Many of the most popular sitcoms in TV history came out in the 1970s and 1980s. These shows usually focused on family dynamics and how they interacted in an ever-changing world. These are some of the best family sitcoms from that era.
1. The Partridge Family (1970-1975)
Is anything more wholesome than a family starting a band and touring the country? The Partridges were just that. They were led by heartthrob David Cassidy as the oldest brother, Keith, alongside sister Susan Dey as Laurie Partridge. As middle child Danny, actor Danny Bonaduce always looked for a better deal. The show combined singing, dancing, comedy, and traditional family issues. It was an instant success on the screen and off when the cast went on to do live performances.
2. All in the Family (1971-1979)
This sitcom was as controversial as it was groundbreaking. The show centered around working-class man Archie Bunker and his wife, Edith. Archie wasn’t always politically correct, but he had a good heart. Themes such as racism and politics were discussed with satirical humor.
3. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)
A spin-off from All in the Family, this show follows the Jefferson family as they “move on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky.” The head of the family, George Jefferson, has a big mouth that gets him in trouble but is tempered by his sensible wife, Louise. The show focuses on their family as well as race relations, gun control, and disparity among social classes while maintaining traditional family values.
4. Good Times (1974-1979)
Another spin-off from All in the Family, this show is all about Florida and James Evans as they raise their three children in a housing project in inner-city Chicago. The show focuses on poverty, racism, and the powerful unity of family as the characters enjoy life despite daily difficulties.
5. M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
Not a sitcom with a traditional family, the show focuses on medics in the Korean War. It deals with life and death while living and working in a warzone. The cast resembles a family as they use humor to tackle the drama and issues of life as soldiers in a battle zone. It’s considered one of the greatest American TV shows.
6. Sanford and Son (1972-1978)
Laugh with grumpy Fred Sanford and his hilarious antics as he runs his shop alongside his cautious son Lamont Sanford. This father-son duo got in trouble but always had each other’s back. Sanford and Son was the first African-American sitcom to be a commercial success, which paved the way for other predominately black casts.
7. Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979)
Another sitcom that isn’t based around a traditional family is Welcome Back, Kotter. The show follows Mr. Kotter returning to his old high school to teach a group of misguided students known as the Sweathogs. Mr. Kotter becomes more than a teacher and a mentor to these wild, trouble-making kids as the Sweathogs become a classroom family. The show helped spark John Travolta’s career.
8. Family Ties (1982-1989)
Centered around a family in Ohio, the Keatons are a couple of ex-hippies trying to instill their liberal values into their three children. The problem is their eldest son is a Reagan-era conservative who questions their thinking. The show tackles different viewpoints with fun and humor. In the end, family proves to be the most important.
9. The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
The Huxtables were the darling of TV families during their run in the 80s. Bill Cosby leads them as Dr. Cliff Huxtable. He and his wife try to raise their kids to become hard-working, responsible young men and women. Of course, life happens, and Cosby handles the situation the only way he knows how — with humor. Arguably, one of this era’s most highly acclaimed shows, The Cosby Show, is still watchable decades later.
10. Diff’Rent Strokes (1978-1986)
Wealthy widower Philip Drummond adopts Brothers Arnold and Willis Jackson after their mother’s death. These three teach each other about social issues from their very different backgrounds. Family bonds are created despite their unique past in this sitcom that gave us one of the all-time famous catchphrases, “Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis?”
11. Growing Pains (1985-1992)
The Seavers were a close-knit family of the 80s dealing with life’s problems as they raised their four children. Alan Thicke plays the father role of Dr. Jason Seaver as he dispenses his wisdom on subjects as dark as drugs, alcohol, and even depression and suicide. The show centers around the kids’ loving family and support despite dealing with real-life issues.
12. One Day at a Time (1975-1984)
Groundbreaking for its time, the show was about a single mother trying to juggle her motherly duties and a career while living in a new apartment. Her two daughters navigate their new world and lean on their mother and the superintendent for life advice, the latter usually unwanted.
13. Mr. Belvedere (1985-1990)
A TV premise that could only be from the 1980s is when an upper-class English butler takes a job for a middle-class family in Pittsburgh. This seems random, but that was the plot. George is the dad, a sportswriter, and he and his three kids deal with life’s problems and take advice from the trusty butler, Mr. Belvedere. Much like other shows of the decade, the show discussed issues like drugs, racism, violence, and social standards. Mr. Belvedere was often the voice of reason in his newly adopted family.
14. Happy Days (1974-1984)
Happy Days followed the Cunningham family, primarily the eldest son Ritchie, as he grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Although it focuses on teenagers and their coming of age, it also shows how the Cunninghams raised their kids and accepted the cool guy, Fonzie, as one of their own. Fonzie was a breakout character and one of the most popular of that decade.
15. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
Probably the most iconic family sitcom in television history, this wholesome show follows the blended Brady family as they overcome the challenges of adolescence. Mike and Carol Brady and their maid, Alice, offer life lessons to the six children as they try to fit in with the world. In the end, this show is the standard for wholesome family entertainment.
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