Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball Milkshake

During a conversation about television icons, a buddy of mine said that Matthew Perry is on track to achieve legendary status (and she wasn’t talking about his legendary knack for starring on shows that get canceled). Lucille Ball, Andy Griffith, Carol Burnett, Matthew Perry–one of these things is not like the others. What this friend of mine failed to understand is that there is a difference between an icon and someone who is simply a prolific and perhaps beloved television actor, a difference that may be harder to identify when it comes to this medium than it is with film. Perry certainly possess many of the qualities that go in to making an icon–he’s charismatic, his particular set of comedic gifts are perfectly suited for the sitcom format, he’s been on TV for as long as I can remember. But he (on his own and not as a member of the Friends cast) hasn’t had the same kind of impact on the medium or the culture that someone like Jerry Seinfeld has–Seinfeld’s influence is still felt today in shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and he is so cherished by the public that we don’t hold The Marriage Ref against him. So, if not Perry, who is poised to join the pantheon of TV gods?

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Lucy! I’m home! An iconic phrase. And one that has become the calling card of a sitcom that changed the face of comedy on television, and television itself for that matter. With the one hundredth anniversary of Lucille Ball‘s birthday this past weekend, it seems only fitting that we celebrate her iconic sitcom, I Love Lucy. There are very few shows that I look back on and say “man, I wish I was around when that was in the zeitgeist (then again, I never use the word zeitgeist, ever).” But I Love Lucy is a completely different beast. This is a show that I was lucky enough to get into as a child thanks to Nick at Night, and stick with because of its appeal.

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Culture Warrior

Had Leslie Nielsen never been cast in Airplane!, he still would have had a decent working career. He certainly never would have gone down as one of the great entertainers, but the man would have had work. After all, he did have a few noticeable (if not entirely notable) dramatic roles in genre fare ranging from Forbidden Planet (1956) to Prom Night (1980, the same year as Airplane!). But Nielsen did co-star in Airplane!, delivering one immortal line after another, which later catapulted his persona into legendary synonymy with contemporary cinematic parody. Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers may have been the minds behind what exactly the movie parody came to be, but Nielsen was undoubtedly the face and the voice. There is a reason that Leslie Nielsen happened.

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