Because television entered a new technological phase in the 1980s along with the emergence of cable networks, the number of 80s TV series rose to the point where TV guides became more profitable than newspapers. In the 80′s, television was a constant presence in the life of the average American adult, Sunday being the most popular day for watching television. The most popular types of 80s TV series were the mini-series and made-for-TV movies.
One of the most loved forms of TV shows in the 1980s were the primetime soap operas like Dallas and Dynasty. New 80s TV shows were added such as the sitcoms (The Cosby Show and Married… With Children) and the animated sitcoms (The Simpsons). Miami Vice and other crime dramas had a big impact on what could be seen on TV. Cable producers made shows for every social category: the yuppies found satisfaction in programs like Thirtysomething and women watched shows like Cagney & Lacey and Kate & Allie. African Americans could delight themselves by watching Cosby and A Different World or by staying up late for Arsenio Hall or Saturday Night Live with Eddie Murphy. The elder viewers had Matlock and The Golden Girls. 80s TV shows made way for David Letterman TV talk show host who changed the themes of discussion by making them more provocative. This can be easily understood if we think about the enormous pressure that TV producers had to face. They were required to bring new and interesting shows on display in order to catch the viewer’s attention and they also speculated different age sectors by producing TV shows for children and for teenagers.
The 80s TV theme changed from family oriented subjects to more dynamic and outrageous programs. Sensationalism began to take the place of quality programming. The use of street language, nudity and situations that appealed to the basic instinct of a human were all qualities of TV shows of the 80s. Cartoons in the 1980′s began to get more violent (Ninja Turtles). Comedies included famous shows like Dukes of Hazard, Mork and Mindy, Night Court, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show and Three’s Company. Television of the 80s had drastically changed from what people were used to in the 60s and 70s, but it was merely nothing in comparison to what the television of 2000 had brought. The difference between TV shows then and now is that obscenity, nudity, violence and sexual themes are basic components of programs in the present decade.
One popular 80s TV theme was the law. Miami Vice fueled the war on drugs in an age where TV programs tried to avoid everything that had to do with the real war, the Cold War. Cable producer brought everything from cartoons to actions shows, family comedies with a clever twist and dramas. MTV mesmerized teenagers by showing them music videos with special effects and plotlines. The 1980s also marked the beginning of reality TV with shows like America’s Most Wanted and The People’s Court and long lasting movie sagas like Star Trek and thousands-of-episodes-long series like The Bold and the Beautiful. Oprah will mark her debut in 1985 and over 105 million American will watch the final episode of MASH, one of the biggest successes of 80s TV series.