You don't? Before TIVO and DVRs, people raced home to their favorite prime time TV sitcoms before the episodes disappeared into the ether. Or they would set their VCRs. What? You don't know what that is either? Sigh...
Shows like "Cheers", "The Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes" were very popular before they aired as repeats on cable channels like Nick at Nite.
You would instantly recognize if a show was from the 80s, not only by their "live studio audience" format, but also by over-the-top fashions and hairstyles. Stone-washed jeans anyone? Even the opening sequence alone was thoroughly entertaining, and the theme songs were very catchy. Typically amusing was watching the show's characters pan to the camera for their staged and cheesy "gosh-darn-it" introductions, usually right after bumping into each other. I'm looking at you, Laverne & Shirley!
But there were a ton of other obscure sitcoms that true couch potatoes of the 80's remember.
Whether the ratings were off-the-charts or falling off the radar, the following 80's sitcoms are precious time capsules that will take you back to a super cool era. Get those jelly bracelets on and roll up your tapered jeans, 'cuz you're in for a totally awesome trip back in time!
1. It's Your Move
Hot off the successes as a recurring character on "Silver Spoons", a situation comedy starring Ricky Schroeder, a young Jason Bateman got to flex his mischievous muscle as a disapproving son of his mother's new neighbor crush. The show centered on a battle of wits between Bateman's character, Matthew, and his widowed mother's new love interest, Norman. The show only lasted from 1984-85, but it was enough to establish Bateman as a gifted young actor.
Rob Lowe had a kid brother, Chad, and he had his own teen situation comedy. But production was anything but hilarious. It was saddled with problems from the start, and Lowe quit after just five episodes because of disputes with producers over salary and creative control. Production was suspended and was retooled as "Under One Roof" with another actor in the lead role. However, the changes weren't enough to sustain the show, and it wound up being canceled after one season in 1985.
3. Out of This World
This show, which ran from 1987 to 1991, starred a character who was a half-alien teenage girl. She inherited the power to stop time, and communicated with her alien-dad, who took on the form of a triangle. Maybe the "The X-Files" took its cue from this awesome sci-fi comedy.
4. Bosom Buddies
Tom Hanks as a cross-dresser? You betcha! The show was so ahead of its time. Actually, they were not transgender characters. Hanks teamed up with Peter Scolari to portray characters who move into the only building they could afford - an all women's building. So they donned their wigs and dresses out of necessity, and also to be around the gorgeous tenants. The show ran from 1980 to 1982 and has been in syndication numerous times.
5. Double Trouble
This take on the mischievous twins formula starred Jean and Liz Sagal, sister of Katey Sagal from "Married With Children". After an underperforming first season, the show was given a second chance. This time, the twins left their Des Moines digs to and exciting and colorful New York City. But, even that change wasn't enough to keep audiences engaged, and it got canceled in 1985. This opening segment is from the second season, and is the perfect representation of a totally flashy Manhattan in the 80's.
6. My Secret Identity
This Canadian TV show which ran from 1988 to 1991 starred a young Jerry O'Connell, still a few years before his transformation into a certified hunk. But, in the show, he gets transformed into a teen with superhuman powers after being blasted by a photon beam. Sounds like a Marvel origin story!
7. It's A Living
The show about waitresses serving up a side of humor in a chic restaurant starred TV veterans Ann Jilian, Susan Sullivan and Crystal Bernard. It debuted in 1980 but was cut short due to the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike. However, the show went on to find success after going into syndication, the licensing of the right to broadcast TV programs without going through a broadcast network, in 1983.
8. We Got It Made
A girl in her 20's applies for a housekeeping job in Manhattan and is hired by two bachelors based on her looks. Shallow much? Audiences and critics thought so. It got canceled after one season in 1983 but was revived for syndication in 1987 for one more season. Maybe the title jinxed the show's potential.
9. WKRP In Cincinnati
Very few people can associate radio stations with WKRP. The theme song for the show itself was catchy, despite the show's failure to catch on when it premiered in 1978. However, the ensemble comedy did manage to last four seasons. They found success in syndication after 1982 when the show outperformed in ratings over other shows in prime time.
10. Just the Ten of Us
Remember this spinoff from "Growing Pains"? I don't. And it starred nobody from the Seaver family. Instead, Coach Graham Lubbock, a minor recurring character on "Growing Pains" got to have his own show. Whether the character of Coach Lubbock was popular enough didn't seem to matter as fans of comedian Bill Kirchenbauer, who played him, made the show last for two seasons.
The show suffered an identity crisis after its lead star Valerie Harper left the show due to contractual disputes between her and producers. How did writers explain the titular character's departure from the show? They killed her off. The title switched from "Valerie" to "Valerie's Family" to "The Hogan Family". Oh, and the show also changed networks from NBC to CBS. Despite a turbulent production history, the show managed to last a total of six seasons by the time the series ended in 1991.
12. Gimme A Break!
First of all, Broadway vet Nell Carter sang the mud outta that theme song! The show premiered in 1981 and ran for six seasons. The "widower-with-children" premise of the show displayed an interesting dynamic between curmudgeonly Police officer Carl and sassy housekeeper Nell. The series made a very ballsy move at the time, by tackling the topic of racism in a very controversial storyline in the episode "Baby of the Family". In the episode, foster son Joey (Joey Lawrence) dons blackface at Nell's church benefit, masterminded by Samantha as revenge for being forbidden to go on an unchaperoned camping trip. It handled a sensitive issue with dignity and through great performances, especially from Carter, and earned the show some reverence.
13. Small Wonder
This comedy science fiction sitcom is like a modern version of Pinocchio. But instead of creating puppets, robotics engineer Ted Lawson passed off his V.I.C.I. (acronym for "Voice Input Child Indicant" and pronounced Vicky) as his own daughter. As for actress Tiffany Brissette's aging as "Vicky" by the show's third season, writers passed it off as upgrades to the android by dressing her in new clothing and giving her advanced abilities like digesting food and drink. The fourth and final season ran in 1989 and was pretty popular. For those who don't know the show, the title sequence explains it all. "She's fantastic. Made of plastic. Microchips here and there!"
14. Mr. Belvedere
Before "Downton Abbey", this sitcom brought the upstairs/downstairs genre into American households with the affable Mr. Belvedere. Okay, maybe he didn't live in the basement, but he did make frequent ascents serving tea, and wisdom, to the occupants on the second floor. The culture clash between a proper Englishman and the rowdy American suburban family he looked after was often the subject of the show's humor, but there was also just as much warmth. Each episode typically concluded with the butler writing in his journal about the day's travails. He took his pen to paper one last time in the series finale in 1990.
15. Empty Nest
Did you know that the "Golden Girls" had a spinoff series? Introducing "Empty Nest", whose characters were neighbors of Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia. The show was about a pediatrician whose wife dies, and his two daughters move back into their Miami home. Particularly memorable was Park Overall's turn as a wise-cracking Southern nurse who worked at the hospital where the patriarch worked. Despite the show's long run from 1988 to 1995, it didn't leave as much of a mark as those sassy elderly girls who lived down the street.
16. Mama's Family
A sharp-tongued mama played by Vicki Lawrence reprised her character from the "The Carol Burnett Show". Always feisty and never one to back down, the assertive grandma in her 80s always terrified me as a child. Turns out Lawrence was only in her 30s when she played the role! The show ended after two and a half seasons in 1985, but Mama refused to go down like that. The show ended up being revamped with new characters and ran in first-run syndication until 1990.
17. My Two Dads
No the show wasn't about gay parenting. It would've been far too progressive for the 80s at the time. Instead, the show was about a teenage girl named Nicole Bradford, who was orphaned and left under the care of two men who simultaneously dated her mother. Because Nicole's biological father couldn't be determined, she was left with two dads, one being stuffy and uber-conservative and the other being a free-spirited musician. After three seasons, the show ended in 1990 with Nicole refusing to take a blood test to determine which was her father. To her, both were equally as important.
18. The Duck Factory
A young Jim Carrey played against type as a straight man opposite eccentric and wacky characters in an animation studio. It was a mid-season replacement on NBC in 1984 that followed "The Cosby Show" but failed to engage audiences. It ended up getting cancelled after three months, but thankfully, it found a life of its own in reruns on cable TV. Turns out it was all for the best as Carrey was poised to go on to bigger things.
19. Easy Street
Former "WKRP In Cincinnati" star Loni Anderson played L.K. McGuire in this sitcom about a has-been showgirl who marries a wealthy gentleman. It's not long before the poor guy croaks, leaving L.K. to fight off his greedy family who are after her inherited fortune. After debuting in 1986, it aired 22 episodes and didn't get renewed for a second season. Looks like "Easy Street" became "down on its luck".
While Different Strokes was a popular sitcom, in its shadow was another similar '"young-African-American-boy-adopted-by-wealthy-white-family" premise. The adorable Emmanuel Lewis played the titular 7-year-old character as a 12 year old. At 3 feet and 4 inches, he more than made up for his height with his bigger-than-life personality and winning smile. The adoptive parents were a NFL-pro godfather and his new socialite consumer advocate wife, who impulsively met on a cruise and came into parenting just as quickly. They were played by Alex Karras and Susan Clark, who wanted equal billing as the show's star. As the parents of Webster, Karras and Clark wanted just as many featured storylines, even though the name of the show was Webster. Eventually, any tension on set was resolved after the first season. Even Karras has been known to become like a surrogate father to his little co-star, but according to on-set crew, it took a while for any kind of rapport to develop between cast members. The show ran from 1983-1987 and then in first-run syndication for two more seasons.
H/T - mode, skooldays, wikipedia, imdb