A decade that wowed the TV world

Last updated 08:59 27/05/2013
Jane Fonda
EXERCISE QUEEN: Jane Fonda's exercise workout video, like hair and shoulder pads, was big in the 80s.

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You might be less than glued to the opening minutes of The 80s as it takes the new decade's defining moment as the victory of the American ice hockey team over the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

The defeat by generally working-class part-time sportsmen over elite Russian military men was seen as a victory of the free world over communism. Then, it's all of us.

I didn't think I remembered much about the 1980s - because I had small kids. The Wheels on the Bus replaced Pink Floyd. Oh, the horror. But as soon as we slid off the ice, there it was. All of us.

From Jane Fonda to Ronald Reagan, from VHS to PCs . . . and to Dallas. Larry Hagman says the kids on Friends could thank him for their huge salaries, then he puts on a faultless English accent and is the Queen Mother: "I don't suppose you can tell me who shot JR?" ("No, Ma'am, not even you.") Because Romanians saw Dallas, they shot Ceausescu. Scarily, he may be right.

The '70s had made us feel mortal: oil was suddenly not so available and nuclear weapons looked like they'd do for us.

The '80s told us to cheer up and stop worrying about other people: the "me" generation had begun (I want my MTV). Dallas gave us all permission to want to be rich and greedy, which The Waltons never quite had.

Jane Fonda - because her politics were in the right place - made some of us feel a bit better.

She broke a foot while filming, couldn't do ballet any more to stay fit, so there you have it - we had her on LP (our daughter couldn't go to sleep unless she could hear us doing "the Jane Fondas") but quite quickly Fonda was making videos (remember them?) and the world was feeling it burn.

Reagan was a quipper ("Any man who tells you he enjoys a cold shower in the morning will lie about other things too") and in England the royal marriage had people - for a while anyway - believing in fairytales. In America, smart young men were dropping out of college because they were grabbing the moment and inventing Microsoft. Cellphones. The internet.

It was all about being young and fearless. Rap music helped alleviate racism. Richard Branson put his own airline in the air. People jived in the street wearing Walkmans. Even women started playing Pacman. Typewriters went out the window. Most of us have lived through it. We will never see its like again. N

ightly, 7.30pm, on National Geographic.

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- The Dominion Post


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