It doesn't matter whether its the 80's, 90's or nowadays - there is the cinematic/movie look, and then there is the "cheap" kind of look. The one from daily soaps, or talk shows etc. The "video" look.
To give an example, consider the Japanese drama "Densha Otoko". I'll take it here as an example since it's reasonably popular and you can easily find parts on youtube for comparison.
It looks incredibly cheap.
On the other hand, take any high-production cinematic movies from the 80s, 90s or nowadays, or television shows like "Game of Thrones". The have this "movie" look, which is hard to describe. It's just looks like a move, and the "Densha Otoko" looks like a home-video from the 90s.
It's probably the same set made from cardboard used for set decos, but one movie the the sets look realistic, for some other TV-show the set look like made out of cardboard.
What's the reason behind this? Is it
- just the frame rate (NTSC vs cinema)? I used to think like that, but nowadays with 25p and all that...
- just the lightning on set? I used to think that, but is it that difficult to get it right such that low-production doesn't do it?
- the quality of the used cameras? But say e.g. for Densha-Otoko the picture quality isn't bad, it's just that it looks overly realistic somehow?