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Icon Believe TV Land's "50 Greatest TV Icons" List
November 16, 2007  | By David Bianculli
Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the cable network TV Land, in collaboration with Entertainment Weekly, presents what it calls "a definitive list" of The 50 Greatest TV Icons. Not even close - and some of the omissions and inclusions are nothing short of maddening.

Of the top 50 all-time TV icons on this list, 30 of them first established their iconic status in the 1970s or later. Only seven are from the formative decade of the 1950s, and only two, Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan, began on TV in the 1950s.

Berle, who earned the nickname Mr. Television because so many families bought their first TV set to watch him on Tuesday nights, is ranked #22 on this list. Sullivan, who brought The Beatles to live American TV, is ranked #14.

I won't spoil the exact countdown, for those who might want to watch tonight's special, except to note approvingly that Johnny Carson, Lucille Ball, Walter Cronkite and Mary Tyler Moore all make the Top 10. My disapproval - well, that's all over the place.

I disapprove, for example, in clumping the entire 1975-80 cast of Saturday Night Live into one slot (#15). That's cheating. And when such alleged icons as Simon Cowell, Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Smits and George Clooney make the Top 50 list, you have to ask yourself - in place of whom?

Rod SerlingReady to be outraged?

Jack Benny, one of the biggest and most talented TV icons ever, doesn't make this list. Neither Rod Serling nor Alfred Hitchcock, two unforgettably charismatic TV anthology hosts, is here. Cronkite, yes, but Edward R. Murrow, David Brinkley and Dan Rather, no. Carson and David Letterman get the nod, but talk-show pioneers Steve Allen and Jack Paar get ignored.

No Peter Falk and Columbo. No James Arness and Gunsmoke. No James Garner or Kelsey Grammer, no Sid Caesar or Ernie Kovacs, no Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo or Ed Asner as Lou Grant. Sidekicks get shafted: William Shatner joins the club, but Star Trek partner Leonard Nimoy is excluded. Similarly, Jackie Gleason and Andy Griffith are allowed in, but Art Carney and Don Knotts are left outside the Top 50 velvet ropes.

And - shame on you, TV Land and Entertainment Weekly - no Fred Rogers. Can you say "No sense of history," boys and girls?

George Santayana said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I say, if we don't remember our TV history, we're doomed to devalue our repeats.




David Bianculli said:

Just to let you know -- as of today, the Comments link is up and running. You write it... and as soon as I can read it, I'll post it. For a Luddite, this is one giant step...

And once again, thanks for being here.

Comment posted on November 16, 2007 8:04 AM

Harry Kanner said:

Did Red Skeleton make it onto the list?

(No -- No in the Top 50. -- David)

Comment posted on November 16, 2007 10:05 AM

Eileen Morgan said:

There is only one reason to celebrate New Year's Eve in NYC -- at midnite The Honeymooner's Marathon starts. Have seen these episodes at least 200 times each, but they are still laugh out loud. I've been known to go to bed with the edict, "Wake me up when the marathon begins!" And, if the holiday falls on a weekend, there's very often a "Twilight Zone" marathon. Does tv get any better?

Comment posted on November 19, 2007 9:48 AM

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