic for the decade can't help but look back on other forgotten gems that are worth revisiting. The period was a hotbed for great TV shows, but many incredible series have since slipped from popular memory.

Whether it was police procedurals like T.J. Hooker or sci-fi epics like V, some of the best shows from the decade got washed away in the deluge of other content. Though there are many great forgotten programs from the '80s, only the very best deserve a rewatch in the modern day.

T.J. Hooker (1982-1986)

Police procedural shows have always been a popular format, and T.J. Hooker took the premise to the mean streets of Los Angeles. The show concerns the titular cop, a veteran of the force whose conservative nature constantly conflicts with his more progressive partner.

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William Shatner shines as the lead character, and his turn as Hooker is totally unlike what fans were used to seeing as the swashbuckling Captain Kirk on Star Trek. Though the show had some stinker episodes, it is a fun time capsule to the '80s and features a wide variety of guest actors that would later be superstars.

Airwolf (1984-1986)

After an extremely popular TV movie of the same name, Airwolf was greenlit into a weekly action extravaganza. The series follows a daring test pilot who is hired by an intelligence firm to fly an experimental helicopter on secret missions.

Taking its place alongside other cheesy action shows like The A-Team, Airwolf delivered the thrills and chills on a smaller budget. Taking a page from some of the best action movies of the decade, the show was a perfect mixture of excitement and goofiness and is the perfect show to revisit for fans who love the sillier side of the '80s.

A Different World (1987-1993)

The '80s were a boom period for black sitcoms, and A Different World was certainly one of the best. Featuring a few characters from The Cosby Show, the series follows a group of students as they try to make it through life while attending an HBCU.

Generally regarded as one of the best black sitcoms that is a spinoff, A Different World grew and changed as the '80s transitioned into the '90s. The show was mostly light and fun, and it managed to stay relevant as a trend-setting show even into the new decade.

Small Wonder (1985-1989)

Though many '80s classics had very traditional premises that came to define the decade, some shows were so off-the-wall that they kept audiences entertained. Small Wonder is the story of a scientist who creates a robot that his family treats like one of their own.

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Mostly farcical, the funniest aspect of the series was watching other characters nearly discover the family's secret. Even though it has an oddball setup, the show was just as funny and poignant as many of the other sitcoms of the era, and it managed to run for a respectable amount of seasons considering its stiff competition.

Beauty And The Beast (1987-1990)

In a unique twist on the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast the TV show preserved all the romance but changed the setting. The series follows a lion-like man-beast who lives beneath the streets of New York, and a young District Attorney who falls in love with him.

For a series from the '80s, the show had amazing production values and the underground labyrinth that Vincent resides in is a feast for the eyes. The romantic plot takes up a bulk of the screen time, and the changes made to the fairy tale are a marked improvement for a modernized version of the story.

Designing Women (1986-1993)

Bursting on the scene as one of the best female-led sitcoms of all time, Designing Women was surprisingly progressive for a show from the '80s. The show follows an outspoken woman who runs a design firm in Atlanta Georgia.

Never afraid to tackle issues like race, feminism, and body image, the series was as poignant as it was funny. Unlike most shows of the period which had a decidedly Northeastern or West Coast bent, Designing Women's Southern setting added another layer of intrigue to the show and helped set it apart from its contemporaries.

In The Heat Of The Night (1988-1995)

Basing a TV show off of an almost 20-year-old movie was an odd proposition, but In the Heat of the Night was a surprise hit. The series follows a black detective and a white police chief who solve cases in and around their small town of Sparta Mississippi.

Showing that the themes of the original movie were just as important in the '80s as they were in the '60s, the show was a fascinating mixture of drama and buddy cop humor. Carroll O'Connor was resplendent as Chief Gillespie, and it is his performance that largely anchored the show. In the Heat of the Night is in rare company among the best TV shows based on movies.

Moonlighting (1985-1989)

Back in the '80s, actors were either known for their work in TV or movies, and there was very little overlap. Moonlighting was the exception to the rule and starred Bruce Willis as a sassy private detective who teams up with a former model to solve cases.

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Oddball detective pairings were all the rage in the '80s, but Moonlighting was the first show to put a fine point on the concept. The humorous bickering between the leads is the show's bread and butter, and the popularity of Willis and Cybill Shepherd made the series one of the most star-studded series of the era.

V (1984-1985)

Though none of its iterations stayed around for very long, V was one of the defining sci-fi epics of the decade. Set a few years after the liberation of earth from the alien rule in the miniseries, the ongoing V show followed humanity as it further resisted the aliens and the humans that sought to help them.

Stretching throughout most of the decade, V started as a miniseries before being expanded upon in its very own full-time show. Though the effects may be a bit cheesy by today's standards, the saga was nonetheless gripping and offered a unique sci-fi experience outside the plethora of Star Wars ripoffs that haunted the decade.

Tour Of Duty (1987-1990)

After shows like M*A*S*H had shown the sillier side of war for so long, Tour of Duty came around to remind viewers of the horrors that come with conflict. Set during the Vietnam War, the series followed a battalion of troops as they deal with conflicts both internal and external.

Unflinching and dark in its depiction of the fighting overseas, the show never came off as cheesy or exploitative. The '80s was a decade known for its exaggerated action, but Tour of Duty opted for realism, and it excelled at showing the emotional turmoil of the soldiers who fought in the war. With many of the veterans of the Vietnam War slipping into middle age by the late '80s, the series was a perfect tribute to their experiences.

NEXT: 10 Realistic War TV Shows To Watch If You Love Saving Private Ryan


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