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50 Greatest TV Icons

Old 11-13-07, 01:21 PM
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50 Greatest TV Icons

A Top 50 List of `TV's Greatest Icons'
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 12:28:41 PM
By FRAZIER MOORE
It doesn't take a psychic in a bejeweled turban to figure out that Johnny Carson landed the top spot.

But deeper down the ranking of "The 50 Greatest TV Icons," you may find a name that surprises you (or even makes you scratch your head). Which is part of the fun.

The list, released to the Associated Press, was compiled by cable's TV Land network and Entertainment Weekly magazine.

It's the source of a two-hour TV Land special airing Friday at 8 p.m. EST (and is also featured in the issue of Entertainment Weekly appearing on newsstands the same day). The special counts down from Larry Hagman (No. 50) to Carson, with mini-profiles of each "icon" in turn.

But what's a "TV icon" anyway?

Someone who "jumps off the screen into your home," says Henry Winkler, who is ranked 32nd, while Regis Philbin (No. 27) says, "If you hang around long enough, they call you an icon."

Along with human TV stars, the list contains a pooch (Lassie), a Muppet frog (Kermit), a cartoon dad (Homer Simpson) and a full-blown comedy troupe (the original Not Ready for Primetime Players from "Saturday Night Live").

There's one "Friend" (Jennifer Aniston) and two current late-night hosts (David Letterman and Jon Stewart made the cut, but Carson's successor, Jay Leno, did not). TV comedy trailblazer Milton Berle is on the list, though not his contemporary, Sid Caesar.

Of course, maybe you've got your own ideas. During the broadcast, you'll be invited to text-message your choice for the No. 1 "TV icon," with the audience consensus revealed at show's end.

--------------
This is the list of "The 50 Greatest TV Icons," compiled by cable's TV Land and the writers of Entertainment Weekly magazine. It will fuel a two-hour special on the network airing Friday at 8 p.m. EST, as well as a feature story in the upcoming issue of Entertainment Weekly.

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50. Larry Hagman
49. Calista Flockhart
48. Jimmy Smits
47. Simon Cowell
46. Lassie
45. Sarah Michelle Gellar
44. Susan Lucci
43. Flip Wilson
42. James Gandolfini
41. Jon Stewart
40. Sally Field
39. Jennifer Aniston
38. Bea Arthur
37. George Clooney
36. Diahann Carroll
35. Michael J. Fox
34. Bob Barker
33. Ellen DeGeneres
32. Henry Winkler
31. Sarah Jessica Parker
30. Alan Alda
29. John Ritter
28. Howard Cosell
27. Regis Philbin
26. Farrah Fawcett
25. Heather Locklear
24. Michael Landon
23. Barbara Walters
22. Milton Berle
21. Kermit
20. Carroll O'Connor
19. Andy Griffith
18. William Shatner
17. Bob Newhart
16. David Letterman
15. "Not Ready for Primetime Players"
14. Ed Sullivan
13. Jackie Gleason
12. Dick Van Dyke
11. Roseanne
10. Dick Clark
9. Homer Simpson
8. Jerry Seinfeld
7. Mary Tyler Moore
6. Carol Burnett
5. Walter Cronkite
4. Bill Cosby
3. Oprah Winfrey
2. Lucille Ball
1. Johnny Carson
======================================================
I'm kind of surprised that Ally McBeal made the cut... I wouldn't call her an "icon" of TV, but an interesting list nonetheless (Jackie Gleason should have been higher, but that's just my jaded opinion!!! )
Old 11-13-07, 01:31 PM
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Calista Flockhart? WTF? I'm afraid to continue on and read the other 48.
Old 11-13-07, 01:33 PM
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I imagine they threw Sarah Michelle Gellar just to avoid the invariable letter-writing campaign from angry Whedonites.
Old 11-13-07, 01:36 PM
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No Jerry Orbach, no deal!
Old 11-13-07, 01:42 PM
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I could do without George Clooney (along with others mentioned). Carroll O'Connor needs to be higher. Bob Denver needs to be added.
Old 11-13-07, 01:44 PM
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Ok, I started at 50, and stopped abruptly at 49.
Old 11-13-07, 01:54 PM
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No Rod Serling? Kelsey Grammer?
Old 11-13-07, 01:58 PM
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I cannot believe Oprah is at # 3. She is strictly a daytime persona and is seen by a limited amount of people (mostly women). And yes, Carroll O'Connor should have been in the Top 5.

All in the Family & I Love Lucy are the 2 greatest and most ground breaking shows of all time.

Chris
Old 11-13-07, 02:00 PM
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And I would say that #'s 48, 47, 45, 37, 33 & 31 are questionable at best. George Clooney? He was only on ER for 4 seasons.

Chris
Old 11-13-07, 02:04 PM
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No Garry Shandling? WTF?!?

Actually, this is a pretty decent list, not horrible like most of these things usually are.

Only a few things:
-Bea Arthur should’ve been #2 and Jerry Seinfeld should’ve been #1.
-Lucille Ball is overrated.
-Alan Alda should’ve been in the top 10.
-Barbara Walters is the devil,
And Barbara Walters is the devil.

I sort of agree and sort of disagree with Palaver.

George Clooney did finally get his breakout role on ER after lots of failed pilots and guest appearances on shows like Roseanne, etc… and he did end up become one of the most powerful actors in Hollywood after his success on ER. However, he was never my favorite person on ER and Anthony Edwards, Noah Wyle and Eriq La Salle were better as both the characters they played and as actors in general IMO. So I agree with you in that sense.
Old 11-13-07, 02:17 PM
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Hagman, O'Connor, and Griffith should be higher.

Bob Denver, Don Knotts, David Letterman, Tom Brokaw, and Keith Jackson should be included.

It's a totally BS cop out to make a list of individuals except for the Not Ready for Primetime Players.
Old 11-13-07, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Jimmy James
Hagman, O'Connor, and Griffith should be higher.

Bob Denver, Don Knotts, David Letterman, Tom Brokaw, and Keith Jackson should be included.

It's a totally BS cop out to make a list of individuals except for the Not Ready for Primetime Players.
Letterman is #16.
Old 11-13-07, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by nateman241
I sort of agree and sort of disagree with Palaver.

George Clooney did finally get his breakout role on ER after lots of failed pilots and guest appearances on shows like Roseanne, etc… and he did end up become one of the most powerful actors in Hollywood after his success on ER. However, he was never my favorite person on ER and Anthony Edwards, Noah Wyle and Eriq La Salle were better as both the characters they played and as actors in general IMO. So I agree with you in that sense.
Just because someone got a career boost from a role, in my opinion, does not make it iconic.

It would seem to me that an icon would be a role you would be able to identify even if you didn't watch the show they were on. I never watched Dallas, but I know Larry Hagman was J.R. I could not tell you the name of Clooney's character on E.R. Nor could I tell you any distinguishing traits about that character.

At least that is the gauge I used.
Old 11-13-07, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Palaver
Letterman is #16.
That restores a little faith in the list. I don't know how I missed him.
Old 11-13-07, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Palaver
It would seem to me that an icon would be a role you would be able to identify even if you didn't watch the show they were on. I never watched Dallas, but I know Larry Hagman was J.R. I could not tell you the name of Clooney's character on E.R. Nor could I tell you any distinguishing traits about that character.

At least that is the gauge I used.
That's how I would define it too. Using these guidelines, I would include Elizabeth Montgomery, Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Dennis Weaver, Peter Falk, James Arness and Barbara Eden.
Old 11-13-07, 03:08 PM
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I just noticed Larry Hagman is #50. Way too damn low. There aren't too many recognizable TV characters that JR Ewing.
Old 11-13-07, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by nateman241
Only a few things:
-Bea Arthur should’ve been #2 and Jerry Seinfeld should’ve been #1.
-Lucille Ball is overrated.
I would say that you are in the vast minority with regards to this. Every comedic actress has always given props to Lucille Ball's style and savy as a businesswoman and to opening doors to other women in the business.

The history of sitcoms would not have been the same if I Love Lucy were not on the air and I Love Lucy would never have gotten off the ground without Lucille Ball. Shows like Golden Girls and actresses like Bea Arthur owe a debt of gratitude to Lucille Ball.

Maybe you like the older women?

Chris
Old 11-13-07, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Mysteryfan
That's how I would define it too. Using these guidelines, I would include Elizabeth Montgomery, Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Dennis Weaver, Peter Falk, James Arness and Barbara Eden.
In other words they did a disservice to limit this list to the Top 50. At least the Top 75 would have included those who were inexplicably left off the original list.

Chris
Old 11-13-07, 05:09 PM
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49. Calista Flockhart
48. Jimmy Smits
45. Sarah Michelle Gellar
42. James Gandolfini
41. Jon Stewart
37. George Clooney

These all seem ridiculous to me. Even at Ally McBeal's height, Calista wasn't THAT big an icon. Smits has been on a bunch of shows, but none of his roles, not even Bobby Simone, have been that noteworthy. I guess they've got a bunch of Whedon zealots at TV Land and EW. I don't think The Sopranos was quite huge enough for one-note Gandolfini to make it. Stewart? Really? Already? I don't buy it. Clooney is strictly a movie icon, and barely one at that.

There are a few other one-notes on the list that I don't really like. Seinfeld is way too high.

Hagman is way too low. He should be higher just based on his one-note J.R. Ewing, but the guy was also Major Tony Nelson. Where the hell is Barbara Eden? Farrah makes it to 26 based on a hair cut on 1 season of Charlie's Angels and 60s sex icon Barbara Eden can't even make the list?
Old 11-13-07, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by nateman241
No Garry Shandling? WTF?!?
-Bea Arthur should’ve been #2
Absolutly agree. Everyone knows Bea Arthur even if they have not seen an entire episode of Golden Girls.
Old 11-13-07, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by mrpayroll
I would say that you are in the vast minority with regards to this. Every comedic actress has always given props to Lucille Ball's style and savy as a businesswoman and to opening doors to other women in the business.

The history of sitcoms would not have been the same if I Love Lucy were not on the air and I Love Lucy would never have gotten off the ground without Lucille Ball. Shows like Golden Girls and actresses like Bea Arthur owe a debt of gratitude to Lucille Ball.
It goes even deeper than that. Lucille Ball (along with Desi Arnaz, of course) more or less invented and perfected the formula for sitcoms that is largely still in use today, over 50 years later.


My impression of the list is that almost half of the people on it shouldn't be there. Not that they are all non-icons (although quite a few certainly are), but they don't qualify for the top 50. There are far more iconic names that should be on the list.

Last edited by RoboDad; 11-13-07 at 05:33 PM.
Old 11-13-07, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by RoboDad
It goes even deeper than that. Lucille Ball (along with Desi Arnaz, of course) more or less invented and perfected the formula for sitcoms that is largely still in use today, over 50 years later.
They developed not only what happened in front of the camera, but were the first to use multiple cameras to follow action, dialog, etc. I suspect a lot of the critcism comes from the fact that Lucy hasn't aged all that well and doesn't have a lot of appeal to younger audiences. But whether or not somone finds I Love Lucy entertaining or not is irrelevent. You cannot overestimate it's importance in television history.
Old 11-13-07, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by RoboDad
It goes even deeper than that. Lucille Ball (along with Desi Arnaz, of course) more or less invented and perfected the formula for sitcoms that is largely still in use today, over 50 years later.


My impression of the list is that almost half of the people on it shouldn't be there. Not that they are all non-icons (although quite a few certainly are), but they don't qualify for the top 50. There are far more iconic names that should be on the list.
Steve Allen invented, among other things, the talk show format that made Johnny Carson and David Letterman popular. But your average TV viewer has no idea who he was. Being a brilliant innovator doesn't make someone an icon.

Lucy Ball is on the list because she played the same character for decades, over several programs, and has been in reruns nonstop for fifty years.
Old 11-13-07, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by nateman241
-Lucille Ball Jerry Seinfeld is overrated.
Fixed. I know I'm in the minority, but his whiny, observational show drives me nuts. I used to dig it but I slowly fell into the camp that can't stand it.

This list is a complete joke with Rod Serling.
Old 11-13-07, 10:47 PM
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Originally Posted by KillerCannabis
Fixed. I know I'm in the minority, but his whiny, observational show drives me nuts. I used to dig it but I slowly fell into the camp that can't stand it.

This list is a complete joke with Rod Serling.
i love the show seinfeld but i dont find jerry himself to be funny at all. his stand up is awful and hes the least funny character and worst actor on the show.

also why is rosanne so high up on the list? i know the show was big but thats all she did wasnt it?

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