Top 10 ABC Sitcoms of the 1980s

Categories: Film and TV

Tom Hanks in drag. You're welcome.
The second installment of the best sitcoms of the 1980s focuses on the American Broadcasting Company (you know it as ABC). Unlike NBC, ABC struggled with scattershot primetime comedy programming in the '80s after a massively successful batch of shows in the mid and late 1970s. In the '70s, ABC's theme song was "Still the One," echoing their No. 1 ratings in the latter part of the decade. Unfortunately, that all ended when NBC took hold of the ratings war soon after the start of the next decade.

Nevertheless, ABC produced some memorable sitcoms during that era including a couple of holdovers from their glory days and a couple of gems that spawned a new wave of genre comedies. They also managed to launch the careers of some extraordinary Hollywood stars. Here are the best ABC had to offer.

Note that to qualify for the list, shows had to have spent the bulk of their lifespan in the decade of the '80s, which disqualifies wildly popular shows like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Roseanne.

10. Too Close for Comfort (1980-1983)

Premise: Grumpy comic book artist tries to keep hot daughters away from dudes...and he has a gay neighbor.

Ted Knight was one of the most brilliant and underrated comedic actors of his generation. Whether he was the dimwitted Ted Baxter in The Mary Tyler Moore Show or the blustery Judge Smails in Caddyshack, Knight had serious comedy chops. Which is why it is a shame he was saddled with this turkey of a show in his waning years as an entertainer. Most of the show was spent trying to keep guys from pawing his daughters, who lived in the same building with Knight and his wife, or making thinly veiled gay jokes about his other neighbor, Monroe.

9. Perfect Strangers (1986-1993)

Premise: Quirky, naive immigrant moves in with bewildered cousin in San Francisco.

Throughout my life, I have been haunted by this show because my last name resembles the first name of Bronson Pinchot's character in this tepid sitcom (NOTE: they are NOT pronounced the same, so stop making jokes about Cousin Larry with me.) When Balki arrived in Chicago to live with his cousin Larry, who has just gained independence from his large, annoying family, you can imagine the results. At least Pinchot got to parlay that accent into a minor role on Beverly Hills Cop.

8. Benson (1979-1986)

Premise: Smart, sarcastic head of governor's mansion tries to keep crazy staff and family in check.

In this surprisingly long-running spinoff of the critically hailed '70s comedy Soap, Robert Guillaume tried to keep a scatterbrained governor, his daughter, the hyper sassy German cook and the governor's annoyingly erudite chief of staff in check. The best interactions were normally between Benson and Gretchen, the cook and a fellow Soap alum. In a rather odd twist of Hollywood fate, two of the cast, René Auberjonois and Ethan Phillips, became regulars on Star Trek spinoffs (Auberjonois as the shapeshifter Odo on Deep Space Nine and Phillips as Neelix on Voyager).

7. Growing Pains (1985-1992)

Premise: Mr. Mom as a shrink.

For years, Alan Thicke, a terrifically popular Canadian actor and talk show host, tried to find success on American television. After several failed attempts, he finally hit it with Growing Pains where he played a psychiatrist working out of the family's Long Island home. He suddenly found himself thrust into the role of house husband when his wife returns to the workforce. Of course, Thicke is probably best known now being a father to his real-life son, Robin Thicke, and his smash hit song "Blurred Lines."

6. Who's the Boss? (1984-1992)

Premise: Hunky former athlete (along with his soon-to-be hot daughter) takes job as a live-in housekeeper for uptight advertising exec.

Perhaps the strength of this family, feel-good comedy was in the casting. Tony Danza, fresh off his stint as a failed boxer on Taxi, took on another tough, good-natured athlete character. And I don't know if Judith Light is uptight in real life, but whether it was her character on Ugly Betty, her occasional guest role as a the hard ass judge on Law and Order: SVU or this spot where she plays a tense ad executive, she knows how to play uptight. Of course, the show also introduced the world to a very young Alyssa Milano, which might be its greatest accomplishment.

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johnnybench topcommenter

Now I really have now idea how to pronounce your last name.

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