This list is made-up of 100 icons, innovators and ground-breakers from television's 60+ year history. Each of these people left indelible marks on the medium, both on and off-screen. The names are listed alphabetically.
BTW, although this is supposed to be a list of 100 people, there are actually only 99 entries. This is due to IMBD not having an entry for Robert W. Pitman, the American businessman credited as the founder of MTV.
American leading man famed as the star of one of the longest-running shows in U.S. television history, Gunsmoke
. Born of Norwegian heritage (the family name, Aurness, had formerly been Aursness) in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Rolf and Ruth Duesler Aurness. His father was a traveling salesman of medical supplies and his mother later became a newspaper columnist...
Actress-comedienne Bea Arthur was born on May 13, 1922 in New York City to a Jewish family. She grew up in Maryland where her parents ran a dress shop. By the time she was 12 years old, she grew to be 5'9" and was the tallest girl in her school. She earned the title "wittiest" girl in her school, but Bea's family was not in show-business and she did not think her family would support her dream...
The woman who will always be remembered as the crazy, accident-prone, lovable Lucy Ricardo was born Lucille Desiree Ball on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York. Her father died before she was four, and her mother worked several jobs, so she and her younger brother were raised by their grandparents...
“ See also #46, William Hannah ” - JohnBeatles64
For 35 years Bob Barker had been the host of The Price Is Right
game show. Not only is it the highest-rated daytime game show, it's also the longest-running game show in TV history, surpassing the prime-time hit What's My Line?
, which ran for 18 years. He also served the show's executive producer since 1987...
Producer, author, and composer, educated at NYU. Until 1960, he worked at a New York advertising agency, and then co-founded a film production company in New York. He joined ASCAP in 1963 and collaborated musically with Edward Thomas
and James Polack
. His popular-song works include "Pinocchio,"...
“ See also #73, Arthur Rankin, Jr. ” - JohnBeatles64
One cool, eternally classy lady, Candice Bergen was elegantly poised for trendy "ice princess" stardom when she first arrived on the screen, but she gradually reshaped that débutante image both on- and off-camera. A staunch, outspoken feminist with a decisive edge, she went on to take a sizable portion of these contradicting qualities to film and, most particularly, to late 1980s television...
Milton Berle was born Milton Berlinger on July 12, 1908, in New York City. He was educated at New York Professional Children's School and began performing at age 5. His first stage appearance was in "Florodora" in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He appeared at the Palace Theater in New York in 1931, then in nightclubs and theaters...
Attended Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie-Mellon U) as a playwriting major. Barbara Bosson
, Michael Tucker
, Bruce Weitz
and Charles Haid
were classmates; he and Tucker drove cross-country to Hollywood for full-time jobs at Universal, where Bochco would remain for 12 years. In 1978, he moved to MTM Enterprises...
Brinkley hosted This Week with David Brinkley from 1982 until his retirement in 1997. In 1992, he won a Peabody Award for his report on the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As a news analyst, Brinkley was known for his terse, biting comments and his dry wit.
The entertainment world has enjoyed a five-decade love affair with comedienne/singer Carol Burnett. A peerless sketch performer and delightful, self-effacing personality who rightfully succeeded Lucille Ball
as the carrot-topped "Queen of Television Comedy," it was Burnett's traumatic childhood that set the stage for her comedy...
One of television's premier African-American series stars, elegant actress, singer and recording artist Diahann Carroll was born Carol Diann (or Diahann) Johnson on July 17, 1935, in the Bronx, New York. The first child of John Johnson, a subway conductor, and Mabel Faulk Johnson, music was an important part of her life as a child...
Johnny Carson, the legendary "King of Late Night TV" who dominated the medium's nether hours for three decades, was born in Corning, Iowa, but moved with his family to nearby Norfolk, Nebraska when he was eight years old. It was in Norfolk, where he lived until he was inducted into the US Navy in 1943...
Yale-educated Dick Cavett established his reputation as the most erudite of American talk show hosts in the late 1960s and early '70s. Although there were many contenders who took on Johnny Carson
, the undisputed heavyweight champion of late-night TV, Cavett generally was considered the most successful of the pretenders to Carson's throne...
“ See also #21, Les Charles ” - JohnBeatles64
“ See also #20, Glen Charles ” - JohnBeatles64
Born in Mt. Vernon, New York, and raised in New Jersey, David Chase (born David DeCesare) dreamed of being a star--a star drummer in a rock band! He spent many years playing drums and bass trying to be part of a successful rock band in the 1960s East Coast music scene. He also loved movies, such as The Public Enemy
with James Cagney
and TV shows like The Untouchables
with Robert Stack
Dick Clark was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York on November 30, 1929 to Julia Fuller and Richard Augustus Clark. He had one older brother, Bradley, who was killed in World War II. At the age of 16, Clark got his first job in the mailroom of WRUN, a radio station in Utica, New York, which was owned by his uncle and managed by his father...
Bill Cosby is one of the world's most well-known entertainers and comedians. William Henry Cosby, Jr. was born on July 12, 1937, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Anna Pearl (Hite), a maid, and William Henry Cosby, Sr., a U.S. Navy sailor. After tenth grade, Cosby joined the Navy and completed high school through a correspondence course...
When you think of the words honesty, straight from the shoulder, and tell it like it is, you think of one man: Howard Cosell
. Howard is best remembered as the greatest sportscaster in the history of sports. His way with words and ability of telling like it was, brought him fame not only in America...
Emmy-winning talk show host Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born in Metairie, Louisiana, a New Orleans suburb. She is the daughter of Betty DeGeneres
(née Elizabeth Jane Pfeffer), a speech therapist, and Elliott Everett DeGeneres, an insurance agent. Her brother is musician and producer Vance DeGeneres
. Her parents divorced when she was sixteen years old...
Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Flora Disney
(née Call) and Elias Disney
, a Canadian-born farmer and businessperson. He had Irish, German, and English ancestry. Walt moved with his parents to Kansas City at age seven, where he spent the majority of his childhood...
Roger Joseph Ebert was the all-time best-known, most successful movie critic in cinema history, when one thinks of his establishing a rapport with both serious cineastes and the movie-going public and reaching more movie fans via television and print than any other critic. He became the first and only movie critic to win a Pulitzer Prize (it would be 28 years before another film critic...
“ See also #81, Gene Siskel ” - JohnBeatles64
Peter Michael Falk was born on September 16, 1927, in New York City, New York. At the age of 3, his right eye was surgically removed due to cancer. He graduated from Ossining High School, where he was president of his class. His early career choices involved becoming a certified public accountant, and...
Farrah Fawcett is a true Hollywood success story. A native of Texas, she was the daughter of Pauline Alice (Evans), a homemaker, and James Fawcett
, an oil field contractor. She was a natural athlete, something that her father encouraged, and she attended a high school with a strong arts program. She attended University of Texas in Austin...
Elizabeth Stamatina Fey was born in 1970 in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia, to Xenobia "Jeanne" (Xenakes), a brokerage employee, and Donald Henry Fey, who wrote grant proposals for universities. Her mother is Greek, born in Piraeus, while her father had German, Northern Irish, and English ancestry...
Amiable and handsome James Garner had obtained success in both films and television, often playing variations of the charming anti-hero/con-man persona he first developed in Maverick, the offbeat western TV series that shot him to stardom in the late 1950s. James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman...
Author, writer and composer who was co-librettist for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". He joined ASCAP in 1957, and his popular-song compositions include "Wallflower" and "Let's Go Steady".
Comedian, actor, composer and conductor, educated in New York public schools. He was a master of ceremonies in amateur shows, a carnival barker, daredevil driver and a disc jockey., and later a comedian in night clubs. By the mid-1950s he had turned to writing original music and recording a series of popular and best-selling albums with his orchestra for Capitol Records...
“ See also #89, Bill Todman ” - JohnBeatles64
A five-time Emmy Award winner, Kelsey Grammer was born in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to Sally (Cranmer), a singer, and Frank Allen Grammer, Jr., a musician and restaurateur. He was raised in New Jersey and Florida. Grammer was drawn to the works of William Shakespeare
and spent two years at the prestigious Juilliard School...
Merv Griffin was a singer and band leader, movie actor, television personality and media mogul who in his time hosting The Merv Griffin Show
was second in fame and influence as a talk show host only to Johnny Carson
. Griffin was best known for creating the two most popular game shows in television syndication history...
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Matt Groening did not particularly like school, which is what originally turned him towards drawing. In the mid-1980s, he moved to Los Angeles and started drawing a comic strip named "Life in Hell", which eventually became published in the newspaper where he worked. In 1988...
The son of a legendary actress (Mary Martin
) and a district attorney, Larry Martin Hagman was born on September 21, 1931 in Fort Worth, Texas. After his parents' divorce, he moved to Los Angeles, California to live with his grandmother. When he was 12, his grandmother died and he moved back to his mother's place...
“ See also #6, Joseph Barbera ” - JohnBeatles64
Jim Henson never thought that he would make a name of himself in puppetry; it was merely a way of getting himself on television. The vehicle that achieved it was Sam and Friends
, a late-night puppet show that was on after the 11:00 news in Washington DC. It proved to be very popular and inspired Jim to continue using puppets for his work...
Comedian Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, London, England, the fifth of seven sons of Avis (Townes), light opera singer, and William Henry Hope, a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. His maternal grandmother was Welsh. Hope moved to Bristol before emigrating with his parents to the US in 1908...
David E. Kelley
David Kelley might be described as living the American Dream, 1990s' style: write a screenplay, move to Hollywood, make millions and marry a movie star. A former Boston lawyer, in the last decade, he switched careers to become a successful television producer whose shows are recognized for their quality as well as receiving top ratings...
“ See also #53, Sid Krofft ” - JohnBeatles64
“ See also #52, Marty Krofft ” - JohnBeatles64
Michael Landon was born Eugene Maurice Orowitz, on Saturday, October 31st, 1936, in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. In 1941, he and his family moved to Collingswood, New Jersey. When Eugene was in high school, he participated -- and did very well -- in track and field, especially javelin throwing, and his athletic skills earned him a scholarship to USC...
Norman Lear is a World War II veteran, actor, writer, producer, director, and creator of such legendary sitcoms like All In The Family, Good Times, Sanford And Son, The Jeffersons, Maude, and many other sitcoms that defined and revolutionized American television. Norman Milton Lear was born in New Haven...
Sheldon Leonard was born in New York City's lower Manhattan, the son of Jewish parents. He studied acting at Syracuse University and, after graduating, landed a job on Wall Street. Following the Wall Street crash of 1929, he found himself unemployed and resolved to become a professional actor on the stage...
Television would never be the same after David Letterman made his second attempt at a television show in 1982. But his career before becoming host of the show was quite an interesting and long one. Letterman was born in Broad Ripple, a neighborhood in Indianapolis. His childhood was relatively unremarkable...
Susan Lucci was born on December 23, 1946, in Scarsdale, New York, to Jeanette (Granquist) and Victor Lucci, a building contractor. She is of Italian (father) and Swedish, German, and French (mother) descent. Susan grew up in Garden City. Since she can remember, she wanted to be a performer, and through her teenage years...
Dick Martin, the comedian and television director who achieved TV immortality as the co-host of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
as the comic foil to straight man Dan Rowan
, was born on January 30, 1922 in Battle Creek, Michigan. The young Martin was a writer for the popular radio sit-com "Duffy's Tavern" before teaming up with Rowan in the 1950s...
“ See also #75, Dan Rowan ” - JohnBeatles64
Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore was born on December 29, 1936 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to Marjorie (Hackett) and George Tyler Moore, a clerk. Her maternal grandparents were English immigrants, and her father was of English, Irish, and German descent. Moore's family relocated to California when she was eight. Her childhood was troubled...
Edward R. Murrow
Pioneering radio and TV reporter who was the dominant figure in American broadcast journalism during its early years. His dramatic, in-person coverage of the 1938 German occupation of Austria, the 1939 German blitzkrieg against Czechoslovakia and the 10-month-long Battle of Britain, fought in the skies between 1940 and 1941...
Burt Mustin was a salesman most of his life, but got his first taste of show business as the host of a weekly radio variety show on KDKA Pittsburgh in 1921. He appeared onstage in "Detective Story" at Sombrero Playhouse in Phoenix Arizona, and played the janitor in the movie version, (Detective Story
“ Burt Mustin is arguably the most prolific character actor in all of TV history, with appearances in shows such as "The Twilight Zone," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Monkees," "The Brady Bunch" and "All in the Family" among many others. ” - JohnBeatles64
Carroll was born in Manhattan and raised in Forest Hills, a community of Queens, New York. After high school in 1942, he joined the Merchant Marines and worked on ships in the Atlantic. In 1946, he enrolled at the University of Montana to study English. While there, he became interested in theater. During one of the amateur productions...
TV-talk show host, game-show host, singer, author, and TV personality, Regis Philbin became one of the most popular talk-show hosts in America and in Canada, especially. Growing up as an only child in The Bronx, New York, Philbin went to the University of Notre Dame and got a degree in sociology. Later...
“ See also #8, Jules Bass ” - JohnBeatles64
Fred Rogers was the host of the popular long-running public television children's show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The show debuted in Pittsburgh in 1967 and was picked up by PBS the next year, becoming a staple of public TV stations around the United States. Rogers' mild manner, cardigan sweaters and soft speaking voice made him both widely beloved and widely parodied...
Roseanne Barr's story is one of the most controversial of any actresses. She dropped out of high school when she was 17 years old. After a car accident, she was admitted to a mental institution, claiming she was having nightmares and memory loss. She left the institute less than a year later. Soon after...
Dan Rowan was a comedian most famous as the straight man to Dick Martin
, with whom he co-hosted the watershed TV program Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In
from 1968-1973. The comedian debuted into small-town life as Daniel Hale Rowan in Beggs, Oklahoma on July 22, 1922, the son of show people. As a child, Rowan toured the carnival circuit with his mother in father as part of a song and dance act...
“ See also #60, Dick Martin ” - JohnBeatles64
Jerry Seinfeld was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Betty (Hesney) and Kalman Seinfeld. His father was of Hungarian Jewish descent, while Jerry's maternal grandparents, Salha and Selim Hosni, were Syrian Jewish immigrants (from Aleppo). He moved with his family, including sister Carolyn, to suburban Massepequa...
John Phillips is the name used by longtime television and film writer Rod Serling when he asked that his real name be removed as the writer of the pilot episode of the series "The New People" in 1969. While Serling's name remained as series developer, he was sufficiently annoyed with ABC- TV's editing of the pilot-- it was cut from 52 to 45 minutes to fit into a 90 minute time slot...
William Shatner has notched up an impressive 50-plus years in front of the camera, most recently displaying comedic talent, and being instantly recognizable to several generations of cult television fans as the square-jawed Captain James T. Kirk, commander of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise. Shatner was born in Côte Saint-Luc...
“ See also #31, Roger Ebert ” - JohnBeatles64
“ See also #83, Tom Smothers ” - JohnBeatles64
“ See also #82, Dick Smothers ” - JohnBeatles64
Aaron Spelling graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Before that, he attended Forest Avenue High. He started as a writer and sold his first script to Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre
. He wrote for various television shows, including Playhouse 90
. After he wrote his first pilot he became a producer for Four Star Productions...
Jon Stewart was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz in New York City, New York, to Marian (Laskin), a teacher, and Donald Leibowitz, a physics professor. His family is Ashkenazi Jewish (from Austria, Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus). Stewart moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey during his childhood. He graduated from the College Of William And Mary in Williamsburg...
The beloved graven image of TV variety from 1948 to 1971 on CBS, Ed Sullivan originally made his name as a newspaper sportswriter, radio broadcaster and theater columnist for the New York Daily News. His column focused primarily on Broadway shows and juicy items about its stars. Hired in 1932 by the CBS network as a rival of radio commentator Walter Winchell
Brandon Tartikoff was a graduate of Yale University, and started his career out at WLS-TV in Chicago. He switched jobs to ABC in New York in the mid-1970s, and moved to NBC in 1977 where he became a programming executive hired by Dick Ebersol
. Tartikoff took over programming duties from Fred Silverman in 1980...
“ See also #39, Mark Goodson ” - JohnBeatles64
Ted Turner was born on November 19, 1938 in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA as Robert Edward Turner III. He is the founder of CNN, TurnerBrodcastSystem(TBS)and TNTnetwork He was previously married to Jane Fonda, Jane Shirley Smith and Judy Nye .He started in the business as a writer and producer but had a bigger vision.
Joss Whedon is the middle of five brothers - his younger brothers are Jed Whedon
and Zack Whedon
. Both his father, Tom Whedon
and his grandfather, John Whedon
were successful television writers. Joss' mother, Lee Stearns, was a history teacher and she also wrote novels as Lee Whedon...
Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, to Christine Tess (Cachikis), a homemaker, and Horace Logan White, a lighting company executive. She is of Danish, Greek, English, and Welsh descent. Although best known as the devious Sue Ann Nivens on the classic sitcom Mary Tyler Moore
and the ditzy Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls
Oprah Winfrey was born Orpah Gail Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, a former maid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner, barber, and city councilman. While Winfrey has been cited as the richest African American of the 20th century, she does not come from a rich, or even middle class, family...
Henry Franklin Winkler was born on October 30, 1945, in Manhattan, New York. His parents, Ilse Anna Maria (Hadra) and Harry Irving Winkler, were Jewish immigrants who avoided the German Holocaust, moving to the US in 1939. His father was the president of an international lumber company while his mother worked alongside his father...