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On the Set: 'Ugly Betty'
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Reality Blurred

Best TV Shows Ever

Best '80s TV Shows

The Best TV Shows of the 80s

    It may have been the Me Decade, but in TV land, the sisters were doin' it for themselves and finally getting respect as cops, war nurses and working moms; iconic shows like 'Hill Street Blues,' 'St. Elsewhere' and 'L.A. Law' would forever change (for the better) cop, medical and legal dramas; and no idea was too high concept to fill a primetime spot (time-travelling physicist? check; housewife-turned-CIA op? check; New York City beauty in love with a subterranean monster? check).

    The bottom line: They all add up to 10 years of fine channel surfing -- and our awesome list of the 40 best series of the 1980s. -- By Kimberly Potts

    20th Century Fox / Everett Collection / Everett Collection / Fotos International, Getty Images / Retna

    40. 'MacGyver'

    The resourcefulness of Richard Dean Anderson's secret agent is so iconic that 'MacGyver' has become a verb; the show sparked an ongoing series of 'MacGruber' spoofs on 'Saturday Night Live' (Anderson recently cameo-ed). MacGyver is also the heartthrob of choice for Marge's sibs on 'The Simpsons,' and the show is spawning a big-screen version ... just goes to show you how far a man and his Swiss Army knife can go.

    Related Links

    Everett Collection

    39. 'Bosom Buddies'

    Before he won two Oscars, Tom Hanks played two characters in this high-concept, often improvised sitcom. Hanks donned drag to turn his Kip into Buffy, who, with pal Henry/Hildegarde (Peter Scolari), landed a cheap room in an all-female NYC hotel. For a season, the fellas kept their scam on the down low from their comely neighbor Sonny (Donna Dixon), aided by their sassy ad agency co-worker Amy (Wendie Jo Sperber).

    Related Links

    Everett Collection

    38. '21 Jump Street'

    One of the first hits for the Fox network, 'Jump' wooed a young audience with the adventures of young Los Angeles police officers who went undercover at high schools to help bust young perps. Tackling topics like alcoholism, drug abuse and AIDS, the drama often ended episodes with its stars making a related public service announcement. Oh yeah, and 'Jump Street' gave us Johnny Depp ... 'nuff said.

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    Fox / Everett Collection

    37. 'Matlock'

    It was your grandfather's legal drama, but even younger demos could embrace crabby Southern attorney Ben Matlock (surprisingly Emmy-less TV legend Andy Griffith), the cheap, hot dog-lovin' legal eagle who won acquittal for nearly every client. On two homes -- NBC and later ABC -- Matlock famously saved his own clients by ferreting out the real culprits, usually in dramatic courtroom showdowns.

    Related Links

    Everett Collection

    36. '227'

    'The Jeffersons' resident scene stealer as wisecrackin' maid Florence, Marla Gibbs took her sassy character and toned it down ever-so-slightly as apartment-dwelling Washington, D.C., housewife Mary Jenkins, who liked to hang on the stoop and dish with pals Rose and Pearl. The most frequent subject of their gossip: sashaying mantrap Sandra, played by '227''s own resident scene stealer, Jackee.

    Related Links

    Embassy Pictures/Fotos International, Getty Images

    35. 'Scarecrow and Mrs. King'

    The chemistry between stars Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner made this unlikely drama work -- she was divorced mom Amanda King, who accidentally became a secret agent during a mission that he, spy guy Lee 'Scarecrow' Stetson, led. They bantered, and her worldviews often clashed with his government ops, but they fell in love along the way and eventually married during their four-season run.

    Related Links

    Fotos International, Getty Images

    34. 'Square Pegs'

    Before she was queen of NYC nightlife, Sarah Jessica Parker was queen of the teen geeks as Patty, who, with BFF Lauren (Amy Linker), desperately and hilariously tried to "click with the right clique" at Weemawee High. She also had to deal with uber-preppy Muffy (Jami Gertz) but thankfully had a killer soundtrack for her teen meltdowns, including a Devo guest appearance and the Waitresses' catchy theme song.

    Related Links

    Everett Collection

    33. 'Trapper John, M.D.'

    It was 'M*A*S*H*''s Trapper John McIntyre (Pernell Roberts) all grown up and working as the lovable chief of surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. Among his cohorts: "Jackpot" Jackson (Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell), sassy Nurse Shoop (Madge Sinclair) and Dr. Gonzo Gates (Gregory Harrison), the heartthrob mentee who was reminiscent of young Trapper and who lived in a trailer in the hospital parking lot.

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    32. 'Kate & Allie'

    Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin put an '80s spin on the 'Brady Bunch'-ish blended family -- their titular characters shared an NYC apartment, with their precocious children, after their divorces. The show was one of the first to not only portray divorcees as strong, independent women, but also as women not so embittered that they'd forgo the idea or remarrying, as Allie did before series' end.

    Related Links

    CBS Photo Archive, Getty Images

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