VH1 looks back at '80s pop culture in miniseries

Monday, December 16, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Remember the 1980s? AIDS, Iran-Contra, the end of the Cold War.

No, the other '80s -- Atari, Rubik's Cube, the Brat Pack, break-dancing.

It's pop culture that's celebrated in VH1's "I Love the '80s," a 10-hour, five-night miniseries beginning Monday that examines the good, the bad and the bawdy that defined the decade.

Absent is serious reflection. Part documentary, part music video, with a bit of self-mockery thrown in, the series takes a tongue-in-cheek look back at fashions, fads and trends as well as music, movies and dances.

Combining clips from television, films and music videos with celebrity interviews and an '80s soundtrack, the result is an offbeat nostalgia trip that reminds viewers of the fun part of a decade that continues to evoke mixed feelings for many.

"This is a retro show that focuses on the middle-brow, low-brow stuff that really formed who we are as people now," said Michael Hirschorn, the show's executive producer and VH1 senior vice president.

The series doesn't deal with issues that politically and economically defined the '80s, such as AIDS and the Cold War. And there's just passing mention of such events as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the election of President Reagan. But even those are addressed in musical terms, such as Reagan's jingoistic use of Bruce Springsteen's "Born In the U.S.A.," a song about the problems encountered by a returning Vietnam veteran.

Inspired by a successful BBC series that examined the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, "I Love the '80s" breaks down the decade by year. Each night looks at two years.

The miniseries opens with 1980, the year that spawned the biggest TV question: Who shot J.R. in "Dallas"?

It also produced the preppie look, the designer jeans battle and the movies "Caddyshack," "Airplane!" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

Musically, it offered Air Supply's "All Out of Love," Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" and the split between fans of Pat Benatar and Deborah Harry.

Such things might be a revelation to the young, Hirschorn suggested.

"I think for people who are 25, the '80s are ancient history," he said.

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