6 '80s TV Shows That Would Never Be Made Today
Plenty of great television came out of this decade—not including these offensive series.
The '80s are viewed now as a great time period for TV and the heyday of the sitcom—the era when Cheers, Seinfeld, The Cosby Show, and The Golden Girls all premiered. However, for every breakout success story of the decade, there were multiple flops, with some truly bizarre (and occasionally offensive) ideas being greenlit in a rush for the next hit. Even if they did find an audience, there are some hit '80s series that haven't aged well at all. Between changing social mores, different tastes, and evolving views, it's impossible to imagine the following six '80s TV shows getting made in 2023.
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One of the Boys
The cast of the one-season sitcom One of the Boys was a who's who of emerging talent, including Dana Carvey, Nathan Lane, and Meg Ryan and headed by the Mickey Rooney in his golden years. But this was no Golden Girls for men, but an ill-conceived teen comedy in which grandpa (Rooney) leaves the old folks' home to live with his college-age grandson (Carvey) on campus. From the inappropriate remarks Rooney makes about women to the teen girls who suddenly swoon over an 83-year-old singing '30s vaudeville standards, this show is a Greatest Generation male fantasy that was dated before it debuted in 1982 and has only aged worse as the years have passed.
Married… with Children
Though it was a huge hit, 1987's Married… with Children was controversial even when it was on TV. A particularly raunchy Season 3 episode inspired one viewer to start a boycott over the show's sexual content and the presence of LGBTQ+ characters. Lots of its detractors weren't wrong about the show being offensive—they were just offended by the wrong things.
Married… with Children was conceived as the less wholesome answer to feel-good, middle-class family sitcoms and exploited the ugliest working-class stereotypes. Al (Ed O'Neill) was a drunken, lazy bum; his wife and daughter (Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate) were sex objects; and his teenage son (David Faustino) was a vapid jerk. The series, which ran for 10 years, also made frequent use of sexist and homophobic jokes. Surprisingly, an animated reboot with the original cast is reportedly being developed, but it seems all but a sure thing that the humor will have to be brought into the 21st century.
Seinfeld wasn't the only "day in the life of a comedian" show about nothing to come out of the '80s. One of its forerunners was a.k.a. Pablo, starring stand-up comedian Paul Rodriguez as Paul Rivera. Produced by the prolific Norman Lear, it was an early attempt at generating more network diversity, centered around Rivera's large Mexican American family. Future Saved by the Bell star Mario Lopez may have gotten his start on the show; but it didn't last very long, as the ugly stereotyping and downright racist and sexist caricatures meant to appeal to a white audience wound up making a.k.a. Pablo a show that appealed to nobody. It only ran for six episodes in 1984.
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Almost everyone's heard of Bosom Buddies, the two-season sitcom that kicked off Tom Hanks' career in 1980. But the concept of the series—two straight, cis, white dudes (Hanks, Peter Scolari) who dress as women to qualify for a cheaper apartment in an all-female building—would never fly in 2023. Beyond the LGBTQ+ issues and how women are viewed and talked about by the characters, there's the cishet white male privilege inherent in the show's premise. On top of that, the sitcom wrings laughs out the dated concept of an "all-female apartment building," where strict Christian spinsters impose strict curfews, teetotaling, and abstinence on its residents.
To quote The Princess Bride star Cary Elwes, who never wants to see the 1987 film be remade, "There's a shortage of perfect movies in this world. It would be a pity to damage this one." Unfortunately, in 1983, someone tried to recapture the magic of the 1942 film Casablanca with a prequel TV series that only saw the light of day for five episodes. Starring David Soul as Rick and Héctor Elizondo as Louis, the show isn't technically offensive, except to anyone who ever loved the Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman classic. But there's no way a production studio would make it today, because the horrified outcry from the internet would be enough to kill the idea.
She's the Sheriff
You will never find a more wretched hive of sexist stereotypes than the 1986 Suzanne Somers comeback vehicle, She's the Sheriff. The series tried to sell an air of progressiveness, because it featured a woman as the lead and in a traditionally "male" profession. But everything about this series, from the Three's Company star's character being utterly unqualified for the job she inherits from her dead husband to her ditzy blonde persona, is drawn from the reactionary anti-feminist movement of the Reagan era in which it debuted.