You want to start a good argument at a bar or over Thanksgiving dinner with the family? Then check out TV Land’s newest list, The 50 Greatest TV Icons. The list is part of a special issue of Entertainment Weekly hitting stands Friday, and a special counting down the famous names will air on TV Land at 8pm ET on the same day. While the famous faces on the countdown are impressive indeed (who can really argue that Johnny Carson is the top spot), I’m sure plenty of people will have problems with not just who is on it, but where some of the icons are ranked. So, in an effort to write something that doesn’t deal with The Work Stoppage That Shall Not Be Named, I though I would analyze some of the choices that really surprised or infuriated me.
48- Jimmy Smits: I’m not sure how he ended up on this countdown. Sure, he’s a great actor, but a “TV Icon?” When I think of the word “icon,” it’s should be attached more for someone you can’t imagine being anywhere else than television. Smits, at one point, wanted to become a big movie star. He wanted to use LA Law as a launching point for a big screen career. When that didn’t work out, he went back to TV for NYPD Blue. There are probably more people impressed that he ended up in the new Star Wars trilogy than they are that he has a new show on CBS (Cane). And as for iconic Hispanic actors on television, I find Edward James Olmos’ role as Lt. Martin Castillo on Miami Vice more memorable than most of Smits’ characters.
41- Jon Stewart: Isn’t a little early to be saying Jon Stewart is an icon? I know The Daily Show is starting to take over real newscasts as a source for news, but I think the Comedy Central superstar might need a few more years before he becomes a “legend.” Maybe he got bonus points for his attack on CNN and Crossfire which was so vicious the president of the network announced the show’s cancellation, then gave credit to Stewart to opening his eyes to what the audience wanted. I think that Stewart is too polarizing a figure to be counted this high. I’ve actually switched to Mr. Truthiness, Stephen Colbert, because I got tired of Jon Stewart lecturing his guests about what’s wrong with them, instead of having fun with them like Colbert does on his show.
34- Bob Barker: How the hell did Bob not end up in the top twenty?!!? He hosted a show, in the same time slot, for 35 years! He still had as much charm and wit as he did the day he signed off, and knew that the show would make him a legend. The show was so popular that CBS would move The Price is Right to primetime during sweeps. He’s the standard which all game show hosts will be measured, especially now that there will be more game shows on the network schedule due to you- know-what. And when he quit, the job search took over months to replace him, knowing that finding someone to take over for Barker would be a monumental task. Now that’s an icon.
28- Howard Cosell: Another name too far down on the list. Cosell was the Bill O’Reilly of sports in the 1970s. He had just as many people who loved him as hated him. He was so popular, that even people who never saw Monday Night Football or Monday Night Baseball could do an impression of him. ABC even game him a variety series in primetime, which was called Saturday Night Live even before Lorne Michaels got his hands on the name. And now with more ex-jocks filling the broadcast booth and sitting at the pre-game desk (which he predicted would be the downfall of good journalism), he’s missed more than ever.
To be fair, the top ten on the list is pretty good. Although I wasn’t the biggest Seinfeld fan ever, I get why he’s #8. And just seeing Homer Simpson’s name ahead of Dick Clark’s makes me smile. But the above arguments are what TV Land and Entertainment Weekly are looking for: A reason for you to pick up the list, and fight with your friends long enough so they have to watch the special and read the magazine too. I look forward to comments below on how dumb my analysis is. Let the games begin.