As a fan of classic television, and television in general, I am very much enjoying getting back into a different era of television. Some people may not be interest in television of a bygone era, but I very much am. There are shows from the ‘60s I love, let alone the ‘80s. Currently, I have arrived at 1980. Cable is barely a thing. The amount of new shows that I get to talk about are going to start dropping, but that means I will just be talking more in depth about other stuff.
First, I’m going to talk about the biggest thing to happen in television in 1980. This was the year of “Who Shot J.R.?” This was a massive cliffhanger that occurred in the third season finale of Dallas. The character of J.R. Ewing was shot, but nobody knew who did it. It was one of the biggest mysteries in TV to this point. People waited all summer for the show to return to answer the titular question. “Who shot J.R.?” is still a cultural touchstone. It turns out Maggie Simpson did it. Wait, did I get that right? In reality, it was Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard.
This was also a big year for Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michaels left the show and was replaced by Jean Doumanian. Her run on the show is considered a disaster. Although, 1980 was also our first glimpse of a young Eddie Murphy on SNL. Also, while Happy Days didn’t end in 1980, Ron Howard and Donny Most left the show, making Henry Winkler the new star.
In terms of new shows, the only truly successful one would be Magnum P.I. The show starred Tom Selleck as a private eye living on an estate in Hawaii. Not his estate, granted, but he lives there. When the show began, Thomas Magnum was pretty suave, and those were the episodes I watched and didn’t really get into. Then I read that Selleck didn’t really like that and wanted to be more like a Jim Rockford type, which is speaking my language. Maybe I should check out some later episodes of the show. Also debuting was a broad, high-concept sitcom called Bosom Buddies that is only remembered for its cast. Peter Scolari! Oh, also Tom Hanks!
Funnily enough, the same year Magnum P.I. debuted Rockford Files aired its final episode. I’ve written about that show extensively. It’s one of my favorite procedurals. I really dig it. The only other notable show ending is Hawaii Five-O, which I never watched, but man does it have a rocking theme song.
Honestly, it’s perfect to me that Rockford Files gave way to Magnum in 1980. Jim Rockford just feels like the ‘70s. Thomas Magnum definitely feels like the ‘80s. The year also gave us a glimpse at two future superstars in Hanks and Murphy. What a year for TV. That’s why I dig doing these articles.