Can You Identify All These ’80s TV Shows From a Single Frame?


By: Lauren Lubas

6 Min Quiz

Image: CBS

About This Quiz

When it comes to '80s nostalgia, we often think about the different toys that we had as children, the movies we saw in theaters and the music that defined our generation. But why is it that we so rarely think about the television shows that shaped the decade? After all, they were some of the most memorable shows available. 

While we weren't able to binge watch them back then, we set our clocks to huddle in front of the television set at the same time every week. We needed to know what happened to our favorite characters and the only way to do that was to be at a certain place at a specific time. There was no way around it. Though we can find episodes of these amazing shows on the Internet these days, back then, it was all about scheduling. If we were lucky enough to have someone tape the show on their VCR, we might have been able to see it and skip the commercials but that was rare. 

Let's face it, television in the '80s was nothing like it is now, and that means it had to be more memorable. Can you remember your favorite shows from that decade? Take this quiz to find out if you can identify them all!

Can you identify this show set in a bar in Boston?

"Cheers" (1982-1993) was about a former baseball player turned bar owner in Boston. He loved his town and his regulars. When strangers came in, they were usually mean people. However, everyone really watched the show to see the back and forth between Sam and his various romantic conquests.


Do you remember this show that was based on science?

While most action shows of the '80s were about detectives, "Quantum Leap" (1989-1993) broke the mold and made a scientist its hero. He was bold and wonderful, and he saved people without them even knowing it.


Do you remember this cartoon based on a comic strip?

What better way to show the incredible success of a comic strip about a cat who loves eating lasagna than to create a Saturday morning cartoon about it? That's how we got "Garfield and Friends" (1988-1994).


What is the name of this show about a group of veterans?

In the 1980s, there were many great shows that touched on the Vietnam War. "The A-Team" (1983-1987) was a show in which ex-special forces members were accused of a crime, so they drove around in a van helping others. It made sense back then; we swear it did.


What is the name of this detective show starring Tom Selleck?

While many women watched "Magnum P.I." (1980-1988) for the cool, laid back detective that Tom Selleck played (Thomas Magnum), it was also a great crime drama set in Hawaii that involved excellent clothing and awesome cars.


What is the name of this cartoon that debuted in 1983?

"Alvin and the Chipmunks" is still airing today ... and not only in syndication. This series, featuring adolescent chipmunks singing songs in fast-forward, has been a hit for nearly three generations.


Can you name this drama series that starred Angela Lansbury?

Angela Lansbury played a middle-aged widow in "Murder, She Wrote" (1984-1996). In the show, she solved crimes, then wrote about them ... and there were a lot of murders in her small town. It was a goofy premise but a very successful series.


Which family show offended many rich people?

"Married... With Children" (1987-1997) gave the average American viewer exactly what they wanted: a family that was like theirs. It showed the Bundys as a poor family whose members fought with each other and for each other.


Can you name this family series about adopted kids?

Racial tension was still high in the 1980s, so a show like "Diff'rent Strokes" (1978-1986) wasn't thought to be popular. However, the comedy series really changed the way people started looking at the family dynamic.


Do you remember what this show about female police officers was called?

With all of the detective shows that aired in the 1980s, it was only a matter of time before one starred two strong women. "Cagney & Lacey" (1981-1989) was that show. These two intelligent women solved crimes and took on the social norms of their time.


What is the name of this TV show about a ship?

If you don't remember any scenes from the show, you might remember the opening credits. This song is probably already stuck in your head, and we don't have to write a single lyric. You're welcome.


What is this show that starred Bruce Willis?

"Moonlighting" was a show that began airing in 1985. It was yet another detective show of the 1980s. While the show had some grit to it, it was more about the snarky lead characters and their interesting love affair than it was about solving crimes.


Which show involved a man who had to create stuff to get out of sticky situations?

"MacGyver" (1985-1992) was a show about an agent who could pretty much do anything. Need a car? All MacGyver really needs is a ballpoint pen and three wheels. It was over the top, but it was exciting for audiences of the time.


Do you remember this show about some good old boys and an awesome car?

Bo and Luke Duke (yes, that was the character's real name) often find themselves narrowly escaping the long arm of the law. How do they do it? Their awesome car, of course.


What is the name of this detective show starring Pierce Brosnan?

As the women's rights movement came to an end, many found themselves with the same problem: they weren't taken seriously. The answer to that was to make a detective show that shows a woman making up a fictitious character to become a respected private investigator. This show wouldn't have made it for modern audiences.


What was this show about little blue creatures?

"The Smurfs" (1981-1989) was about little creatures that lived in mushrooms and replaced very common words with the word "smurf," because ... well, there really wasn't a reason they didn't like English.


Can you identify this children's cartoon that was based off a toy?

"He Man & Masters of the Universe" (1983-1985) was all about how young boys could take back the power in their lives. All they had to do was become an incredibly muscular god figure and wield a sword.


This family was all about moving up. What show were they on?

Though "The Jeffersons" first aired in 1975, the sitcom had a long life and ended in 1985. This "All in the Family" spinoff was all about how the African-American community could live better lives. Yes, in the not so distant past, people needed to be reminded of this.​


What is the name of this throwback show?

While we now crave shows about the 1980s, in the 1980s, people craved shows about growing up in the 1960s. "The Wonder Years" gave the older generation a taste of nostalgia while it helped the younger generation feel more normal about the changes the were going through.


Can you name this show which completely denied the intelligence of the hero's daughter?

"Inspector Gadget" (1982-1986) followed an accident-prone detective around while his daughter and her dog solved crimes and saved his life over and over again. Yet, no one seemed to remember Penny and the great things she did.


Do you remember this show with a talking car?

"Knight Rider" (1982-1986) starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight ... a man who was shot in the face and ended up with a car named KITT. It was intense drama and action for a television show back then.


What is the name of this show that eventually spawned movies?

Any child of the '80s will tell you that they wanted nothing more than to have a playhouse that mirrored Pee-wee's. This playhouse had talking fish, a talking chair and talking everything. It even had Laurenc​e Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis.


Can you identify this children's show about a space family?

"The Jetsons" first aired in 1962, but its popularity in the 1980s was unparalleled. The show lived through some fierce competition in its Saturday morning time slot and was eventually canceled​ in 1987.


Do you remember this dark crime drama with brightly colored outfits?

"Miami Vice" aired between 1984 and 1990, spawned an interesting movie and an attempt at a reboot. It was about two well-dressed detectives in Miami and focused on the cocaine situation in that city in the 1980s.


This show was about a Hollywood stuntman. Can you identify it?

What better way to capture audiences than to have a Hollywood stuntman turn into a bounty hunter? Alright, he wasn't really a bounty hunter, he just stopped people from running from their court dates.


What is the name of this '80s sitcom with a character named Bull?

While the crime dramas of the '80s took over the airwaves, a hilarious sitcom decided to break that mold. Not only did "Night Court" (1984-1992) give us a little bit of drama, it also gave us a lot of laughs and fun characters.


What is the name of this show about two families?

"Dynasty" (1981-1989) showed the average American viewer what it was like to live in high society. The Carrington​s and Colbys were two families that interacted with each other in some fabulous ways while wearing some fabulous shoulder pads.


What is the name of this sitcom that had the Sugarbaker women?

"Designing Women" (1986-1993) starred Delta Burke and Dixie Carter as quick-witted sisters with sharp tongues. While the concept of strong women was nothing new at the time, this show really put it over the top.


Can you name this TV show about cops on motorcycles?

"CHiPs" (1977-1983) was about two motorcycle officers working for the California Highway Patrol. Ponch and Baker don't just give tickets; they solve major crimes from the back of their bikes.


Can you identify this family sitcom about a robot?

"Small Wonder (1985-1989) followed a young family of intelligent people. They worked hard to hide the fact that their daughter was a robot, but Vicki always made it a fun time.


Do you remember this show about young detectives, starring Johnny Depp?

The 1980s were the time when the war on drugs was really trying to make a name for itself, so why not make a show about young cops who pose as teens? It would sure help scare those high schoolers who are into the heavy stuff.


Can you identify this gritty crime drama?

Of all of the crime dramas to come after it, only "The Shield" (2002-2008) may have come close to the realism of "Hill Street Blues" (1981-1987), but "The Shield" had a little more to work with, being on basic cable and all. "Hill Street Blues" was such an intense show, that most parents didn't allow their children to watch it.


What is the name of this family with a male housekeeper?

Even though he was a male housekeeper, Tony had a lot to learn about sexism and social norms. "Who's the Boss?" (1984-1992) taught everyone important lessons on what it means to destroy the social dynamics people think are right.


What is the name of this Jim Henson show?

"Fraggle Rock" (1983-1987) was created by the fabulous imagination of Jim Henson. These little creatures loved to sing and dance, and they were prone to asking a pile of garbage for advice. It may have been an environmental commentary.


Can you name this medical drama?

Before "E.R." (1994-2009), there was another gritty hospital show that made waves. "St. Elsewhere" (1982-1988) was full of drama and dark humor that kept audiences captivated for six seasons.


What is the name of this show about two brothers who are San Diego detectives?

"Simon & Simon" was yet another detective show that debuted in the 1980s. It featured two brothers (one with street smarts, the other with book smarts), both with terrible hair cuts, solving crimes on the dangerous streets of San Diego.


What is the name of this short-lived show about cross dressing?

"Bosom Buddies" (1980-1982) was about two young men who worked for an advertising company in New York. They find a place to live, but it is for women only ... yes, we now understand why the show only lasted two years.


Can you identify this classic children's show that ended in 1984?

Most people remember Captain Kangaroo for his signature terrible haircut, but his show lasted nearly 30 years. He was a man who loved children and his show included guest stars from across America.


What is the name of this show with a geeky star?

While "Family Matters" is often thought of as a 1990s show, few people actually realize that it began in 1989. When the show first aired, show runners didn't realize what they had in the Urkel character.


Can you name this family sitcom?

"The Facts of Life" (1979-88) was about a few spoiled girls who lived in a home with a caretaker (housemother) named Mrs. Garrett. With the different personalities flowing, of course, some hilarity ensued.


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