Beyond Ginger vs. Mary Ann
I’m afraid my interest in reality tv is beginning to show some long term negative side effects. Someone sent me this link for Aol.com’s 50 Sexiest women from television history and it likely brought out my inner stalker-fanboy self. Probably because I was a lonely teenager, I immediately began thinking about all the women who got left off the list. I also remember this sort of thing was a frequent topic of conversation for college guys who couldn’t find girlfriends. We never did figure out that doing this sort of thing was exactly what scared girls away from us. Most of my alternative list comes from the sixties and seventies which has something to do with the fact that we didn’t have alternative media for fantasies of that sort back then. Anyway, any list that has Pamela Anderson at the top and Buffy way back at 50 has to be suspect enough to demand some alternatives.
There are some left off the AOL list from the “modern era” like Mischa Barton from the OC and Brooke Burke. There were also some like Lucy Liu and Jane Kozlowski from Ally McBeal who both moved the bar in their way for tv women’s looks. Still my alternatives are mostly sixties to early eighties. Also this is weird but I want to be clear that my list of “should have been includeds” isn’t based on my personal taste. It’s really more about giving some tv actress/models their rightful place in the pop culture libido. I don’t remember the fifties, so I didn’t venture into Dagmar etc. If it were my taste, I’d include Pam Dawber from Mork and Mindy and Mel Harris from Thirty Something, neither of whom looks like Mrs. Chancelucky (if you must know Mrs. Chancelucky looks vaguely like Peggy Lipton, hence the “Lucky”. I look like Clarence Williams Jr. :) if he were Asian, didn't have an afro, etc.) Also, I'm not sure what to do about shows that had minimal cultural impact like Donna Dixon (Mrs. Dan Ackroyd) from Bosom Buddies which no one would remember except that it was Tom Hanks's big break or Michelle Pfeiffer on Delta House.
1) Vanna White maybe sexy is the wrong word, but she was unquestionably a cultural icon even though she is mostly known for turning over letters. (honorable mention for Carol Merrill of Let’s Make a Deal)
2) Angie Dickinson On Policewoman she always seemed to be posing as a hooker who needed to be rescued. Angie Dickinson also comes with a terrific amount of lore that includes JFK, Burt Bacharach, and there's an unconfirmed story that she dated (shagged) Austin Powers.
3) Mary Tyler Moore People forget that her legs were featured on Richard Diamond Private Eye before America ever saw her in stretch pants on Dick Van Dyke. Of course, her very serious turn in Ordinary People wrecked all that.
4) Sela Ward I’m not sure how they missed the only reason to watch Sisters.
5) Meredith Baxter Birney tv's prototype hot mom with slightly goofy looking tv husband (think about it, most tv writers are slightly goofy looking guys). Show also had Geena Davis, Courtney Cox (would have put ahead of Jennifer Aniston on the AOL list), and Tracy Pollard. I also ran into Tina Yothers outside a Debbie Gibson concert in New York City once. (I'm just mentioning it for trivia's sake. No, I didn't go to the Debbie Gibson concert)
6) Valerie Bertinelli amazingly strong object of guys’ junior high crushes in the seventies. (there's a similar thing with Danica Mackellar from Wonder Years for the eighties which becomes Katie Holmes in the nineties. May have been preceded by Susan Dey (later LA Law) in the sixties) as cute, safe, girl next door types. All darker-haired alternatives to Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.
7) Gunilla Knudson known for a single Noxzema commercial, but unquestionably a cultural phenomenon before Farah Fawcett got the job. (I also remember those Edie Adams tiparillo commercials and then later learned that she’d been married to Ernie Kovacs. Used to be that instead of trying to join rock bands, unstudly looking guys would try to make like comedians to impress women. I think Ernie Kovacs may have had something to do with that)
7) Carolyn Jones Addams Family over Pat Priest Munsters (a pre-goth's Goth) I have no idea about those rumors about Lisa Loring.
8) All the women harassed by Bob Barker on the Price is Right. I think that Diane Parkinson was the most famous, but Price is Right was the template for Deal or No Deal.
9) Why did anyone watch Petticoat Junction, it probably wasn't for Uncle Joe who didn't seem related to anyone and what kind of hotel was the Shady Rest really? That show was on for years and even survived having Lassie’s mother take over the hotel. I think having a woman doctor on premises was a good idea given what was probably happening. Come on, the town was called "Hooterville".
10) Barbara Feldon Agent 99. The AOL people went classy with Diana Rigg, but Agent 99 seemed more attainable.
11) Lindsay Wagner the Bionic Woman actually stayed on the air longer than the Bionic Man I think.
12) Bea Arthur (a test to see if anyone actually reads this)
13) In terms of tv, it's difficult to understimate the impact of Jackie Kennedy. Her tour of the White House was a huge ratings hit in its time and I don't think it was just because everyone wanted to see the White House china. I don’t like to think about what JFK was doing in the back bedrooms when Jackie was busy filming the special. (Fawn Hall and Maureen Dean were very popular during the Watergate scandal hearings)
14) Diahann Carroll, television’s first attempt to give a woman of color crossover sex appeal. OJ Wagedorn hung out at Corey’s house for a reason.
15) Veronica Hamel Hill St. Blues She even addressed the national convention of the ABA one year.
16) Joey Heatherton who is largely known for being on Dean Martin’s summer replacement series and having a featured role in any number of Bob Hope televised specials for our overseas military.
17) Jan Smithers WKRP is sort of the Mary Ann of the seventies, a bit of television reverse psychology also used with Kate Jackson (the smart Charlie's Angel) and Joyce Dewitt (Three's Company) You have no idea how many times some guy would confess over Saturday night pizza like it was some deep revelation, "You know actually I think xxxx is far more attractive."
18) Wilma Flinstone and Betty Rubble. A serious alternative to Ginger vs. Mary Ann. Jessica Rabbit had nothing on them.
Wow, I notice how white and young the list is, because most of it is sixties and seventies television. TV was awfully segregated back then. You have to go to Denise Nicholas who was never allowed to be sexy on 227. Also when they cast Asian women, like Ming Na, Lucy Liu, and Rosalind Chao, it’s interesting that they always match them with much less attractive white guys. I can’t even begin to explain Charo. Also, I think Joan Collins and Linda Evans broke ground for middle-aged women with Dynasty as did Barbara Babcock (Grace Gardner) Hill St. Blues.
If there's any interest in this thing, I may even try a guys list, even at the risk of seeming well, you know.