Sitcoms, which some predicted were dead after the heyday of "M_A_S*H," "Taxi," and "Barney Miller," made a sudden and strong resurgence in the '80s with family series such as "The Cosby Show" leading the way. This continued into the '90s with a combination of wholesome family shows, biting and satiric workplace sitcoms and subversive animated cartoons. Sitcoms during these years ventured into science fiction and thrived on absurdism.
Some of the biggest names in sitcoms during the '80s and '90s centered around families. "The Cosby Show" from 1984 to 1992, follows the antics of the Huxtables, Cliff, Claire and their five children. On "Family Matters," during its nine year run from 1989 to 1998, police officer Carl Winslow lives with his wife, mom, sister-in-law, kids and a next-door neighbor kid who is always over. In "Full House" during the late '80s and early '90s, sportscaster Danny Tanner gets help from his brother-in-law and standup comic friend to raise his three daughters after his wife dies. In "Growing Pains" from 1985 to 1992, a psychiatrist takes his practice into his home so he can raise the children while his wife returns to work. The 1987 to 1997 satiric comedy "Married ... With Children" is about the Bundys, a family that is as cruel as the Cosbys were loving. Other sitcoms in this genre include "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Home Improvement," "The Nanny," "Roseanne," "Sister Sister," "Who's the Boss?" "Punky Brewster," "Kate and Allie," "Webster" and "Mr. Belvedere."'
The '80s and '90s saw the rise of school-centered sitcoms. "Saved by the Bell" started in 1989 and lasted through 1993. The action takes place at Bayside High and focuses on six teenagers. "Boy Meets World" in 1993 through 2000, follows Cory Matthews from sixth grade through his college years. "Sweet Valley High," which premiered in 1994 and lasted until 1997, was inspired by the novel series of the same name. Niece to wacky witch aunts, Sabrina Spellman in "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," which ran from 1996 to 2003, is a high school student learning to use her magical powers. In the 1986 "Head of the Class," which ended in 1991, teacher Charlie Moore tries to guide a group of gifted students in an honors program. In "Facts of Life," starting in 1979 and running through 1988, the setting is a private boarding school for young women who are mentored by Mrs. Garrett. "Square Pegs," 1982 through 1983, had a short but memorable run with two misfits trying to join the "in" crowd.
Science Fiction and Animated
The '80s and '90s specialized in the weird and sitcoms were no exception. Even animated shows made it to the level of prime-time sitcoms. "Mork and Mindy," from 1978 to 1982, featured Robin Williams as an alien trying to make sense of Earth culture. In "My Secret Identity," beginning in 1988 and lasting until 1991, a teenager is exposed to radiation and gains superpowers. "Alf," in 1986 through 1990, chronicles the adventures of an alien life form adopted by a family after he crash lands in their garage. In "3rd Rock from the Sun," in 1996 through 2001, aliens lead an expedition to Earth. "The Simpsons," an animated adult sitcom that is still running, got its start in 1989, based on characters in a Matt Groening comic strip. The immature, sexist duo of "Beavis and Butthead" fronted an animated sitcom that first ran from 1993 through 1998 and was later resurrected in 2011.
Adult Workplace Comedies
Not all sitcoms centered on kids and families. "Seinfeld," starting in 1989 and lasting through 1998, was one of the biggest hits of the era and featured four single friends living in New York. Comedian Drew Carey is a department store employee in "The Drew Carey Show," during 1995 through 2004. "The Golden Girls," began its run in 1985 and lasted until 1992, featuring four older women; it became one of only three shows in sitcom history for which each one of the four stars received an Emmy Award. "Cheers," a 1982 through 1993 sitcom, was the Boston bar where everybody knew your name. A 1993 spin-off of the show followed the story of "Frasier," a psychologist who moves to Seattle. The sitcom ended its run in 2004.. "Newhart" in 1982 through 1990, had two New Yorkers running a small-town Vermont inn. "Friends" started in 1994 and lasted until 2004, had six men and women sharing space and life in a New York apartment complex. "Ellen," a 1994 through 1998 sitcom, followed the antics of a neurotic bookstore owner. In 1986, "Designing Women" lasted through 1993, took place in an Atlanta design firm and was the showcase for social and political humor. Hayden Fox coaches a "Big Ten" football team in "Coach" from 1989 to 1997. Others in the genre include "Mr. Bean," "In the House," "Alice," "Perfect Strangers," "Bosom Buddies," "Amen," "Taxi," "Benson," "WKRP in Cincinnati," "It's Garry Shandling's Show," "Laverne and Shirley," "Night Court" and "Three's Company."
As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.