The 5 Defining TV Personalities of the Decade


After an intense double-elimination process that left Howie Mandel and Ann Coulter in tears, Movieline has selected the defining 5 television figures of the decade. Some dispensed jokes, others news, and still more gave us brilliant scripted television. And as for our #1 choice, he gave us the cruelest gems of all.


5. Tina Fey

She started off the decade as head writer and Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live and then became -- what, exactly? The star and writer of an underwatched show on NBC? No, more than that: Tina Fey has become the face of smart scripted television and the most titillating political parody of the new millennium. Through the most mainstream network on television, Tina Fey has found the cleverest of ways to go rogue.


4, James Gandolfini

A strange thing happened this decade: Television not only became a good place for dramatic actors to hone their monologuing abilities and sustained silences, but the best place. James Gandolfini, who won three Emmys in the '00s, led the pack of actors who turned away from the silver screen and towards the scene-chewy dramatics of serialized television. His complicated, shockingly varied performance as Tony Soprano is the very reason we have Glenn Close on Damages, Kiefer Sutherland on 24, Sally Field on Brothers and Sisters, and Toni Collette on United States of Tara. His HBO home also spurred this decade's rise in cable quality, and it's no coincidence that after helping to write Tony's family-man bravado, Matthew Weiner went on to create another TV phenomenon Mad Men.


3. Oprah Winfrey

The 2000s brought us Oprah's expansion into print publications, new forums for celebrity couch-bouncing, and her juggernaut Favorite Things episodes, all of which have had a Vesuvian effect on even casual voyeurs to television. She also shouted "JOHN TRAVOLTA" sometimes, and that alone brought tears to the nation's windblown cheeks.

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  • Snarf says:

    I was going to write something scathing about your list but actually can't find anything wrong with it. All have staying power, all have changed the face of TV (for better or for worse).

  • Matthew DH says:

    As far as honorable mentions go I think we need to bring up Seth MacFarlane.

  • happygolucky says:

    Ditto what Paula says.
    Great list, great publication, and a happy new year!

  • George says:

    Interesting. I've watched all of their shows once. I then concluded that their shows were not worth my time and did not waste any more of it watching them again. I believe that my decisions were correct.

  • Jamie says:

    Can we please distinguish between reality shows and competition shows? With a few exceptions, American Idol is not about drama as much as it is about talent, and it's produced legitimate singers. As cheesy as it is, it's unfair to lump it and shows like Top Chef in with tripe like Jersey Shore and Real World.

  • Seth Resler says:

    Good list. For your consideration: David Letterman, whose post-9/11 return to the air showed the nation how to laugh again.
    Tim Russert, who grew Meet the Press into THE way in which politicians face the country.
    JJ Abrahms, the creator of Felicity, Alias, Lost and Fringe.
    Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (paving way for a slew of heroine-based shows), Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse.
    Aaron Sorkin, creator of Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio 60.
    Bill O'Reilly, who routinely defined the conservative agenda, from The War on Christmas to his railings against NBC.
    Jay Leno, who ruled late night until his recent 10 pm fiasco.