Top Television Stars of the 80s

The 1980s was a golden era for television, giving rise to some of the most iconic and beloved stars of all time. These television actors not only entertained audiences but also left an indelible mark on pop culture. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane and celebrate the top television stars of the 80s. From action heroes to comedic geniuses, these actors became household names and continue to hold a special place in the hearts of their fans.

1. Tom Selleck: The Magnum P.I. Heartthrob

In the 1980s, Tom Selleck was the epitome of suave and charm as Thomas Magnum in the hit series “Magnum, P.I.” The show followed the adventures of a private investigator in Hawaii and became a cultural phenomenon. Selleck’s iconic mustache and charismatic portrayal of Magnum made him an instant heartthrob and a household name.

2. Shelly Long: The Cheers Star

“Cheers” was one of the most beloved sitcoms of the 80s, and Shelly Long played a pivotal role in its success. As Diane Chambers, the intelligent and sometimes eccentric waitress, Long’s comedic timing and chemistry with the rest of the cast made her a standout star of the show.

3. Richard Dean Anderson: The MacGyver Mastermind

Who can forget the resourceful secret agent Angus MacGyver? Richard Dean Anderson brought this ingenious character to life in the action-adventure series “MacGyver.” Armed with just a Swiss Army knife and his wits, MacGyver could solve any problem, captivating audiences week after week.

4. David Hasselhoff: The Knight Rider Icon

As Michael Knight in “Knight Rider,” David Hasselhoff took audiences on thrilling adventures alongside his talking car, KITT. The show’s blend of action, technology, and Hasselhoff’s charm made it a massive hit and cemented his status as an 80s television star.

5. Kristie Alley: The Cheers Successor

When Shelly Long left “Cheers,” Kristie Alley stepped in as Rebecca Howe, the ambitious and strong-willed manager of the bar. Alley’s portrayal earned critical acclaim and brought a fresh dynamic to the show, helping it maintain its popularity throughout the 80s.

6. William Katt: The Greatest American Hero

In “The Greatest American Hero,” William Katt played the role of an ordinary schoolteacher who receives a super-powered suit from extraterrestrial beings. Balancing his newfound abilities with the responsibilities of being a hero, Katt’s portrayal was endearing and relatable.

7. Mr. T: The A-Team Tough Guy

Known for his distinctive mohawk and gold chains, Mr. T played Sergeant Bosco “B.A.” Baracus in “The A-Team.” His tough-guy persona and catchphrases like “I pity the fool!” made him an iconic character and a beloved television star of the 80s.

8. Phylicia Rashad: The Cosby Show Matriarch

As Clair Huxtable in “The Cosby Show,” Phylicia Rashad portrayed the loving and strong-willed matriarch of the Huxtable family. Her character’s wisdom and humor made her a role model for many and contributed to the show’s immense success.

9. Don Johnson: The Miami Vice Heartthrob

“Don Johnson” was Detective Sonny Crockett in the stylish crime drama “Miami Vice.” Johnson’s fashion-forward wardrobe and brooding charm made him a heartthrob of the 80s, and the show itself became a cultural touchstone of the decade.

10. Bruce Willis: The Moonlighting Star

Before becoming an action movie legend, Bruce Willis gained fame as David Addison in “Moonlighting.” The show was a perfect blend of romance, comedy, and detective work, showcasing Willis’s talent for both drama and humor.

11. Pierce Brosnan: The Remington Steele Sleuth

Long before donning the famous James Bond tuxedo, Pierce Brosnan starred as Remington Steele in the eponymous detective series. His suave and charismatic performance earned him a dedicated fanbase and paved the way for his future stardom.

12. Harry Hamlin: The L.A. Law Leading Man

In the legal drama “L.A. Law,” Harry Hamlin portrayed Michael Kuzak, a principled and brilliant attorney. Hamlin’s performance earned him critical acclaim, and his character became a central figure in the show’s success.

13. Scott Bakula: The Quantum Leap Adventurer

In “Quantum Leap,” Scott Bakula played Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who leaps through time, inhabiting the bodies of different people. Bakula’s emotional range and chemistry with his holographic companion, Al, made the show a fan-favorite of the 80s.

14. Corbin Bernsen: The L.A. Law Charmer

Corbin Bernsen played Arnie Becker, a charismatic and morally ambiguous attorney in “L.A. Law.” His portrayal of Becker’s complex personality earned him multiple award nominations and showcased his versatility as an actor.

15. Ken Olin: The Thirtysomething Sensation

“Thirtysomething” was a groundbreaking drama that delved into the lives of a group of friends navigating adulthood. Ken Olin’s portrayal of Michael Steadman resonated with audiences, making him a relatable figure for the show’s target demographic.

16. Lorenzo Lamas: The Renegade Biker

As Reno Raines in “Renegade,” Lorenzo Lamas played a former police officer turned vigilante biker. The action-packed series showcased Lamas’s rugged charm and made him a familiar face on 80s television.

17. Adrian Zmed: The T.J. Hooker Partner

In the police drama “T.J. Hooker,” Adrian Zmed played Officer Vince Romano, the young and eager partner of William Shatner’s titular character. Zmed’s energy and chemistry with Shatner added depth to the show’s dynamic.

18. Joe Penny: The Riptide Detective

As Nick Ryder in “Riptide,” Joe Penny portrayed a charming and resourceful detective solving crimes in Los Angeles. The show’s blend of mystery, action, and humor made it a hit, and Penny’s performance was a key part of its success.


The 1980s were undeniably a golden age for television, and these top television stars left an indelible mark on the era. From action heroes and detectives to comedians and family figures, these actors entertained audiences and became beloved icons of their time. Their shows may have aired decades ago, but their impact continues to resonate with viewers today.

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Adam Regan
Adam Regan
Deputy Editor

Features and account management. 3 years media experience. Previously covered features for online and print editions.


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