When you think about the ’80s, you’re probably envisioning punk rock, lots of acid wash, and a mullet or two. But whatever you know about the culture, it’s completely amplified when it comes to ’80s TV shows. In the ’80s, producers were obsessed with what was hot and current, which means all shows have ended up as total caricatures of the decade. While I can forgive denim vests and sideways ball caps, I don’t know if I can forgive the epic ’80s hair that stole the show for most casts. In fact, it’s the bad hair that puts some of these shows into the hall of fame.
“Dynasty” was a show that set out to prove that the bigger the hair, the bigger the drama. That explains why the night soap stayed on the air for an epic nine years. Some of the best ‘dos were those sported by the pompadour-loving Alexis, who was played by Joan Collins, and the feathered bangs that were worn by Krystle Jennings, played by Linda Evans. The Big Hair was in full effect, prompting us all to wonder if the show was really canceled because of a massive AquaNet budget.
Show me a person who wasn’t a little bit in love with Alex P. Keaton and I’ll show you a liar. “Family Ties” was one of those feel-good shows that your mom would let you watch, even if she did make you turn off “Dallas.” And when it comes to style, “Family Ties” had it. Of course, today, Steven and Elyse would probably be mistaken for a couple of pot-smoking hippies in a traveling circus; their hair was spot on back in the ’80s. Severe center parts, lots of facial hair, and really bad headbands made them the perfect ’80s parents.
Confession time: I totally used to race home at lunch time to catch syndicated episodes of “Perfect Strangers.” When it comes to Larry and Balki, I don’t have anything bad to say. That is, of course, as long as you don’t mention their choice in hairstyles. With Larry rocking the white man Jeri curl and Balki with the stereotypical “I just arrived to the mainland” floppy style, the show was a hotbed for hair train wrecks. And when the show’s spinoff “Family Matters” went on-air, it was a whole other batch of bad hair days – only for the modern ’90s set instead.
Everyone knows that the “Three” in “Three’s Company” didn’t have anything to do with the number of roommates, but it really stood for the number of bad hairstyles you could see every week. Chrissy had a weird side ponytail thing. Janet had a weirdly ambiguous Joan Jett hairstyle. And even Jack, had the ’80s trifecta of feathering, center part, and bangs. How can you concentrate on their antics when all you can wonder is whether or not Suzanne Somers has a growth coming out of her head?
MacGyver could make a single-engine airplane with three paper clips, a strip of Scotch tape, and a Bic lighter, so why couldn’t he manage to give himself a good haircut? Besides the face he had man-bangs, just about every other female guest on the program showed up wearing a nuclear war-amount of hairspray. Not only did we believe that a guy like MacGyver could ignore stuff like science and physics to defy the odds, but most women actually found him attractive. Oh, how the times have changed.
I wish I would fast-forward 20 years to see what people will say about TV and style in the 2000s. I’m kind of hoping that they’ll rag on the trucker hat trend.
Greg Buckskin is a child of the 80s who knows more about Knight Rider, Air Wolf and the A-Team than he’d like to admit. He makes a living as a writer for CableTV.com and loves to cover the intersection of pop culture and TV.