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Thursday, December 06, 2007

What Makes a TV Icon?

When I say the words, “TV icon,” what comes to your mind?

To me, a TV icon is someone who made a true impression on both the medium of television and the audience through their roles.

Apparently, the people at “Entertainment Weekly” and TV Land don’t see it exactly the way I do…

If you watched the special on TV Land or saw “EW” a few weeks ago, you know they joined together to compile a list of TV’s Greatest Icons. In looking over the list, I think it’s obvious there’s a big difference between iconic characters and iconic actors. Why else would Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz, only be #34? But there’s no explanation for me as to how Jimmy Smits would rank ahead of Bob Hope…

In case you missed it, here’s the top 50:

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 the Frog
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

As you can see, Bob Hope, one of our most legendary entertainers, didn’t even make the top 50 (#51). Nor did Betty White (#56), Don Knotts (#58) or James Garner (#77)—all of whom I would consider icons.

As is usually the case with these lists, the newer names get ranked a little higher than they should since they’re fresher in mind. That would explain how Jerry Seinfeld would be ranked ahead of Andy Griffith, Michael Landon and Dick Van Dyke.

However, I still think there’s some confusion between character and actor. For example, I don’t consider Kiefer Sutherland a TV icon, but if I was making a list of iconic characters, I would definitely include Jack Bauer. For me, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Aniston are not TV icons, but Buffy and Rachel are. However, neither of them are as iconic as J.R. Ewing, whose portrayer, Larry Hagman, ranked below them.

But there’s still no explanation for Jimmy Smits…

If the point of this list was to generate conversation, then I guess it succeeded. But it bothers me a little that TV Land was involved with this list since they should be familiar with iconic TV.

On second thought, have you seen their line-up lately?...

So what do you think? Who do you consider the greatest TV icons?...