This link takes you to an article on The Museum of Broadcast Communications, an American Museum in Chicago, Illinois who's aim is 'to collect, preserve, and present historic and contemporary radio and television content.' The article looks at changing gender roles and the representation of men and women in American television programmes ranging from the 1950's to the 1990's, but it also looks at the 1980's in detail.
The articles starts off by looking at what was suggested by the journalist; Susan Faludi, that there was an attempt by television in the 1980's to go back to earlier representations and stereotypes of women during the 1960's which was that women were 'stupid, unattractive, insecure, little household drudge who spends her martyred mindless boring days dreaming of love, and plotting nasty revenge against her husband.' This was suggested as an attempt to counter the effects and any development that was made to the role and representation of women during the 1960's and 70's.
The article also suggests that an increase in women being featured in central roles, especially in prime time television programmes, in the 70's and 80's filled an apparent void of women in central roles in theatrical films. This would suggest an improvement for women on television but also more widely, in the media, however, the article's suggestion that there was a void of women in film suggests the improvement may be less prominent in the media as a whole.
This article also talks about a cable television channel set up in the 1980's which was created for women. It originally showed re-runs of programmes from other networks but a few years into it, the channel began making tv films and television programmes with the aim to appeal to women because of central female characters as well as women being behind the camera in all sorts of roles, such as female directors. Although the channel refused to identify itself as being feminist, it said it's aim was to avoid programmes that victimised women.
I have looked at the website for the channel which is still around and it seems to still aim to show programmes that celebrate, entertain and support women. The programmes that they offer now do include some dramas and sitcoms such as Greys Anatomy, a programme which focuses on a young female doctor, but there also seems to be wider range of reality programmes, many of which focus on the woman as the wife and the mother, for example Army Wives and Dance Moms, but also some that focus on typically female jobs such as fashion designer and nanny. Although these shows celebrate women, there does not seem to be many programmes that show women as as something other than a mother or a wife, or doing jobs other than stereotypically female jobs.