Important things are happening in our country. Events that have the entire nation’s attention. Events that touch on race—not insignificantly—even if we would like to pretend they do not. Events that polarize people, and have them arguing in the hallways and muttering under their breath. In short: events that require comment, and require it from your trusty leader.

Fear not, my _____(people I used to call Hyperion Nation but now don’t know what to call you). I have agreed to step in and give my thoughts, my opinions, and my expertise, which you are welcome to take and feel comforted you now know what to think. (And if you live far enough away from me, feel free to pretend they are all your own thoughts).

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That is right; I am officially weighing in on….

TV Icons.

The good people at TV Land and Entertainment Weekly have teamed up to bring you the 100 greatest Icons in TV history. (The program airs tonight on TV Land; check local listings.) They define a TV icon as larger than life, living legends in our minds and memories through the characters they played and the persona they had on television.

I mention this criteria because, as we will see, sometimes they seem to want to cheat. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It was a tough list to get on, tough enough that Tim the Tool-Man didn’t make it, and neither did Drew Carey any of the Romanos (a real shocker), any of the supporting cast in Seinfeld, Chandler, president Bartlett, Norm, Grissom, Larry King, Laverne (or Shirley), or even Alf!

The biggest omissions, however, had to be George Jefferson and Lenny Briscoe. How Sherman Helmsley and Jerry Orbach are left off is beyond me, but it is a shame. A crying shame.

Anyway, below are the 100 names, with appropriate commentary from me. By the end, you will not only know who they are, but where they should be. Oh, and you will understand why that bizarre picture is up on the right. It’s for a new TV Land show, which will make sense in about 4 minutes. Enjoy.

TV Land/Entertainment Weekly’s Top 100 TV Icons

100. Marcia Cross

99. Delta Burke

98. Meredith Baxter

97. In Living Color cast

96. Shannen Doherty

95. Richard Dawson

94. Melissa Gilbert

93. Neil Patrick Harris

92. Judge Judy

91. Dennis Franz

90. John Stamos

88. Gavin MacLeod

87. Phil Hartman

86. Jerry Mathers

85. Rod Serling

84. Cartman

83. Isabel Sanford

82. Ted Knight

81. Dick Cavett

80. Adam West

Too Low - Dennis Franz. He's an icon, and the reason antihero shows (The Sopranos, The Shield, et al) exist. This is just BS. Ted Knight is such an icon, more people know him as Ted Baxter. Both should be in the Top 50, easily. Rod Serling, though mostly known from movies, is way Too Low.

Who? - I had to look up Isabel Sanford to realize it's Weezie! Gavin MacLeod is the Love Boat captain. The Richard Dawson (Family Feud) one is before my time, but Alex Trabek is not on this list, so I'm mad.

WTF? - In Living Color? I know the Wayans Brothers, and Jim Carrey (and even Jennifer Lopez, who was a Flygirl), came from this show, but all are known from movies, not from TV. This one smacks as too clever, and trying to get in some demographics, to make the total number look better.

79. Angela Lansbury

78. Art Carney

77. James Garner

76. Candice Bergen

75. Peter Falk

74. Joan Rivers

73. Tona Danza

72. Cher

71. Rosie O'Donnell

70. Bob Denver

69. Barbara Eden

68. Don Cornelius

67. Tom Selleck

66. Kelsey Grammer

Too Low - Kelsey Grammer. He broke the record for most time playing one character (and let us not forget Sideshow Bob). Frasier is an icon of icons, and should be in the top 25. As much as it pains me to admit it, Rosie should be higher. Her talk show (and even brief stint on The View), have made her legendary, even if not always for the best reasons.

Too High - Tony Danza; should be in the 90s, if at all. Cher got her start on TV, but her icon status has come since.

Who? - Don Cornelius. I looked him up: he hosted Soul Train. Okay. Do you see a pattern developing here?

65. Pamela Anderson

64. Phil Donahue

63. Ed Asner

62. Redd Foxx

61. Pee Wee Herman

60. Merv Griffin

59. Ted Danson

58. Don Knotts

57. Charlie Brown

56. Betty White

55. Fred Rogers

54. Florence Henderson

53. Ed McMahon

52. Ron Howard

51. Bob Hope

Too Low - Merv Griffin. Didn't he basically usher in the age of game shows and Talk shows? And they put him at 60? Florence Henderson. That's Mrs. Brady, baby! Ron Howard was Opie and Richie! Bob Hope is not a Top 50 Icon?

Too High - Pamela Anderson is #65, which, if you scroll back up slightly, PUTS HER ONE AHEAD OF KELSEY GRAMMER!!!! Charlie Brown--and I love him--was only on TV three times a year. You want to call him the #1 Comics Icon ever, maybe I'm with you, but TV?

WTF? - Everyone gets the respect of his or her real name, except Pee Wee Herman? And while I'm on the subject, how does Pee Wee make it but Jambi and Clockey and Chairry don't????

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

Too Low - Tony Soprano is only the 42nd biggest TV icon? Just ahead of Lassie???

Too High - I love me some Jimmy Smits, but he's way ahead of Dennis Franz, who was a more important member of NYPD Blue! (Unless they are giving him credit for his Pee Wee days.) Ally McBeal should be ashamed of herself for landing so high. I think she should go on a protest fast until it's changed. And while obviously TV Land is hoping black people and young people watch this program (maybe they are unveiling a new classic TV show for young black people), the young people icons are getting ridiculous. You can make an argument for Buffy this high, but Jon Stewart ahead of Tony Soprano?

WTF? - Lassie makes it, but no Mr. Ed, Big Bird,

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

Too Low - Barker is a huge icon, and I'm sorry, but the Fonz cannot be outside the Top 20. I'd love Alex P. Keaton to be higher, too, except I know the field is going to get crowded.

Too High - Carrie Bradshaw is ahead of Tony Soprano. The world has gone mad. Ellen should not be higher than Rosie or any of half a dozen other talk show hosts. Not yet.

Who? - Diahann Carroll. I looked her up, and she's an African American performer who appears to have been a trail blazer for African American women. Good for her. Here's the problem: she's not a top icon. Unless you watched her shows, you don't know her. Granted, I'm younger than the average TV Land viewer, but shouldn't the definition of an Icon be that even people who never watched the shows know about the person? Look: I think you see what's going on here, and I'm calling foul. I mean, on the one hand, of course you want to be inclusive and highlight as many African Americans as you can. But this ignores the much bigger issue: AFRICAN AMERICANS WERE LARGELY EXCLUDED FROM TELEVISION ROLES FOR THE LONGEST TIME, AND WHEN THEY FINALLY GOT TV SHOWS, THEY WERE OFTEN MORE RACIST THAN BEFORE WHEN ALL AFRICAN AMERICANS WERE ALLOWED TO DO WAS SINGS AND DANCES!!!! TV Land has an obligation to point out that there AREN'T more black TV Icons, and why the fuck that is. They somehow think that because 2 of the top 5 are black, and if they throw a few in, no one will remember what happened in the past. People who were there remember, but young kids today don't know! They grew up with black people on TV, and have no idea how shameful the past was. I hate this kind of whitewashing (or blackwashing) of history. It’s insulting and ends up more racist than the old system, which was at least honest. Grrrrrrr.

WTF? - Bob Barker, who wants no unwanted pets, appears right before Ellen Degeneres, who doesn't want any pet she gets. Oh, the irony!

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

Too Low - Hawkeye doesn't make the Top 20? Howard Cosell would be #1 probably in Sports TV. (On second thought, that feels about right. I take back my objection of him.) Uncle Miltie isn't in the Top 15???

Too High - Ritter, just a tad. (You just know there's a sniff sniff bounce.) Heather Locklear, much as I love her, shouldn't be in the Top 50. Then again, she should be ahead of Sarah Jessica Parker, so at least that unholy abomination didn't occur.

Who? - If I don't know anyone in the Top 30, TV Land owes me a chicken biscuit. (That’s not a black joke, you chowderheads; I just love chicken biscuits.)

WTF? - Kermit obviously represents all non-humans. If they were going to go that way, they might as well have said "Muppets," so we could honor Piggy and Big Bird and Oscar and Cookie Monster and Rowlf.

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

Too Low - Hard to imagine a "Too Low" this high up, but I found one: Carroll O'Connor. Arguably the greatest sitcom actor of all time (at least top 3), AND he was in The Heat of the Night. You just cannot fathom how much of a "water-cooler" show All in the Family was, and how brilliant O'Connor was as Archie Bunker. It's a disgrace he's not in the top 6 or so.

Too High - What is this obsession with Letterman? The Liberal elite love him so much more than Leno, even though Leno crushes him in the ratings, like 3 to 1! You always hear how great Letterman is, but he can't beat an episode of Blind Date on the WB! I'm not saying don't rank him, but he belongs lower, and while I'm on the subject, how does Leno get left off? Roseanne is an Icon, and definitely belongs on the list, but around 50 or so. It is ridiculous to put her this high. It just occurred to me that Roseanne is on TV Land! I found another conspiracy! I bet if we go back through it, we would find a suspiciously high number of TV Land properties. Hmmmmm.

Who? - Sneaking in the entire cast of SNL is very clever, and I can't even hate. (Although: I'm glad Phil Hartman got his own spot up above.) That SNL tag usually sticks with an actor the rest of his days, so I can see the logic.

WTF? - Andy Griffith, William Shatner and Bob Newhart all wind up next to each other on the list. I can't see them ever appearing together ANYWHERE unless it was at a buffet table at an awards show or the beginning of a joke. (Mental Note: come up with Andy Griffith-William Shatner-Bob Newhart joke over the weekend.)

10. Dick Clark

9. Homer Simpson

8. Jerry Seinfeld

7. Mary Tyler Moore

6. Carol Burnett

Too Low - You gotta be kidding me. The Top 5 is the '27 Yankees. (A “Murderer’s Row,” for those of you who are sports-challenged, which itself means a lineup of incredibly powerful people anywhere you look. Jeez: do I gotta ‘splain everything to you?)

Too High - Much as it crushes me, Homer Simpson should be lower. This is obviously a ploy for the younger demographic. Homer could arguably make the Top 20, but Homer Simpson should not be making an Icon Top Ten that Dick Van Dyke and Carroll O'Connor cannot crack.

Who? - You have to believe that Kramer (Michael Richards) would have made the list somewhere if not for his meltdown last year. Obviously, that would spoil the happy shiny We Are People affect that TV Land is going for. I mention this because of Seinfeld, and because I want one more crack at TV Land for their underhanded racism.

WTF? - How is it that someone as talented as Carol Burnett couldn't find another venue for her skills after her show stopped in 1978? Sadly, most people today remember her--if at all--for her annoying mother on Mad About You.

Tthe Top 5....

5. Walter Cronkite


4. Bill Cosby

I'm down with this pick too, and TV Land didn't even have to stretch. You cannot overestimate how important Cosby was the TV landscape (both in reshaping the sitcom and paving the way for African Americans in normative roles), and Cosby had plenty of other shows before that. He's the man.

3. Oprah Winfrey

Okay, this has to be part of the conspiracy, too. I've never even heard of her! (Just kidding.) I sincerely believe that Oprah could run for president and beat Hillary like a parasitic opportunist....uh, I mean a red-head step-parasitic opportunist.

2. Lucille Ball

I would have guessed her at #1 before I saw the list. I've never actually been a fan of her work (which might be mostly from lack of exposure), but it's hard to be more impressed with what anyone has ever accomplished in the history of television, and to do it as a woman in the '50s....unreal

and the #1 TV Icon of all time.....

1. Johnny Carson

Wow. Not my first guess, although once you hear it, hard to argue against. Carson made people. He was a kingmaker, a legend. Other people might make more money and have more power, but they'll probably never be anyone who had more prestige. With the best comic timing in history (just beating out Bob Hope), a sixth sense on who was about to hit big, an ability to laugh at himself and most importantly an effortless grace THAT MADE IT ALL LOOK SO EASY!!!! Johnny Carson was and always will be an Icon. Long live the King.

There are certain consumer cell phone facts that all the computers buffs should know, especially those who have given up tv as well as ringtones in favour of digital cameras.

1 comment:

Sparky Duck said...

Jimmy Smits actually had to act in his death scenes, whole fRanz just played a Chicago cop.

Letterman deserved the top 20, though you are right Briscoe is easily more important then Delta Burke