TV's Greatest Icons

In the midst of a writers strike that could reduce the TV landscape to a wasteland of reruns if it lasts, TV Land and Entertainment Weekly's list of The 50 Greatest TV Icons is a reminder of some of the best of what television has created.

The U.S. cable show will count down and profile the icons as will EW later this week, but the list is out now, so why wait to pick over it?

The list is topped by the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson and the man who venerates him, David Letterman, comes in at No. 16 while the man who inherited his chair, Jay Leno, didn't even crack the extended Top 100.

Modern-era icons Jerry Seinfeld and Homer Simpson made the Top 10 (No. 8 and No. 9, respectively), with the rest of the top slots taken by Lucille Ball, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Walter Cronkite, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Clark.

It's a good list, though I would question the inclusion of George Clooney (No. 37), who really wasn't a huge star until he switched to films and John Stamos shouldn't be on the list, even at No. 90.

What's interesting to contemplate is that most of these icons are the creations of writers. Even though the list does not include their characters, most of these actors are known for one show. They brought their abilities and personalities to bear, but without the writers they would have had nothing to work with.

Cartoon characters like Homer, Kermit (No. 21) and Cartman (No. 84) first came to life with words. Hawkeye Pierce, Carrie Bradshaw, Alex P. Keaton, The Fonz, Rachel Green, Buffy Summers, J.R., Magnum and Gilligan sprung from a pen before the actors brought the characters into our living room.

In fact there are a lot of writers on the list: Carson, Cosby, Seinfeld, Letterman, Rosanne Barr, Alan Alda, Jon Stewart and Paul Reubens, to name a few.

So if we have to go without for awhile to make sure new names keep getting added to this list, then I can wait.

The 100 Greatest 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
89. Robert Guillaume
88. Gavin MacLeod
87. Phil Hartman
86. Jerry Mathers
85. Rod Serling
84. Cartman from "South Park"
83. Isabel Sanford
82. Ted Knight
81. Dick Cavett
80. Adam West
79. Angela Landsbury
78. Art Carney
77. James Garner
76. Candice Bergen
75. Peter Falk
74. Joan Rivers
73. Tony Danza
72. Cher
71. Rosie O'Donnell
70. Bob Denver
69. Barbara Eden
68. Don Cornelius
67. Tom Selleck
66. Kelsey Grammer
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
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


  1. I think I would question the inclusion of Calista Flockhart myself. You don't hear much about Ally McBeal these days. And I'm surprised Ed Sullivan didn't make the top ten.

  2. It really is about the longevity of the character/actor in pop culture memory and how aware you were of them in their prime. For me, Ed Sullivan is the guy who introduced The Beatles and that really all I know of him.

    But how much will me son know about Letterman, the man who now occupies his theatre? It will be interesting to see this list again in 10, 20 years.

  3. What about Leno, if Letterman makes this list?

  4. Leno didn't make it. Seems Dave really has won the late night wars.

  5. Where are Gary Coleman, Chuck Norris, Dukes of Hazzard, Sherman Hemsley, and Sid Caesar? Marcia Cross & Shannen Doherty are greater??

  6. David Cassidy, Ricky Nelson, Robert Young, Suzanne Somers, Olsen Twins, Ted Koppel, Tom Snyder.

  7. These lists are made to get people to debate, argue and create their own lists, so people will never agree on who to include.

    That being said, I couldn't see the Olsen twins making it - who's going to remember them in 20 years? And isn't Norris better known as a film actor?

  8. David Duchovny From The X Files Not there common ??? if BUFFY character and Sopranos characters are there then why not one of the most influential character of our Time FOX Mulder be on that list ?