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It’s a coincidence that the sprawling, three-night National Geographic documentary series The 80s: The Decade That Made Us follows so closely on the heels of the eulogies for Margaret Thatcher, a politician who, like Ronald Reagan, came to epitomize the decade in which she ruled. Impersonated in a James Bond movie — Roger Moore’s For Your Eyes Only — and routinely and viciously lampooned on the popular U.K. Of course, it’s impossible to encapsulate an entire decade in six hours spread over three nights, even if the program’s scope is limited strictly to pop culture, which The Decade That Made Us isn’t.
The Decade That Made Us is narrated by Rob Lowe, a charter member of the Brat Pack, and he’s an inspired and ironic choice. The 80s: The Decade That Made Us premieres Sunday and airs on consecutive nights through April 12. His hour-long special, an HBO tradition but doled out to only a select few comedians, was recorded earlier this year at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, and he wins the crowd again with a backhanded compliment: “This is a very nice place. The great thing about many suburbs, he continues — and he could be talking just as easily about Toronto suburbs as those in Arizona’s desert belt — is that there doesn’t seem to be much difference between sidewalks and streets.
This time around, he’s coming off a critically acclaimed, Emmy recognized TV sitcom,  Louie, and a brace of Emmy-nominated standup specials for HBO. And then there’s this, from Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz: “There’s a lot of underlying philosophy to the characters on Gilligan’s Island.


My first TV memory was of being menaced by a Dalek on Doctor Who — the original, scratchy, black-and-white Who. I was there to witness "the new dawn of the sitcom" in the mid-1990s, followed — inevitably — by the glut of terrible sitcoms in the early naughts, a glut that led, directly and indirectly, to the rise of reality TV. Roger Ebert, who along with fellow movie critic Gene Siskel changed the way many moviegoers picked the movies they wanted to see, reflected the pulse of the times. As The Decade That Made Us points out, though, if you were watching TV at the time you were more likely to be laughing with Three’s Company, Newhart, Cheers, Family Ties and The Cosby Show, or glued to the set through Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Magnum, P.I.
Cellphones, video games, the Sony Walkman — a gadget that seems almost quaint today, but which paved the way for the personal MP3 player, changed the way we listen to music and caused a tectonic shift in the music industry’s financial model — and Jane Fonda’s workout videos all had an immediate and lasting effect.
They’re really a metaphor for the nations of the world, and their purpose was to show how nations have to get along together . Adhemas Batista created an illustration that represents the show and this magical decade full of content and important moments. The so-called Me Decade was all about us, and it’s one reason why one-time BBC impresario Jane Root, producer of Mankind the Story of All of Us, chose to focus on the ’80s in her next project, which debuts Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.
If it’s true that the VCR, that ’80s creation, changed the way we watch television, it’s equally true that clip shows like The Decade That Made Us are what made the freeze-frame button necessary.


With his hangdog expression and off-the-rack, nondescript buttoned shirt thrown over a black T-shirt, on a body best described as average, he doesn’t look like the hottest, hippest comedian working in standup comedy today so much as a professional mover who’d rather be doing anything but lifting heavy furniture.
Fox, the law against murder, the awful sound seals make when they’re excited and humankind’s emergence at the top of the food chain. Earlier in his career, he opened for Jerry Seinfeld, the acknowledged master of observational comedy. Or, if you prefer, TV is a metaphor for the nations of the world, and Gilligan’s Island was really a message about why we don’t all get along. And while his look and attitude recalls Larry the Cable Guy, the wit and incisiveness of his delivery recall Chris Rock and George Carlin. Few stand-up comedians, even famous ones, can walk the fine line between self-deprecating and smart.



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