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Image: Johnny Carson
Douglas C. Pizac  /  AP file
Talk show host Johnny Carson landed the top spot on a ranking of “The 50 Greatest TV Icons.”
updated 11/16/2007 6:41:10 PM ET 2007-11-16T23:41:10

It doesn’t take a psychic in a bejeweled turban to figure out that Johnny Carson landed the top spot.

But deeper down the ranking of “The 50 Greatest TV Icons,” you may find a name that surprises you (or even makes you scratch your head). Which is part of the fun.

The list, released to the Associated Press, was compiled by cable’s TV Land network and Entertainment Weekly magazine.

It’s the source of a two-hour TV Land special airing Friday at 8 p.m. EST (and is also featured in the issue of Entertainment Weekly appearing on newsstands the same day). The special counts down from Larry Hagman (No. 50) to Carson, with mini-profiles of each “icon” in turn.

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But what’s a “TV icon” anyway?

Someone who “jumps off the screen into your home,” says Henry Winkler, who is ranked 32nd, while Regis Philbin (No. 27) says, “If you hang around long enough, they call you an icon.”

Along with human TV stars, the list contains a pooch (Lassie), a Muppet frog (Kermit), a cartoon dad (Homer Simpson) and a full-blown comedy troupe (the original Not Ready for Primetime Players from “Saturday Night Live”).

There’s one “Friend” (Jennifer Aniston) and two current late-night hosts (David Letterman and Jon Stewart made the cut, but Carson’s successor, Jay Leno, did not). TV comedy trailblazer Milton Berle is on the list, though not his contemporary, Sid Caesar.

Of course, maybe you’ve got your own ideas. During the broadcast, you’ll be invited to text-message your choice for the No. 1 “TV icon,” with the audience consensus revealed at show’s end.

List of ‘The 50 Greatest TV Icons,’ compiled by TV Land network and Entertainment Weekly:
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

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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