Do you know what a sitcom is? A sitcom is a genre exclusive to the television industry. That's because it's short for "situation comedy," wherein the jokes need preparation and build-up to elicit laughs. This kind of comedy category is different from the earliest kind of comedy we saw on film and later on TV as well, which is called the "sight gag."
Sight gags were big during the silent film era, since the performers didn't need any sound to elicit laughter. This comedy genre involved being physical, contorting the face for reactions and performing pratfalls or similar antics. A person slipping on a banana peel is an early example of this kind of comedy.
But the advent of sound, and later of television, changed the landscape of comedy. These days, we are very used to having comedy set up for us, via short anecdotes delivered by stand-up comedians for instance, or carefully calculated narrative plot points that reach a comedic climax. So the sitcom derives humor from specific situations that are set up for laughs.
The '80s are full of these great sitcoms with great set-ups. Thank the writers, actors and everyone else who made these sitcoms possible, because it's the hardest job in the world - to make people laugh! So, can you name these '80s sitcom gems? Give it a whirl and laugh your heart out reminiscing. Happy quiz-taking!
"The Cosby Show" started its run in 1984 and it lasted until 1992, headlined by comedian Bill Cosby. Sadly, many now question the legacy he had in connection with this show, since many allegations of sexual abuse have come out, naming him as the perpetrator.
"Family Ties" helped propel the U.S. back into a more conservative-leaning pop culture during the '80s, especially since Michael J. Fox's character was an avowed young Republican. His teen character, Alex P. Keaton, was very into Reaganomics. Many fans loved this show and his antics.
This is the place "where everybody knows your name," and the bar featured in the TV show is called Cheers. The story is set in Boston, Massachusetts, and the bar's patrons are regularly featured in the show's narrative.
"Thank You for Being a Friend" to millions of viewers, all four of you called "The Golden Girls." This show was such a huge hit back then, giving senior citizens' storylines great exposure in primetime television.
Hollywood was producing many suburban sitcoms with wholesome figures, so it was indeed a huge departure to see a show like "Married… With Children" on the air at that time. The popular show debuted in 1986 and lasted until 1997.
One of the favorite teen shows barely in the '80s is "Saved by the Bell," which debuted in 1989 and stayed a hit until 1992. A majority of its stars enjoyed success outside the show as well when they grew up, most notably entertainment host Mario Lopez.
The 1980s hit "The Wonder Years" was actually set during the late 1960s and early 1970s, depicting an America that was in the middle of the Vietnam War. While the show touched upon these issues, its main focus was on the lives of the families and children growing up in American suburbia.
Candace Bergen is forever known as "Murphy Brown" because of the success of this show she headlined from 1988 to 1998. But fans of the show are getting another chance to see the cast in action, since the show began airing again in 2018 - and the original cast members are still there for the ride!
The working class-focused sitcom, named "Roseanne" after no-nonsense comedian Roseanne Barr, was a huge hit in the late '80s up to the late '90s. They tried to revive it in early 2018, but network executives axed her and renamed the show after a racist tweet from Roseanne went viral.
A man is the live-in housekeeper in this show, hired by a female corporate executive. This setup became comedy gold for "Who’s the Boss?" You can see a teen Alyssa Milano here, who herself grew up to be such an empowered woman.
"Punky Brewster" made the young actress Soleil Moon Frye a household name. The show ran from 1984 until 1988. She continued her entertainment career after the show ended, including her role on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." She also did several hosting and voice acting gigs.
The interesting 1986 TV series called "Perfect Strangers" introduced the concept of the hopeful English-challenged immigrant who came to America for a better life. The comedy was supplied by the fact that the naive immigrant came unannounced to live with a distant cousin in Chicago.
Bruce Willis was a comedic charmer in the hit '80s TV series "Moonlighting," where he and co-star Cybill Shepherd became famous for their antics and sexual tension. This was the main reason why the producers of "Die Hard" were initially hesitant to cast him as an action hero - but we're all glad they did!
"Diff’rent Strokes" is the late '70s sitcom that continued its popularity until the show concluded in 1986. The show made a huge star out of Gary Coleman as well as the other young kids in the show, but they got mired in negative activities when they grew up until their deaths, which saddened fans.
Scott Baio appeared in several other successful sitcoms prior to headlining his own, titled "Charles in Charge," which aired in the '80s. He actually became a TV director as well, handling TV episode directing gigs during the '90s.
While it was a bit freaky for some people to see a young girl being "kept" in the closet of a suburban household, it's just part of the laughs that the show "Small Wonder" elicited. The sci-fi fiction involved an engineer dad who invented a girl-looking robot, which the neighbors think is a real human.
"The Cosby Show" star Lisa Bonet got a spin-off show when her character went to college in "A Different World," so that is the basic premise of this newer show. She co-starred with Jasmine Guy and Kadeem Hardison, prior to her departure from the show.
When a sarcastic-mouthed furry alien from another planet accidentally lands at a suburban California house, what do you think will happen? This is the outrageous premise that the show "ALF" exploited, which actually hit it big with TV audiences during the late '80s.
Who knew that there was comedy gold to be unearthed in a New York municipal court's night shift staff? This is the basic premise of the sitcom called "Night Court," featuring great actors such as Harry Anderson, Markie Post, Paula Kelly, John Larroquette, Richard Moll, Marsha Warfield and Selma Diamond.
"Diff'rent Strokes" had a spin-off show, and that was "The Facts of Life." It started airing in the late '70s and ended its run in 1988. The spin-off starts with Edna Garrett transitioning from being the "Diff'rent Strokes" housekeeper to an all-girls dormitory housemother.
"Growing Pains" basically sums up what every American household encounters, decade after decade. But this '80s sitcom depicted changing gender roles in American households. The psychiatrist dad worked at home, while the mom was out there pursuing her career as a reporter.
The Korean War is where the story of "M*A*S*H" largely took place. It featured a mix of drama and dark comedy as well, based on the situation at hand. The popular sitcom starred Alan Alda as the chief surgeon and Loretta Swit as the head nurse of the medical unit.
Would you believe that the longest-running sitcom ever is "The Simpsons," which first aired in 1989? It actually started as segments in "The Tracey Ullman Show" back in 1987 before it was developed into a stand-alone show.
"Three’s Company" is the show that made comedian John Ritter an international star. He played the role of a guy pretending to be gay so he could share an apartment with two women. The sitcom started airing in 1976 and ended its run in 1984, with Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers as Ritter's original co-stars.
New York City cabbies are front and center in this award-winning sitcom, aptly named "Taxi." The show ran from 1978 to 1983 and featured notable celebrities such as Andy Kaufman, Christopher Lloyd, Carol Kane, Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner, Jeff Conaway and Randall Carver.
What do you get when a widower asks his womanizing brother-in-law and goofy guy best friend to help raise his daughters? Apparently a hit formula, since "Full House" became just that back in the day. A reboot is on Netfix, under the title "Fuller House."
Radio sitcoms were apparently a thing back in the '80s, and "WKRP in Cincinnati" tweaked that concept by featuring the lives of radio station staff in humorous situations. The cast included Loni Anderson and ran from 1978 to 1982.
The sitcoms of the '80s were quite interesting, since they showcased many different kinds of families. "Empty Nest" featured an older pediatrician who was a widower, and his two grown-up daughters suddenly came back to live with him in their family home.
"The Jeffersons" was about a couple who moved to a "deluxe apartment in the sky." It featured an interracial couple, which was not yet common on TV, and it also had a largely African-American cast, one of the longest running series to have that kind of ensemble.
"Head of the Class" is a sitcom about gifted students in an honors program, so of course we saw a lot of young actors there who grew up to become adult celebrities. Some of the them include Robin Givens and Leslie Bega.
Ricky Schroeder headlined the show "Silver Spoons," where a younger Alfonso Ribeiro also appeared prior to being cast in "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." Jason Bateman occasionally appeared in the earlier seasons of the show, too.
"Laverne & Shirley" actually started airing back in 1976, but it was popular enough to transition into the '80s. Penny Marshall played Laverne here, but she eventually became a director and a producer as well, just like her brother Garry Marshall.
It's interesting to see the diversity of professions in '80s television, so having a sitcom featuring interior designers is a good thing. "Designing Women" focused on the lives of designers in Atlanta, Georgia.
It's no secret that Steve Urkel, the geeky teen neighbor of the Winslow family, sometimes stole the show in "Family Matters." Jaleel White's portrayal soon became front and center in the show, which ran from 1989 to 1998.
Garry Marshall created "Happy Days" back in 1974, but its huge influence in the television landscape propelled it to continue in the next decade, until it ended in 1984. Future Hollywood director/producer Ron Howard and Henry Winkler were the stars of this show.
"Newhart" is an example of an earlier TV tradition, wherein the title of the show carries the name of the star, not the fictional characters or details connected to the story. So in "Newhart," comedian Bob Newhart played an author named Dick Loudon, and the series ran from 1982 to 1990.
"Private Benjamin" was a movie first - a 1980 comedy featuring Goldie Hawn playing the titular character. A TV sitcom was developed based on this movie, which aired from 1981 to 1983, with Lorna Patterson playing the TV version of Judy Benjamin.
"Na-Nu Na-Nu!" That popular alien greeting was immortalized by the late great comedian Robin Williams when he played the alien Mork in the 1978 series called "Mork & Mindy." Pam Dawber played Mindy, to complete the titular partnered characters.
"Benson" was actually the sitcom spin-off of another popular sitcom, "Soap," where Robert Guillaume's character named Benson first appeared. This spin-off show debuted in 1979 and ended in 1986.
The '80s sitcom "Kate & Allie" featured two women who were divorced, sharing a house together. The show ran from 1984 to 1989, featuring Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin in the titular lead roles.