'The '80s: The Decade That Made Us': Not an Exaggeration

Nat Geo's celeb-packed miniseries takes a look back at the people, technology, and events that changed the world in the 1980s.

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The '80s: The Decade That Made Us - "Dallas," "The Cosby Show" & "Miami Vice"
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The casts of "Dallas," "The Cosby Show," and "Miami Vice."

Doubt the title of National Geographic Channel's miniseries "The '80s: The Decade That Made Us"?

Consider this, a list that includes just a fraction of game changers that emerged from the 1980s: cell phones; video games; the Walkman (the iPod's obsolete big brother); the growth of cable TV; the workout craze (thank you, Jane Fonda); and, speaking of "big brother," with Apple's iconic "1984" commercial, the birth of the Super Bowl ad as event TV.

Watch the ad: 

So calling the 1980s the "decade that made us" is not an exaggeration, and for the miniseries, premiering April 14, Nat Geo interviewed dozens of politicians, newscasters and newsmakers, and celebrities who all testified to the lasting influence that the 1980s had not only on pop culture but on American society in general.

"I think that personal nostalgia is probably the same for everybody, because you remember back to childhood. Childhood tends to, for most people, feel like a simpler time. I would say this: I think that the 1980s occupies a special place in the larger American psyche, not only because of nostalgia but also because the 1980s was really so transformational for the country," says David Sirota, author of the fantastic book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now -- Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything."

[Related: How Much Do You Know About the '80s? Take Our Quiz to Find Out]

"The 1980s was, in many ways, a backlash to the 1960s. It had transformational politics in the sense of Ronald Reagan and the Reagan Revolution. It was transformational because of the technologies that came out of the 1980s and the specific kinds of technologies and how they embodied the deeper spirit of the '80s," Sirota continues to Yahoo! TV. "I don't think it's a coincidence, for instance, that the technologies, the mass market technologies, that came out of the '80s are technologies that focus on the individual, focus on the 'me.' The cell phone, the personal computer, and the Walkman, where you had a personal listening device which then becomes the iPod … I think those technologies reinforce the individualism of the 1980s, and of course, they live on today.

[Related: Check Out Memorable Images From the 1980s]

"I think the '80s was more transformational than usual, than the norm. That's what the National Geographic Channel miniseries is really all about. It's not just a catalog of events. It's putting the events in the context of 'How did this decade really shape history in a powerful way that potentially other decades have not done?'"

Rob Lowe narrates the three-night, six-episode event, which, like VH1's beloved "I Love the '80s" miniseries from 2002, features famous faces sharing their memories of the TV shows, music, movies, sports, books, toys, political events, and social issues that made headlines in the 1980s.

[Related: 'Facts of Life' Star Mindy Cohn Reminisces About the '80s]

In the premiere episode, "Lift Off," "Dallas" star Larry Hagman sits down for one of his last interviews before his November 2012 death; the other luminaries who discuss the decade's big moments in "The '80s: The Decade That Made Us" are Michael J. Fox, Jane Fonda, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Oliver Stone, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels, Steven Tyler, Joan Collins and Linda Evans, Tom Brokaw and Sam Donaldson, original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood, Secretary of State George Shultz of the Reagan administration, Naomi Campbell, Steve Wozniak, and Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team captain Mike Eruzione.

Why Hagman joked that the cast of "Friends" owed him big:

Happily for us, the miniseries pays much attention to the decade's TV events, including the launch of MTV and its impact on music, fashion, and youth culture; Ted Turner's CNN launch and the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle; the early days of cable TV's eventual challenge to network television; and the influence of popular series like "Dallas," "Miami Vice," and "The Cosby Show."

[Related: 'The Cosby Show': Where Are They Now?]

"TV was more of a universal experience for the country than it had ever been, in the sense that by the time the '80s was in full swing, as opposed to previous decades, the vast majority of Americans had a television, and there were still relatively few channels," Sirota, who's featured in the Nat Geo Channel miniseries, says. "There was the start of cable TV, but that didn't really boom until the mid- to late '80s. With fewer channels, but with everybody having those channels, you could have a series like 'The Cosby Show' that became a collective experience for the entire country. It wasn't just children. What happened on 'The Cosby Show' was a point of reference for everybody. In a certain sense, it was more influential and more powerful because everybody could reference it. It became a unifying vernacular that everybody could have their opinion on, but at least it was a common point of reference.

"I don't want to say that that will never happen again, but you look at the TV world right now, with a zillion different channels, and the Internet … there's nothing like that anymore."

"The 80s: The Decade That Made Us" airs April 14 at 8 PM, April 15 at 9 PM, and April 16 at 9 PM on the National Geographic Channel.

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