Florescent clothes. Crimped hair. Swatch watches. The Rubik’s Cube. The 1980s were known for many things, including flashy TV shows with lots of action, adventure and romance. If you were an avid TV watcher during this decade, you likely saw lots of courtroom battles, car chases, police shootouts and crime solving, plus a few will-they-or-won't-they love-story scenarios between unlikely pairs.
Fashion was another major player in the TV dramas of the '80s. Who can forget the crisp blazers and pastel-hued tees sported by Crocket and Tubbs of "Miami Vice?" Or the mountainous shoulder pads and double-breasted suits worn by the high-powered attorneys on "L.A. Law?" And when it came to sparkly sequins, big hair and glistening jewels, no show could beat "Dynasty" for its small-screen glitz and glamour.
How good is your recall of 1980s TV drama? Can you recognize all of the popular shows featured in this quiz? Get ready to walk down memory lane and test your TV knowledge by answering all of the questions below!
This show was on the air from 1983 to 1987 and followed the action-packed adventures of four tough-yet-quirky soldiers of fortune.
"The A-Team" was made up of four ex-U.S. Army Special Forces members who were wrongly convicted of a crime during the Vietnam War. They worked as soldiers of fortune while still on the run.
Pierce Brosnan played the male lead in this popular '80s detective series.
While Remington Steele ran from 1982 to 1987, the series was initially canceled at the end of its '85-86 season. NBC quickly reversed this decision after receiving an outpouring of support from fans and aired an abbreviated final season in 1987.
Dr. Sam Beckett was desperate to get back to the present in this time-traveling drama of the '80s. Can you name it?
After five seasons of uncontrollable time-jumping, title cards at the end of the series finale revealed (spoiler alert!) that poor Dr. Beckett remained lost in space and never did find his final leap home.
Packed with shoulder pads and cat fights, this steamy evening soap revolved around the wealthy Carrington family — and their enemies.
"Dynasty" ran for nine seasons on ABC and made household names of veteran actors like Joan Collins, Linda Evans, Diahann Carroll and John Forsythe. It also helped launch the career of a young Heather Locklear.
This saccharin-sweet NBC series starred Michael Landon as an angel on probation.
This heavenly drama co-starred Victor French, who played Michael Landon's human sidekick. He had previously worked with Landon on "Little House on the Prairie," which aired from 1974 to 1983.
Before "Cops," "Law & Order" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" hit the small screen, this police drama ruled the ratings from 1981 to 1987.
"Hill Street Blues" was co-created by Steven Bochco, a prolific writer and producer who was also responsible for hit shows such as "L.A. Law," "N.Y.P.D. Blue," and "Doogie Howser, M.D."
This hospital drama featured a young Denzel Washington in one of his breakout roles. Do you know it?
Denzel Washington played the character of Dr. Phillip Chandler for the entire series run. Other notable "St. Elsewhere" cast members included Helen Hunt, Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel and Ed Begley Jr.
Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas played two sharply dressed undercover narcotic detectives in this '80s hit.
As detectives James "Sonny" Crockett and Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs, Johnson and Thomas brought pastel V-necks, white blazers, Ray Bans and boat shoes to the forefront of '80s fashion. The show ran from 1984 to 1990.
This lively musical drama followed the trials and tribulations of talented teens at a performing arts school in New York City.
Based on a 1980 movie of the same name, "Fame" ran from 1982 to 1987. It starred Debbie Allen as Lydia Grant, a demanding dance instructor who appeared briefly in the film. The role was expanded for the TV show, for which Allen also served as original choreographer.
Featuring a group of successful professionals trying to balance career and family, this ensemble drama debuted in 1987.
During its four-year run, "Thirtysomething" was nominated for more than 40 Emmy Awards. It won a total of 13, including Best Drama Series in 1998. Patricia Wettig also won three times for her portrayal of Nancy Weston.
Though it only ran for three seasons, this '80s crime drama was beloved for its high-flying stunts and sleek "Coyote X" kit car.
Originally built from a Manta Montage kit car, the "Coyote X" was redesigned in season two. Reportedly, this was because the actors had a tough time getting in and out of the original vehicle.
This quirky dramedy starred a young Bruce Willis as a wisecracking detective named David Addison.
When it debuted in 1985, "Moonlighting" quickly gained attention for its irreverent mix of comedy and drama, as well as its characters' tendencies to break the fourth wall and speak to the audience.
Set in an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War, this drama starred Dana Delany as army nurse Colleen McMurphy.
Critically acclaimed but poorly rated, "China Beach" ran for four seasons on ABC, from 1988 to 1991. Delany won two Emmy awards for her portrayal of the brave and vulnerable army nurse.
This short-lived sci-fi show followed the antics of a larger-than-life artificial intelligence (AI) character in a futuristic dystopia.
While the TV drama "Max Headroom" only ran for two abbreviated seasons in the U.S., the character became a ubiquitous '80s icon, appearing in everything from print ads and video games to TV commercials and music videos.
Police dramas were a dime a dozen in the 1980s. Can you name this one starring William Shatner?
William Shatner played Sergeant Thomas Jefferson "T.J." Hooker, a 15-year police veteran with a no-nonsense attitude. Adrian Zmed played his hot-headed young partner, Officer Vincent "Vince" Romano.
Former NFL football player Fred Dryer played the title character in this action-packed crime drama. Do you know it?
While "Hunter" went off the air in 1991 after seven seasons, NBC went on to produce two success reunion specials — "The Return of Hunter: Everyone Walks in L.A.," which aired in 1995, and "Hunter: Return to Justice," which aired in 2002.
Do you recognize these hot-shot '80s attorneys? What show were they from?
"L.A. Law" was an instant hit when it debuted in 1986. The hour-long lawyer drama helped launch the careers of some of the decade's most popular stars, including Jimmy Smits, Blair Underwood and Corbin Bernsen.
Which '80s show starred a sleek talking car named KITT?
Voiced by actor William Daniels, who also starred in the '80s hit "St. Elsewhere," KITT was the souped-up, artificially intelligent Pontiac Trans Am used by crime fighter Michael Knight.
Wiki Commons by Themightyquill
Do you recognize this wily secret agent, whose knack for unconventional problem-solving often saved the day?
Starring Richard Dean Anderson as the title character, "MacGyver" was wildly popular and ran on ABC from 1985 to 1992. Currently, you can see a rebooted version of the show on CBS, which debuted in 2016 and stars Lucas Till.
The "Who shot J.R?" mystery was one of this evening soap's biggest cliffhangers.
An estimated 83 million viewers tuned into "Who Done It," the fourth-season episode of "Dallas" that revealed the identity of J.R.'s shooter. Prior to the episode's airing, the "Who shot J.R.?" media hype orchestrated by CBS to promote the show became an unprecedented global phenomenon.
This police procedural followed the adventures of two female New York City detectives.
Starring Sharon Gless as Cagney and Tyne Daly as Lacey, this beloved buddy-cop drama was both a critical and ratings smash. During its seven-season run, both actresses won multiple Emmys for Best Lead Actress in a Drama.
Starring Erik Estrada as Ponch and Larry Wilcox as Jon, this '80s favorite chronicled the misadventures of two California Highway Patrol officers.
"CHiPs," which aired from 1977 to 1983, provided audiences with a bit of toned-down TV drama. While there were exciting car chases and motorcycle stunts, violence was kept to a minimum, and a humorous subplot was often worked into each episode to keep the tone light.
One of the most popular shows of both the '80s and '90s, this crime drama featured Angela Lansbury as a mystery-writer-turned-detective.
"Murder, She Wrote" aired on CBS for 12 seasons, from 1984 to 1996. In its prime, the show averaged more than 30 million viewers a week, making it one of the highest-rated shows of both the '80s and '90s. The show is still aired in syndication all over the world.
This "Dallas" spin-off, which debuted in 1979, eventually became as popular as its predecessor and even outlasted it by two years.
This primetime soap followed Gary Ewing, the wayward brother of J.R. and Bobby from "Dallas," to the fictitious California suburb of Knots Landing. The show focused on some wealthy couples and chronicled their struggled with everything from infidelity and rape to murder and kidnapping.
Lee Majors starred in this action/adventure drama about a group of Hollywood stunt performers who used their skills to moonlighting as bounty hunters.
Lee Majors was already a major TV star when he took on the role of Colt Seavers in "The Fall Guy." He had previously starred in the popular '60s Western series, "The Big Valley," as well as the '70s sci-fi hit "The Six Million Dollar Man."
This hour-long mystery show focused on a wealthy couple with an interesting hobby — solving crime in their spare time.
Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers starred as the jet-setting Jonathan and Jennifer Hart in this popular ABC drama. While the series ended in 1984, it was followed a decade later by a series of highly successful made-for-TV movies.
Can you name this '80s evening soap, which was based on an Arthur Hailey novel of the same name?
Produced by Aaron Spelling, this '80s drama was set in the upscale (and fictitious) St. Gregory Hotel in San Francisco, California. It starred James Brolin and Connie Sellecca as the general and assistant managers who, of course, were also romantically involved.
Do you recognize this trio of unconventional detectives who did most of their work from a 53-foot yacht? What show were they from?
Army buddies Cody and Nick, along with their nerdy computer hacker pal "Boz," ran the Pier 56 Detective Agency from Cody's beloved boat, the "Riptide." Though the show only aired for three seasons on NBC, the USA Network aired reruns through the rest of the decade.
Starring Hollywood screen legend Charlton Heston, this "Dynasty" spin-off only lasted two seasons.
In addition to Charlton Heston, "The Colbys" featured a smattering of well-known movie stars, including Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalban. John Forsythe, who played Blake Carrington on "Dynasty," made several guest appearances on the show.
During its nine-season run, this romantic drama featured scores of celebrity guest stars.
Each week, "The Love Boat" featured new characters looking for love on the "S.S. Pacific Princess" cruise ship. Some notable guest stars who hopped on board include Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Jackson, Tom Hanks, Joan Rivers, Gene Kelly, Andy Warhol and a 10-year-old Tori Spelling.
The theme song for this short-lived '80s comedy/drama became a pop hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981.
"Theme from The Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)" was composed by Mike Post and sung by Joey Scarbury. The show, which ran for three seasons on ABC, followed the adventures of a high school teacher as he learned to use the super-human powers given to him by a (rather ugly) suit.
This primetime CBS soap followed two wealthy California families in the wine business.
Set in the fictitious Tuscany Valley, which was modeled after Napa Valley, "Falcon Crest" starred veteran actress Jane Wyman as Angela Channing, the domineering owner of Falcon Crest Winery.
While this show debuted in 1977, it aired through 1984 and became an '80s TV staple.
Like "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island" featured a slew of well-known guest stars, including Eva Gabor, Linda Blair, Sammy Davis Jr., Loretta Lynn and Susan Lucci. A revival of the show, starring Malcolm McDowell, aired for one season in 1998.
This drama was the third spin-off of the popular sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Even though it spun-off of a popular sitcom, "Lou Grant" was a nonsense drama. Ed Asner, who played the title role, made Emmy history by becoming the first actor to win awards for both "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series" and "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series" for portraying the same character.
Andy Griffith starred in this popular '80s legal drama that's still shown around the world in syndication.
"Matlock" originally aired from 1986 to 1992 on NBC and from 1992 to 1995 on ABC. Griffith played the cantankerous criminal-defense attorney Ben Matlock, who had a knack for coaxing confessions out of guilty parties in dramatic courtroom fashion.
The title character of this popular '80s crime drama was known for wearing colorful Hawaiian shirts.
"Magnum, P.I." ran for eight seasons on CBS, from 1980 to 1988. One of the most popular shows of the decade, it made Tom Selleck a household name. A reboot of the series began airing on CBS in 2018.
This action-packed crime drama was based on a series of popular detective novels.
"Spenser: For Hire" was based on the "Spenser" series of crime novels written by Robert B. Parker. Starring Robert Urich, the popular but short-lived show aired from 1985 until 1988.
British actor Edward Woodward starred in this crime show about a mysterious former intelligence agent helping people in need.
"The Equalizer," which ran from 1985 to 1985 on CBS, was made into a feature film in 2014. Starring Denzel Washington, the movie was a hit and spawned a sequel four years later. There are rumors that a third film is currently in the works.
A post-"Charlie's Angels" Kate Jackson played a housewife-turned-detective in this '80s series.
Also starring Bruce Boxleitner, this popular show was one of the many crime dramas of the '80s to feature a pair of mismatched detectives solving crimes and (eventually) falling in love.
Undercover agent Vincent "Vinnie" Terranova was the focus of this crime drama that aired for four seasons on CBS.
Actor Ken Wahl, who played Vinnie, left the show at the end of the third season due to a dispute with CBS. The series went on for another year with a new main character, but ratings dropped without its original lead and the show was canceled.
About HowStuffWorks Play
How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!