16 sweet shows turning 40 years old in 2022
1982 was the year of Michael J. Fox, talking cars, and a Shatner comeback
Oh, what a year it was in 1982. Diet Coke and E.T. were introduced, as was the phrase to "throw someone under the bus." G.I. Joe action figures (you know, the smaller ones) hit toy stores. Ms. Pac-Man chomped her way into arcades.
And these TV shows all premiered on the small screen. As we said, it was quite a year for entertainment.
1. At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert
Who knows what people did with two thumbs before Siskel and Ebert? (This guy!) Ah, we kid. But popular film appreciation was changed forever with the two charmingly combative Chicago critics.
Image: Tribune Entertainment
2. Cagney & Lacey
Loretta Swit was originally tapped to play Cagney… until M*A*S*H locked her into her contract. Then Meg Foster was cast. Then producers replaced Foster with Sharon Gless, the Cagney we know, to soften the character. Tyne Daly was there all along. Here's a crazy stat: for six straight years, one of the two women won the Emmy for Best Lead Actress in a Drama.
We still want to go to a place where everybody knows your name. Consider how Ted Dansen and Woody Harrelson remain A-list actors. Who would have ever thought Woody would be the one to go on to decades of prestige?
The movie Fame did wanna live forever — as a TV show. Well, it lasted six seasons. Not shabby at all. And it helped make Janet Jackson a star.
5. Family Ties
The decade of Michael J. Fox. Okay, it technically started with Midnight Madness, a cult comedy we refuse to overlook, but Family Ties made the energetic actor a sensation.
6. Knight Rider
A talking Pontiac was the coolest thing on TV that year. And we're including Hasselhoff. Sorry, Hoff. The car was more awesome.
Image: NBC Universal
7. Late Night with David Letterman
So much modern (or should we say post-modern) comedy traces its roots back to Letterman. He made late-night delightfully weird, with regular players like Chris Elliott and Larry "Bud" Melman. And then there were the Top 10 Lists and Stupid Pet Tricks. And countless other memorable gags. Not bad for a weatherman.
Image: NBC Universal
A decade after The Bob Newhart Show premiered, Newhart returned with a more concisely titled sitcom, changing his character and setting. The urban comedy shifted to a rural setting, in Vermont. Of course, it was all a dream of psychologist Bob Hartley. As we learned in that brilliant finale.
9. Police Squad!
Though it lasted a mere six episodes, Police Squad! packs more side-splitting laughs than most long-running sitcoms. The Zucker Brothers, hot off Airplane!, took their surreal slapstick humor to the small screen, casting former straight man Leslie Nielsen as a buffoon detective. ABC canceled the show, but it earned Emmy nominations and spawned a film franchise in The Naked Gun.
10. The Powers of Matthew Star
Blending superheroes and space opera, Matthew Star centered around the titular prince of the planet Quandris (Peter Barton), who flees 12 light-years to pose as a teenager on earth with his protector, who assumes the role of a high school teacher (Lou Gossett, Jr.). Barton nearly died making it. Read up on why it's a rather fascinating show.
11. Remington Steele
With his suave style, winking humor, and sharpshooting, the character Remington Steele was essentially a dry run for Pierce Brosnan becoming James Bond. Stephanie Zimbalist, daughter of 77 Sunset Strip star Efrem Zimbalist Jr., offered a link to TV past. And the show itself harkened back to the hip detective series of the '60s.
Image: 20th Television
12. Ripley's Believe It or Not
This syndicated "true stories" series was basically our internet, sharing unbelievable tales that had to be shared. Only, we had to use our mouth.
13. Silver Spoons
Every kid who grew up in this era yearned to have Ricky's set-up — the arcade machines, the train, the racecar bed. Of course, they were all owned by his dad, Edward Stratton III (Joel Higgins), the original man-child and predecessor to the modern bro.
Image: Sony Pictures Television
14. Square Pegs
Sarah Jessica Parker may be Carrie Bradshaw to most, but she will forever be adorkable teen Patty Greene in our minds. Square Pegs was perhaps the first show to humanize nerds, nearly two decades before Freaks and Geeks. Of course, this show about nerds was hipper than the rest, booking music acts The Waitresses and Devo to play dances, and bringing in Bill Murray as a guest star.
15. St. Elsewhere
It's Tommy Westphall's world, and we're just living in it. If you know the legend of the last episode, you get that reference. (Basically, the entire series was revealed to be the fantasy of an autistic child with a snowglobe.) Give the casting director all the awards — this hospital dramedy made Denzel Washington and Howie Mandel household names.
Image: 20th Television
16. T.J. Hooker
The second coming of Shatner. The Canadian thespian was pigeonholed as Captian Kirk. Certainly not a bad way to make a living. But throughout the Seventies, he struggled to shake off the stereotype, largely appearing in small roles as a bad guy or failing to launch new shows like Barbary Coast. Cop action hour T.J. Hooker changed that. Rescue 911, Boston Public and the Shatnerenaissance followed.
Unfortunately, this method never worked when Siskel substitutes came along.
(BTW, I made up a little rhyme early on to keep track of which was which: "Gene is lean, but Roger is larger".)