The Revenge of the '80s

Every 20 years or so, it seems, hard memories soften into the plush comfort of nostalgia – at least in pop culture.

The 1970s brought “Happy Days,” a family comedy set in the 1950s. The late 1980s saw the coming of “The Wonder Years,” a wistful look back at the 1960s. The late 1990s marked the start of “That ‘70s Show,” which was about – well, you know.

Now -- hang on to your legwarmers -- we’re headed for a 1980s boomlet:

NBC is putting together a pilot for a drama called "Lost in the '80s," described by the Hollywood Reporter as "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" meets "The Ice Storm" with a “Wonder Years” feel.

ABC has plans for "V" and "The Witches of Eastwick" – both new versions of 1980s works. The CW, meanwhile, is ordering up a “Gossip Girls” prequel that will focus Serena Van Der Woodsen's mother Lily as a 1980s wild child.

“Rock of Ages,” a musical with a 1980s heavy metal and hair-band playlist, is about to hit Broadway – and Michael Jackson’s 1983 video “Thriller” is being turned into a stage musical.

Rick Astley’s 1987 annoyingly catchy “Never Gonna Give You Up” is popping up everywhere these days as an all-purpose Internet prank phenomena known as “Rickrolling.”

And if that all isn’t enough, Coca-Cola is dropping  the “Classic” from its label and going back to the pre-1985 “New Coke” fiasco moniker.

For those who were there – and can still remember -- the Reagan Years weren’t always the Wonder Years.

There was social upheaval.  Wall Street greed that ended in a thunderous crash (sound familiar?) A jumbled pop culture pastiche from which only hip-hop emerged stronger. The Delorean. Big hair.

For some, the 1980s, at least culturally, were a bad dream -- like the season of “Dallas” that just went away when Pam Ewing woke up to find her supposedly dead husband Bobby coming out of the shower. You remember that one -- it was the last episode of the 1986 season.

“Everybody Hates Chris,” the Chris Rock-produced and –narrated show about growing up in 1980s Brooklyn comes pretty close to getting the decade right, warts and all. The show has set a high bar for the newcomers, which hopefully won’t gloss over the bad and bland – after all, the last thing we need is a 1980s fashion revival.

Or to put it more bluntly: don’t let the 1980s Rickroll us all over again.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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