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1980s Sitcom Stars

by Legacy Staff

We’re remembering the stars of some of our favorite ’80s sitcoms, from John Ritter to Gary Coleman to Bea Arthur to Richard Mulligan to Norman Fell and Charlotte Rae. Laugh your way down memory lane as you flip through our photo album, and click the links for more info about your favorite actors.

Penny Marshall (1943 – 2018) 

Penny Marshall (Getty/ABC)

Penny Marshall (1943 – 2018) and Cindy Williams starred as the wisecracking brewery working friends in the hit sitcom “Laverne and Shirley.” The show was a spin off from her brother Garry’s smash hit “Happy Days.” Marshall became a renowned director of movies such as “Big.”

Penny Marshall’s Obituary


Charlotte Rae (1926 – 2018)

Charlotte Rae (Getty/NBC)

Charlotte Rae (1926 – 2018) dispensed valuable advice to her student residents as Edna Garrett on “The Facts of Life.”

Charlotte Rae’s Obituary

ROBERT GUILLAUME (1927 – 2017) 

Robert Guillaume (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

ROBERT GUILLAUME (1927 – 2017) had an acting career that spanned the Broadway stage, television, and movies, including prominent roles as a voice actor. But he is perhaps best remembered for a pair of 1980s sitcoms, “SOAP” and spinoff “BENSON.” Guillaume won two Emmys for his work on the shows playing Benson DuBois, a man who worked his way up from butler to state budget director to lieutenant governor and finally gubernatorial candidate.

Robert Guillaume’s Obituary

JAMES NOBLE (1922 – 2016)

James Noble (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

On “Benson” JAMES NOBLE (1922 – 2016) played well-meaning but scatterbrained Governor Gatling, who was kept in check by butler Benson (Robert Guillaume).

James Noble’s Obituary

ALAN THICKE (1947 – 2016) 

Alan Thicke (Getty Images/ABC)

ALAN THICKE (1947 – 2016) played Dr. Jason Seaver for seven seasons (1985 – 1992) on the sitcom “GROWING PAINS.” Dr. Seaver was a psychiatrist who works from home since his wife Maggie went back to work as a reporter. Being at home gives him more involvement with the lives of their 3 children which include budding ladies man Mike (Kirk Cameron), honor student Carol (Tracey Gold) and rambunctious Ben (Jeremy Miller). Though the kids go through many growing pains, Dr. Seaver manages to keep the family together.

Alan Thicke’s Obituary

NELL CARTER (1948 – 2003) 

Nell Carter (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NELL CARTER (1948 – 2003) went from nightclub gigs in Birmingham, Alabama, to a Tony-winning performance in “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” In “Gimme a Break!” she starred as Nell Harper, housekeeper to a widowed police chief and his three teen daughters. As a confidante and mother figure to the girls, Carter got to showcase the many facets of her talent – she was warm and loving, sassy and funny.

The Highs and Lows of Nell Carter

RUE MCCLANAHAN (1934 – 2010)

Rue McClanahan (Getty Images)

On “The Golden Girls,” RUE MCCLANAHAN (1934 – 2010) played Blanche Devereaux, the southern belle with an appetite for men. The character took a lot of ribbing – not all of it good-natured – from her housemates about her active love life.

More Rue McClanahan

BEA ARTHUR (1922 – 2009)

Beatrice Arthur (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

BEA ARTHUR (1922 – 2009) was one of our all-time favorite TV stars. We – along with much of America – loved the plain-spoken women she played on her two big hits, “Maude” and “The Golden Girls.” In the latter, she portrayed Dorothy Zbornak, the queen of the pithy comeback.

More Bea Arthur

ESTELLE GETTY (1923 – 2008)

Estelle Getty (AP Photo/Nick UT)

ESTELLE GETTY (1923 – 2008) made her mark playing a cranky jokester in aging makeup – and fans of “The Golden Girls” absolutely loved her as Sophia Petrillo.

More Estelle Getty

RICHARD MULLIGAN (1932 – 2000)

Richard Mulligan (Getty Images/Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank)

RICHARD MULLIGAN (1932 – 2000) was in three iconic sitcoms that spanned the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s – “Soap,” “Golden Girls,” and the spinoff “Empty Nest,” in which he starred as Dr. Harry Weston.


Rebecca Schaeffer and Pam Dawber (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

REBECCA SCHAEFFER (1967 – 1989) starred in “My Sister Sam” with Pam Dawber of “Mork & Mindy” fame. The year after the show ended, Schaeffer’s life came to a tragic end when she was murdered by a stalker.

CONRAD BAIN (1923 – 2013)

Todd Bridges as Willis Jackson, Conrad Bain as Philip Drummond, Dana Plato as Kimberly Drummond, Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson (Photo by Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

CONRAD BAIN (1923 – 2013), along with Gary Coleman (1968 – 2010), Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato (1964 – 1999) portrayed what was, at the time, a rather unconventional family. For eight seasons “Diff’rent Strokes” brought us loads of laughs.

Diff’rent Strokes Moved the World

DANA PLATO (1964 – 1999)

Dana Plato (Photo by: Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

DANA PLATO (1964 – 1999) had her most notable role as Kimberly Drummond on television’s “Diff’rent Strokes.” Plato died at 34 of a lethal overdose of painkillers and muscle relaxants.

Diff’rent Strokes Moved the World

GARY COLEMAN (1968 – 2010)

Gary Coleman (Photo by: Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

GARY COLEMAN (1968 – 2010) began his acting career in commercials and was soon spotted by producer Norman Lear. He was 10 when he joined the cast of “Diff’rent Strokes,” a sitcom about a wealthy white family that adopts two African-American boys, as Arnold Jackson. The screen-stealing Coleman’s cherubic face soon seemed to be “everywhere, from TV to T-shirts to lunchboxes,” according to his obituary in USA Today.

Gary Coleman’s Obituary

JOHN RITTER (1948 – 2003) 

John Ritter (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

In 1977 JOHN RITTER (1948 – 2003) landed the job that would make him a star – playing Jack Tripper on “Three’s Company.” Co-star Don Knotts called him “the greatest physical comedian on the planet,” and it’s hard not to agree with him.

Remembering John Ritter

DON KNOTTS (1924 – 2006)

Don Knotts (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

DON KNOTTS (1924 – 2006) was goofy lothario Mr. Furley on “Three’s Company.” For a generation slightly younger than those who grew up with “The Andy Griffith Show,” this was the essential Don Knotts – the nosy, often confused and always hilarious landlord.

Don Knotts: Playing it for Laughs

NORMAN FELL (1924 – 1998) 

Norman Fell (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

NORMAN FELL (1924 – 1998) is best remembered for his role as one of television’s wackiest of wacky neighbors, landlord Stanley Roper on “Three’s Company” and “The Ropers.” His work as Mr. Roper was a cultural touchstone for TV audiences, thanks to the ubiquity of the shows in reruns in the years since they went off the air.

Norman Fell Photo Gallery

AUDRA LINDLEY (1918 – 1997)

Audra Lindley (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

For the first three seasons of “Three’s Company,” AUDRA LINDLEY (1918 – 1997) played the frustrated but friendly landlady to Jack Tripper and crew. She wore a lot of muumuus, frequently took her husband to task for his inattention, and helped “the kids” upstairs hide their unconventional living arrangement.

More Audra Lindley

GORDON JUMP (1932 – 2003)

Gordon Jump (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

GORDON JUMP (1932 – 2003) had his signature role on “WKRP in Cincinnati,” one of the best-loved shows of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Jump’s “Big Guy” – with his hilarious cluelessness – helped make it great.

Gordon Jump’s Greatest

TED KNIGHT (1923 – 1986)

Ted Knight (AP Photo/Randy Rasmussen)

TED KNIGHT (1923 – 1986) gave one last memorable performance in the years before his death – as concerned dad and illustrator Henry Rush on the sitcom “Too Close for Comfort.” Knight got to use his talent for ventriloquism when he talked with – and for – puppet Cosmic Cow. And he also used his physical comedy skills as he fell off a seemingly never-ending series of couches and chairs.

Terrific Ted Knight

ALEX KARRAS (1935 – 2012) 

Alex Karras (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

Ferocious NFL defensive lineman ALEX KARRAS (1935 – 2012) turned to acting after his football career ended. And we couldn’t be happier that he did. He portrayed lovable father George Papadapolis in TV’s “Webster.”

Alex Karras’s Obituary


Christopher Hewett (Getty Images/ABC)

CHRISTOPHER HEWETT (1921 – 2001) was known best as the English butler in “Mr. Belvedere.” In the sitcom, he worked for a middle class American family.

DIXIE CARTER (1939 – 2010) 

Dixie Carter (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

DIXIE CARTER (1939 – 2010) is best known for playing Julia Sugarbaker on TV’s “Designing Women,” the hotheaded founder of an interior design firm that operated out of her home. “Designing Women” tackled homophobia, racism, AIDS, prejudice against the overweight, domestic abuse and more.

Dixie Carter vs. Julia Sugarbaker

MESCHACH TAYLOR (1947 – 2014) 

Meshach Taylor ( AP Photo / Nick Ut)

MESHACH TAYLOR (1947 – 2014) charmed audiences so much that a single-episode gig turned in to a recurring role in TV’s “Designing Women.” He portrayed Anthony Bouvier, a lovable ex-convict.

Meshach Taylor’s Obituary

ERIN MORAN (1960 – 2017)

Erin Moran (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

ERIN MORAN (1960 – 2017) charmed audiences for a decade as Joanie Cunningham on “Happy Days” and also short-lived spinoff “JOANIE LOVES CHACHI.”

Erin Moran’s Obituary

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