Burnt out on your Arrested Development DVDs (C’mon!) and dreading the end of LOST (though you still have no idea what’s going on)? Turn back the clock to a time of scrunched hair, neon color schemes, and eight bit arcades! Though its reputation for campiness is well deserved, there were some awesome shows gracing the major broadcast networks back in the 80’s. Here’s a guide for those of you inspired by Hot Tub Time Machine and want a blast from the past.
1. ALF: On its surface, it seems like a corny family sitcom about an uptight dad, a sassy mom, and a bizarrely attractive daughter. And then you throw in the wise cracking brown furry alien that looks like a smaller, upright version of Snuffleupagus. Game changer.
Though it lasted just four seasons (from 1986-1989) ALF was a smash hit, inspiring burger chain toys, lunchboxes, and t-shirts nationwide. With an insatiable appetite (especially for cats) and an elongated nose for trouble, ALF (short for Alien Life Form, though his real name was Gordon Shumway) packed a lot of badass in his three foot frame. He made rock videos, used a platinum bidet, insulted old women, and called President Reagan to tell him to get his head out of his ass when it came to nuclear proliferation.
And you know what? It worked. Reagan backed down. All hail ALF!
2. Fraggle Rock: In some ways, the childish step brother of the Muppet Show, the Rock was the vehicle for Jim Henson’s exploration of societal problems like racism, sexism, classism and environmentalism that used tiny, furry, pantless cave dwellers.
Henson must have been baked out of his mind when he came up with the concept for this one (and we say this about a guy who made a living from talking frogs, aliens, gigantic yellow birds, and diva pigs) because it is straight up whacked. It stars the Fraggles, who were the tiny, adventurous creatures who wore Hawaiian shirts and ate buildings created by industrious, six inch ant-like, construction helmet-wearing Doozers. All while stealing stealing radishes from 22-foot tall human farmers known as Grogs.
Sure beats the hell out of Dora the Explorer, no?
3. Golden Girls: It’s a senior citizen Sex and the City, but with hot women. Yeah, Betty White, we’re looking at you!
Seriously, you wish your grandma was this cool (or alive, period). From sassy, sardonic Bea Arthur (playing Dorothy “Pussycat” Zbornak) to sharp as a whip Estelle Getty (the hottest fake 90-year old this side of anyone… since no one else is a hot fake 90-year old), the Golden Girls gave the golden years an edge for seven seasons. After all, they dated in the 1980’s BV (Before Viagara), so you know they were legit.
There was lying, cheating, stories of Scandinavian fishermen, and Rose’s adoptive mother, whose last name was Gerkleknerbeigenhaufstetlerfrau. You’d never think story lines about pensions and grandchildren could actually be, well, funny, but the show was nominated for a whopping 65 Emmy’s, twice winning for Outstanding Comedy Series and earning all four lead actresses golden statues. Which is kind of awesome and kind of frightening.
The “Bundy Curse” hits Al hard, forcing him to marry a pregnant girlfriend and stealing away his promising college football career. He’s got terrible foot odor, terrible teeth, and a wife that spends his money on everything but cleaning supplies and food. His daughter is even dumber and his son sucks. Sounds horrifying in real life, but it’s pitch perfect on screen.
This show will either make you laugh your face off, or cry at the grim inevitabilities of life. Just don’t bang your vapid girlfriend with protection after watching, and you’ll be okay. Hey, it ran for 11 seasons (1987-1997) so at least something had to go right.
5. Murder She Wrote: Honestly, I can’t believe this was actually a successful show. It’s one of those things you’d watch as a kid and laugh nonstop at, because some old woman was sneaking around, banging keys on a typewriter, and putting murderers in their places. And because there were nonstop murders in Cabot Cove, (a small town in coastal Maine), a place where it’s usually lobsters that get sliced, not people.
But wow, there was a real 11-year period there where people were getting slaughtered left and right, probably because they had an incompetent police force accustomed to lobster thievery. Seriously, those guys just constantly arrested the wrong people. And like the villains in Scooby Doo, the murderers would have gotten away with it, too, had it not been for that sly fox Jessica Fletcher (babealicous Angela Lansbury), a murder-mystery writer who is so good at solving crimes that she gains admirers in the m-f’ing British spy agency. Along with four Golden Globes.
Okay, it’s pretty preposterous, but it’s also insanely hilarious and entertaining. Especially when you consider people took this seriously enough to nominate it three times for the Emmy for Best Dramatic Series.
6. Hill Street Blues: Before there were 30 different CSIs and a blueprint that made police work look like paint by numbers, there was Hill Street Blues. The originally gritty cop show, this took us into the rough streets of the inner city (though they never named the actual city) to take on drug dealers, gangs, corruption, and more. So it was a hit with the affluent audience, taking rich white people into the “other” places without actually having to ride a subway!
Add in exploration of the characters personal lives, and you’ve got the big brother of The Wire and NYPD Blue (in fact, it was produced by Steven Botcho, who later produced NYPD Blue).