80s Crime Dramas

The Best and Worst of '80s Crime Dramas

Ah, the '80s—a time when neon leotards and big hair reigned supreme, and our Walkmans blasted those moody synth tunes that never quite left our heads. But we aren't here to talk about perms or those questionable fashion choices. No, we are delving deep into the world of crime, drama, and suspense that the 1980s offered us on the silver screen.

When Drama Met Crime: The Top Players

First, let's dive into the best of the best. Those crime dramas that left us on the edge of our seats, gripping our popcorn in sheer suspense.

  1. Miami Vice - If pastel suits and loafers scream “crime-fighting attire” to you, then you’re familiar with Miami Vice. Crockett and Tubbs became household names as they took to the streets of Miami, combating the drug trade. This show seamlessly blended stylish aesthetics with intense storylines, capturing the very essence of the '80s.

  2. Hill Street Blues - Breaking away from the typical procedural format, Hill Street Blues gave us a deeper look into the lives of police officers, both on and off the job. The show's realism and intricate character developments set it apart from its contemporaries.

  3. Cagney & Lacey - Women in the '80s were more than just shoulder pads and power suits. They were detectives, kicking down doors and taking names. Cagney & Lacey were feminist icons, proving that women could handle the gritty world of crime just as well as their male counterparts.

The Crimes Against TV: Shows We Loved to Hate

While the '80s gave us iconic masterpieces, it wasn't without its flops. Some crime dramas were so outrageous, or frankly, just dull, that we couldn’t help but cringe. But, let’s face it, we secretly loved some of them too.

  1. Cop Rock - Imagine this: intense police investigations interrupted by... musical numbers? Yes, you read that right. Cop Rock tried to blend the world of crime drama with musical theater, and the results were, let's just say, unique. But it's almost endearing in its audacity.

  2. Manimal - A crime-fighting professor who can turn into animals? It's as wild as it sounds. While the concept was intriguing, the execution left a lot to be desired. Yet, for many of us, it remains a guilty pleasure from yesteryears.

  3. Hardball - Not every series can strike the perfect balance between action and comedy. While Hardball aimed for a hilarious take on the buddy-cop trope, it often missed the mark. But hey, every era needs its share of “so-bad-it’s-good” TV, right?

Taking a Closer Look: What Made the '80s So Unique?

But what was it about the '80s that birthed such diverse takes on crime dramas? For starters, the decade itself was a melting pot of various influences. From the rise of technology to political tensions and a booming pop culture scene, the '80s had it all. It was an era where boundaries were pushed, and creativity was at an all-time high.

Moreover, with the emergence of cable television, creators had a broader platform to experiment and innovate. This shift allowed for niche genres to thrive. While crime dramas have been a staple across decades, the '80s brought in a unique flavor, be it through aesthetics, storylines, or character arcs.

While we laugh at some of the cheesy dialogues or dated effects now, there’s no denying the impact these shows had on us. They provided a window into a world rife with action, suspense, and drama, a world where the good guys didn’t always wear capes, but sometimes, just a well-fitted suit and a sharp wit.

The '80s Crime Drama Legacy

These crime dramas, both the hits and the misses, shaped not just the decade but the ones that followed. They introduced us to character archetypes, plot twists, and storytelling techniques that continue to influence creators even today. Whether we look back with fondness or a hint of irony, these series are an integral part of our pop culture fabric.

So, as we bid adieu to this trip down memory lane, let's raise a toast. To the glam, the grit, and yes, even the gauche. These dramas made the '80s what it was—an era of bold choices, thrilling adventures, and moments that would stay with us forever.

And while we're on the topic of timeless legacies, let's not forget where most of us got our love for retro—Newretro.Net. If you're looking to channel the spirit of the '80s through your wardrobe, they've got you covered with the most authentic retrowave and '80s cultural styles.

The Classics: Timeless Tales of Intrigue

The '80s weren't just about neon and synth; they were a golden age for crime dramas, some of which remain etched in the annals of TV history. Let's reminisce about some of the classic crime dramas that became the backbone of the genre.

Magnum, P.I.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of Hawaii, this show featured the charismatic Tom Selleck as a private investigator with a penchant for aloha shirts. Magnum, P.I. wasn’t just about solving crimes; it delved deep into the psyche of its lead, touching upon themes of friendship, loyalty, and PTSD.


This series was groundbreaking in its approach, with multi-episode story arcs that dug deep into the underbelly of organized crime. The series protagonist, Vinnie Terranova, played by Ken Wahl, was an undercover agent trying to dismantle crime organizations from within, leading to intense and emotional storylines.

Spenser: For Hire

Based on Robert B. Parker's novels, this series followed the investigations of Spenser, a detective with a strong moral compass. Set in Boston, the show seamlessly blended hard-hitting crime with personal moments, creating a holistic viewing experience.

The Underrated: Hidden Gems Amidst Neon Glitz

While many shows basked in the limelight, some slipped through the cracks despite their brilliance. These series might not have garnered widespread acclaim but are worth a watch for every retro aficionado.

Remington Steele

Before Pierce Brosnan became James Bond, he was Remington Steele, a suave detective with a mysterious past. Alongside Laura Holt, played by Stephanie Zimbalist, this duo tackled cases with wit, charm, and undeniable chemistry. A refreshing mix of romance, comedy, and crime, this series is a must-watch.

Simon & Simon

Two brothers with contrasting personalities and detective styles—sounds like a recipe for chaos, right? Well, that's what made Simon & Simon so compelling. The duo's adventures, ranging from the humorous to the harrowing, were as much about familial bonds as they were about solving crimes.

Crime Story

Set in the '60s but produced in the '80s, this series was a unique blend of period drama and crime thriller. Chronicling the cat-and-mouse game between Lt. Mike Torello and mobster Ray Luca, Crime Story was gritty, intense, and incredibly immersive.

The Forgotten: Faded but Not Gone

Time has a way of overshadowing some shows, making them distant memories. Yet, for those of us who were there, these series will always hold a special place.

Street Hawk

A masked vigilante on a high-tech motorcycle may sound like a comic book fantasy, but Street Hawk made it a reality. Though short-lived, this series had all the elements of an '80s classic: a hero with a double life, high-octane action sequences, and of course, a synth-heavy soundtrack.

T.J. Hooker

Led by the legendary William Shatner, this series offered a raw look into the life of a seasoned police sergeant. T.J. Hooker was an ode to the men and women in blue, showcasing their daily struggles, challenges, and victories.

The Equalizer

Long before it was adapted into a film franchise, The Equalizer was a compelling TV series about a former intelligence agent turned vigilante. With a dark undertone and gripping narratives, it was a show ahead of its time.

A Retrowave Farewell

As we wrap up this journey through the mesmerizing world of '80s crime dramas, it's evident that the era was truly magical. A blend of innovation, creativity, and sheer audacity, these series laid the foundation for future generations.

And if this trip down memory lane has ignited a spark of nostalgia in you, don't forget to check out Newretro.Net. Because while we can't bring back the '80s, we sure can dress like we're still living in it. Dive deep into their collection and embrace the retrowave spirit in style. Until our next retro rendezvous, keep those retro vibes alive and kicking!

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