Can You Recognize All These ’80s Drama Shows?

By: Jane Andrews

"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.

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.

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.

"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 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.

"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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

"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 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 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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

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.

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.

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About This Quiz

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!

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