The Most Unrealistic US Sitcom Premises Of The ’80s

US TV Shows From The 1980’s

Whilst the Brit’s were doing satire in comedy and sit-coms, the US plotlines were even more unbelievable.

The 1980s is the decade known as the Excellence Eighties for the rise of conservatism, free market economics, and socioeconomic changes from advances in technology. As transformations in technology made cable television more accessible for American households, the activity of watching TV surged in popularity and became America’s favorite pastime. By the mid ’80s, 70% of Americans had cable television in their home and over 85% were paying for cable services including HBO and Showtime.

The television sitcoms that aired during the ’80s significantly propelled the surge in the popularity of Americans watching more television with the most far-fetched premises. Cable television was phased out with DirecTV and Dish Network services in the ’90’s, but the sitcoms featured during the ’80s have lasted throughout decades. From ALF, to Webster, and more, here are the most far-fetched sitcom premises of the ’80s that prove why the decade is the Excellence Eighties.

10 ALF

ALF is a television series about an alien, who follows an amateur radio signal to Earth, and crash-lands into the garage of a middle-class family. The sitcom aired on NBC from 1986 to 1990 and was canceled because the far-fetched premise provided limited options for writers to develop storylines from. Creator of ALF, Paul Fusco said, “It got tough to do stories where he could only interact with the five or six people he knew.”

9 ALF Production Difficulties

The strenuous technical production of ALF made it difficult to work with a puppet as the main character, and the cast despised being on set. In an interview with four of the main cast members, each admitted experiencing difficulty interacting with ALF on set and working with a hand-operated puppet. ALF ended with a cliffhanger finale, then a follow-up movie in 1996, and a reboot was announced in 2018, but was canceled before production began.

8 Small Wonder

Small Wonder is a comedy science-fiction sitcom about a robotics engineer who invents a robot resembling a human girl and posing as their adopted daughter. The series aired in first-run syndication from 1985 to 1989, and was a surprise hit among children, even reaching popularity on channels from different nations. Moreover, the immense popularity that reruns of Small Wonder acquired in some countries across the world required the show to be dubbed for different languages.

7 Small Wonder’s Far-fetched Premise

Small Wonder is regarded as “one of the worst sitcoms of all time” and “one of the worst TV shows of all time”. On the premise of Small Wonder, former cast member Marla Pennington Rowan said, “Oh, I thought it was strange, yeah. It was a kids’ comedy, and kind of science fiction.” Emily Schulman Webster agreed saying, “My dad was reading this script and saying, ‘This is going to happen! We’re gonna have robots.’”

6 Diff’rent Strokes

The premise of Diff’rent Strokes involved a far-fetched storyline concerning demeaning stereotypes of the time which would not be acceptable in society by today’s standards. Diff’rent Strokes is about two African-American brothers from Harlem, who are taken in by their deceased mother’s former employer, a wealthy white businessman living on Park Avenue. The television sitcom aired on NBC from 1978 to 1985, then on ABC from 1985 to 1986, followed by crossover episodes, spin-offs, and docudramas in the early 2000’s.

5 Curse Of Diff’rent Strokes

Diff’rent Strokes became known for “very special episodes”, which involved racism, illegal drug use, alcoholism, hitchhiking, kidnapping, and sexual abuse. After the cancelation of Diff’rent Strokes in 1986, the former cast all encountered difficulty obtaining work, experienced various legal problems, and struggled with drug addictions. As the press publicly exploited all of the casts’ discrepancies, various tabloids and fans of the series eventually dubbed it the “curse of Diff’rent Strokes“.

4 Webster

Webster is about a young African-American boy named Webster, who is adopted by his wealthy white godparents after his mother dies in a car accident. Webster was widely compared to Diff’rent Strokes, which also featured Gary Coleman as a disadvantaged Black boy adopted by a wealthy family after experiencing tragedy. The syndicated sitcom aired on ABC from 1983 to 1987, then in first-run syndication from 1987 to 1989, and was canceled after receiving low ratings.

3 Webster’s Far-Fetched Premise

The premise of Webster capitalizes on racial stereotypes by conveying far-fetched storylines involving unrealistic experiences of characters who depict demeaning societal norms and wealth statuses. The portrayal of Webster as a disadvantaged African-American boy, who experiences strenuous circumstances and requires help from wealthy individuals, inappropriately depicts racism and wealth accumulation. The premise also conveys racial stereotypes by insinuating that African-Americans can only acquire wealth with assistance from white people in roles similar to Webster’s godfather.

2 Married… With Children

Married… with Children involves the life of married couple Peg and Al Bundy, with their two children, and the striking contrasts from their newlywed neighbors. The premise of the sitcom mocks the nuclear family by encompassing patronizing stereotypes in the storylines of each main character, including patriarchy, misogyny, and homosexuality. The sitcom is considered the first raunchy sitcom on television and created controversy for its depiction of women and satirical portrayal of an average family.

1 Married… With Children’s Far-Fetched Premise

In 1989, a boycott was held after the episode “Her Cups Runneth Over” because of offensive images displayed in the show of a man crossdressing. Amanda Bearse from the show said, “It was a mean-spirited and misogynist show. It was just so completely inappropriate. Today I don’t think the show would be produced because it’s so globally offensive. Even then it wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea but for some reason it’s had this amazing longevity.”

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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