Think you know 1980s TV? Think again

Whatever happened to predictability? If that question has you thinking, then you probably know your Urkels from your Balkis. You are probably one of those people who argues whether Erin Gray was better in Buck Rogers or Silver Spoons and you can say definitively which one is Michael J. Fox, which is Jason Bateman, and which is Kirk Cameron. You’re an 80’s fan, and you think you’ve got the television landscape memorized. Well, maybe you don’t know everything you think you do.

It will take you close to half an hour to watch this video, and if you’re like me, you’ll be slightly dizzy afterwards. Why? Because as one commenter put it, it’s like an alternate universe. Believe it or not (another 80s TV theme show reference) all these shows aired in the 1980s and I’d be willing to bet you’ve heard of two of them, at most.

We all remember the Cosby and LA Law part of the 1980s, but we tend to forget that about 3/4 of the new shows that premiered back then were canceled within one season. That part hasn’t changed, actually.

These intros offer a glimpse of what might have been. They promise laughs, tears, and adventure. In some cases you’ll see familiar names. Scott Grimes, currently on The Orville, is a troublemaking teen in one show. Cloris Leachman, known best from Mary Tyler Moore, headlines another. You may remember Jeffrey Tambor from It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (Hey now….) or from his recent turns on Transparent and Arrested Development.But here in the 1980s he’s a mustachioed TV producer.

Why did these shows fail?

Honestly my guess is that some of them just weren’t that good. Some of them were dumb concepts. Someone at the network bought them, for whatever reason. Maybe some were produced because an actor forced his hand. I have a feeling that the show with Bob Conrad and his two sons fighting crime falls into that category.

Others might have had a bad time slot. Woe be to the show that found itself on Thursday night, unless it was on NBC. All those shows on ABC, CBS, and the nascent Fox network disappeared without a trace.

The names you never remember

I guess the saddest thing for me is the parade of names you don’t remember. I’m willing to bet that for many of these people this was the pinnacle of their career. They were on a show that lasted 6 episodes, back in 1986. They’ve probably been talking about it to their friends for 30 years. I hope these folks ended up with great, fulfilling lives. My guess is, some didn’t.

So sit back and watch and leave a comment below. Do you honestly remember any of these? For me it was Blacke’s Magic (I don’t know why) and Dynasty II: The Colbys. The rest are just entertaining looks at the past that didn’t happen.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.