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.
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 Hagman49. Calista Flockhart48. Jimmy Smits47. Simon Cowell46. Lassie45. Sarah Michelle Gellar44. Susan Lucci43. Flip Wilson42. James Gandolfini41. Jon Stewart40. Sally Field39. Jennifer Aniston38. Bea Arthur37. George Clooney36. Diahann Carroll35. Michael J. Fox34. Bob Barker33. Ellen DeGeneres32. Henry Winkler31. Sarah Jessica Parker30. Alan Alda29. John Ritter28. Howard Cosell27. Regis Philbin26. Farrah Fawcett25. Heather Locklear24. Michael Landon23. Barbara Walters22. Milton Berle21. Kermit20. Carroll O’Connor19. Andy Griffith18. William Shatner17. Bob Newhart16. David Letterman15. “Not Ready for Primetime Players”14. Ed Sullivan13. Jackie Gleason12. Dick Van Dyke11. Roseanne10. Dick Clark9. Homer Simpson8. Jerry Seinfeld7. Mary Tyler Moore6. Carol Burnett5. Walter Cronkite4. Bill Cosby3. Oprah Winfrey2. Lucille Ball1. Johnny Carson