The 1980s was quite the decade for TV classics-most memorable, of course, were those of the sitcom variety. Whether or not it was “Punky Brewster,” “Diff’rent Strokes” or the Marla Gibbs yuk-fest “227”, there was plenty to laugh about in the 1980s television universe. But were there many standout Sci-Fi programs? Well, taken in context of all the brilliant Sci-Fi shows currently on the air in places like the “Scyfy” network (Warehouse 13, Eureka) the 80s suffered from a bit of a creative dry spell for the genre.
But that is not to mean that all was lost in the era of “LA Law” and “Moonlighting.” Thanks to actors like Scott Bakula we could still count on the occasional glint of brilliance from the Sci-Fi genre circa “The Greed Decade.”
1-(Quantum Leap)-(Available on DVD)-By far the best Science Fiction program on television in the 1980’s, “Quantum Leap” was a true showcase for the seemingly inexhaustible acting talents of star Scott Bakula. Each week he “leapt” from one body to another all the while changing the setting to a different time and place giving the show a very unique narrative conscript. As an added bonus you never knew if Bakula might leap into a woman’s body from week to week. It takes a very talented actor to pull off wearing a dress for an entire hour long episode (there was also a bit of a humorous aspect as Scott Bakula has a very hairy chest). Mr. Bakula must have received his script each week with more than just a little bit of dread wondering what cruel fate the producers of “Quantum Leap” had in store for him.
Not only was “Quantum Leap” way ahead of its time in the Sci-Fi genre, it also broke a few other barriers for prime time television. In one episode Mr. Bakula leapt into the body of a gay man and during the course of the hour he kissed the character’s male love interest-this was pretty revolutionary and heady stuff in the 1980’s. So much so that a number of Midwestern TV stations refused to air the episode. Kudos to Scott Bakula and the brilliant writers of “Quantum Leap” for creating truly memorable television.
2-(Buck Rogers in the 25th Century)-Okay, this show may have started in 1979 but it qualifies because it ran until 1981. While some of the acting and effects may have been cheesy it was one of the first Sci-Fi series that tried to bring a fully realized view of the future onto the small screen. Add in a hot love affair between Buck (Gil Gerard) and a very young Erin Gray-this was the closest thing “Star Wars” addicts had to a weekly Luke Skywalker/Princess Leia fix. And despite some poor effects “Buck Rogers” also had some really cool looking space ships-an important fact if you were only 8 when this show was on the air.
3-(Tales From the Crypt)-Alright, this might not fit perfectly into the Sci-Fi genre but no one can deny the campy power of the now infamous “Crypt Keeper.” Even though many of the episodes were of a haphazard quality you could always count on the bony “Crypt Keeper” to give you at least a chuckle or two. Looking a bit like an overweight Calista Flockheart, the “Crypt Keeper” introduced the concept of mixing horror, humor and the Sci-Fi ethos into a concoction that never failed to entertain. Without “Tales from the Darkside,” would shows like “Eureka” and “Stargate SG-1” ever have thought to add that necessary dollop of humor to their usual dramatic tone? Doubtful.