Many worthy people are still waiting and waiting for their induction into the Television Academy’s TV Hall of Fame. Each year a small committee makes the selection of just a few people to be inducted. You can visit their busts, statues and tributes at their plaza in North Hollywood, California. Our photo gallery above offers up 50 individuals who easily deserve to be include, so please take a look at these choices, esteemed committee members, and let’s induct even more this year.
The first induction was held in 1984 and it’s been an annual tradition almost every year. That class of legends consisted of actress/executive Lucille Ball, actor/comedian Milton Berle, writer Paddy Chayefsky, writer/producer Norman Lear, journalist Edward R. Murrow, CBS founder William S. Paley, and NBC founder David Sarnoff.
The most recent class from late 2017 featured the inductions of production designer Roy Christopher, producer/writer Shonda Rhimes, comedian/actress Joan Rivers, producer/writer John Wells and the original cast of “Saturday Night Live” (Dan Akyroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner).
Our top 50 suggestions are featured in the photo gallery above and listed below.
1. David Letterman
With 33 years as a late night TV host, Letterman had the longest tenure of anyone in history (three years longer than his idol Johnny Carson). He started with the critically acclaimed daytime program “The David Letterman Show” (1980) before his 11 years hosting “Late Night” (1982-1993) and 22 years on “Late Show.” He has five primetime Emmy wins in 52 nominations plus two daytime wins.
2. Lily Tomlin
Tomlin’s breakout on television was as a cast member on the top-rated “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh’In” (1969-1973). In addition to many variety programs and guest roles, she has recently starred on the Netflix comedy series “Grace and Frankie.” She won five Emmy Awards for writing or producing variety specials before winning in 2013 for narrating “An Apology to Elephants.” She also won a Daytime Emmy for the animated program “The Magic School Bus” (1995).
3. Ken Burns
Burns is one of the greatest American documentarians in history. He is a five-time Emmy winner for “The Civil War” (1991), “Baseball” (1995), “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” (2005), and “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (2010). Other nominations were for “The Statue of Liberty” (1986), “Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio” (1992), “Jazz” (2001), “The War” (2008), “The Roosevelts” (2015), and “Cancer” (2015).
4. Tyne Daly
Daly is one of the most respected and awarded actresses on television. She has a total of six Emmy wins with four for “Cagney and Lacey” (1983, 1984, 1985, 1988), one for “Christy” (1996), and one for “Judging Amy” (2003). With 17 overall nominations, other programs included “Intimate Strangers” (1978) and “Wings” (1992).
5. Henry Winkler
There was no bigger star in the 1970s than Winkler, who had an explosive breakout role as Fonzie on “Happy Days.” He received three Emmy nominations for that role and has four others in primetime plus five in daytime. Beyond his acting work, he produced “Hollywood Squares,” “MacGyver,” specials and TV movies.
6. Jay Sandrich
Sandrich began one of the best TV directing careers as an assistant director on “I Love Lucy.” He then went on to direct most episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Cosby Show” plus several installments of “Get Smart,” “The Odd Couple,” “Soap,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “WKRP in Cincinnati,” “The Golden Girls,” and “Empty Nest.” He won a total of four Emmys (two for “MTM” and two for “Cosby”) among his 10 career nominations.
7. Peter Falk
Nobody could have played the iconic homicide detective “Columbo” like Falk. He began his long run as the offbeat cop with the 1968 telefilm “Prescription: Murder” and then followed with NBC episodes 1971-1978 and ABC episodes 1989-2003. He was nominated at the Emmys for that role 10 times, winning four times in 1972, 1975, 1976 and 1990. He also won an Emmy for the anthology program “The Dick Powell Show” (1962).
8. Ellen DeGeneres
DeGeneres launched her stand-up comedy career to most Americans in 1986 with a rollicking appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” She went on to many TV guest appearances and her own series “Ellen,” picking up one primetime Emmy win in 15 career nominations. But it has been her daytime talker “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” providing her with the most acclaim and 29 Daytime Emmy victories.
9. Bob Costas
Costas has spent most of his sportscasting career with NBC in 1980, covering baseball, basketball, and the Olympics among many sports. He has an astounding 28 Sports Emmy wins for hosting, reporting and more.
10. Don Knotts
One of the most iconic characters in TV history is Barney Fife played by Knotts on “The Andy Griffith Show.” He won five Emmys for the role (1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1967) and has the distinction of never losing on a nomination. His career also included “The Steve Allen Show” (1956-1960), “Three’s Company” (1979-1984), plus many variety specials and guest roles.
11. Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld
Seinfeld was already one of the top stand-up comedians when his show “Seinfeld” launched in 1989. David had been developing a writing career when he and Seinfeld teamed up for one of the most critically-acclaimed and popular comedies ever. The show won Best Comedy Series at the Emmys in 1993, and both men have received many other nominations for that show and others along the way.
12. Cicely Tyson
Tyson hasn’t had long-running series roles on television but has still racked up 12 Emmy nominations in her career. With many impactful TV movies on her resume, she has three Emmy wins — two for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974) and one for “Oldest Living Confederate Widown Tells All (1994).
13. Michael J. Fox
NBC did not want to hire the unknown Fox for its new comedy “Family Ties” in 1982. He proved everybody wrong by playing one of the most iconic 1980s characters in Alex P. Keaton, the conservation teenage son of liberal parents. That role won him three Emmys, and he picked up two more for “Spin City” (2000) and “Rescue Me” (2009). He has had a career total of 16 nominations, with other shows being “Boston Legal,” “Curb Your Enthusiam,” and “The Good Wife.”
14. John Ritter
Before his untimely death in 2003, Ritter was a large presence on TV for three decades. Most of that was for his comedy performances in regular series as well as many guest spots and telefilms. His most famous role as Jack Tripper on “Three’s Company” brought him three Emmy nominations and a win in 1984. He also picked up noms for “Hooperman,” “Ally McBeal,” and “8 Simple Rules.”
15. Ryan Murphy
Murphy is a prolific producer, writer and director who first struck gold on TV with “Nip/Tuck” in 2003. His other hit programs have included “Glee,” “American Horror Story,” “American Crime Story” and “Pose” plus the TV movie “The Normal Heart.” He has won four Emmy Awards in his career.
16. Julia Child
There might not be a Food Network or cooking segments on talk shows without the pioneering TV work of Child. She debuted “The French Chef” in 1963 and continued to work steadily on television for the next four decades. She won a primetime Emmy and two in daytime among eight overall nominations.
17. Ted Danson
Danson has been on your television screen practically every day since the early 1980s. His most iconic role as Sam Malone on “Cheers” brought him 11 straight Emmy nominations and two wins (1990, 1993). He also received three noms for “Damages” and has starred in “Becker,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “C.S.I.,” “Fargo,” and now “The Good Place.”
18. Ed Bradley
Bradley spent 26 years as one of TV top news correspondents and journalists on “60 Minutes.” Before that he was the first black White House correspondent for any network, winning a Peabody Award and 19 Emmys during his lengthy career.
19. Allison Janney
Every person with seven or more acting wins at the primetime Emmy Awards has been inducted into the TV Hall of Fame. That is except for Janney, who just joined that group in recent years. Her work on “The West Wing,” “Mom” and “Masters of Sex” plus countless guest appearances should get her the call from the selection committee soon.
20. Carroll Spinney
You might not know the name, but Spinney has been in your home for almost 50 years as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on “Sesame Street.” He has four Daytime Emmys and the lifetime achievement award from NATAS in 2006.
21. Kelsey Grammer
With his work on “Cheers” and “Frasier,” Grammer holds the record as the longest-running live action comedic character in TV history at 20 years. His role as Frasier Crane brought him four Emmys, plus he has another for the animated character of Sideshow Bob on “The Simpsons.”
22. Dick Ebersol
Ebersol is one of the most influential men in sports programming history. He started out under Hall of Fame inductee Roone Arledge in 1967 at ABC before a long executive career at NBC. His innovative coverage of the Olympics and the NFL would not be what it is today without his creative ideas and leadership.
23. Tina Fey
In a relatively short career on television, Fey has already accomplished a lot. She was hired as the first female head writer of “Saturday Night Live” in 1999 plus co-hosted “Weekend Update” and appeared in many sketches. She then went on to create “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Her work has brought her nine Emmy Award wins with three for producing, three for writing and three for performing.
24. Garry Shandling
Shandling was a pioneering person in moving from a successful stand-up comic career into two long-running TV series: “It’s Garry Shandling’ Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” The latter brought him his only Emmy win in 1998 for writing and was based on his many guest hosting appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
25. David Chase
The critically-acclaimed HBO mobster drama “The Sopranos” was the brainchild of Chase from 1999 to 2007 and won him five Emmys. But that’s not his only achievement, with top notch work also on “The Rockford Files” (another Drama Series Emmy), “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Northern Exposure” among his producing credits.
26. Elizabeth Montgomery
Montgomery’s most remembered career achievement was as Samantha Stephens on “Bewitched,” which brought her five Emmy nominations. She was also the queen of TV movies in the 1970s and 1980s, which gave her more Emmy noms for “A Case of Rape” (1974), “The Legend of Lizzie Borden” (1975), and “The Awakening Land” (1978).
27. Tom Selleck
There wasn’t a bigger star on television during the 1980s than Selleck, who was the lead on the detective series “Magnum, P.I.” He won an Emmy Award in 1984 for that role among his seven career nominations. He is also well known for many TV movies, including the “Jesse Stone” franchise and lately as the star of the police drama “Blue Bloods.”
28. Alex Trebek
Trebek has been one of the top game show hosts since the 1970s, starting with “The Wizard of Odds,” “High Rollers,” “Double Dare,” and more. But it’s over three decades as host of the intelligent “Jeopardy” which has brought him fame and five Daytime Emmy Awards.
29. Mike Post
One of the most prolific composers ever, you can hum almost all of Post’s TV theme songs. The Emmy winner’s work has included “The Rockford Files,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “The A-Team,” “L.A. Law,” “Quantum Leap,” “Law and Order,” “NYPD Blue” and more.
30. Larry Hagman
Hagman played the most well-known scoundrel in television history with J.R. Ewing on “Dallas.” The episode where his attempted murderer is revealed is still one of the highest-rated. With many strong guest roles and TV movies, he also was the lead on the comedy “I Dream of Jeannie” for many years.
31. Alfre Woodard
This four-time Emmy winner (out of 18 career nominations) has been a strong presence on TV for almost four decades. As one of the industry’s most in-demand actreses, her victories came for “Hill Street Blues” (1984), “L.A. Law” (1987), “Miss Evers’ Boys” (1997), and “The Practice” (2003).
32. Jon Stewart
Stewart had a good stand-up career going for him in 1999 when he took over hosting duties for the political satire program “The Daily Show.” He brought that show to new heights and has now won 22 Emmy Awards in his career. He helped discover Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, John Oliver and many others.
33. Bob Keeshan
It’s a shame Keeshan and his alter ego “Captain Kangaroo” hasn’t already been inducted for his pioneering work in children’s programming. The daily show ran from 1955 to 1984 and gave him five daytime Emmy wins and three Peabody Awards.
34. Brian Lamb
Lamb was a journalist when he founded C-SPAN in 1979. His vision brought Americans daily live coverage of the House of Representatives and Senate without need for advertising that would cater to the needs of businesses. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.
35. Bryant Gumbel
Gumbel was hired as part of NBC Sports as a co-host of NFL coverage back in 1975. He is best known for his move away from sports into the main anchor chair for the long-running “Today” show in 1982. He has since moved on to work for CBS and HBO, winning four Emmy Awards during his career.
36. Sheila Nevins
Quite simply, Nevins has won more individual Primetime Emmy Awards than any other person ever. Her 32 trophies are for her documentaries and films, including projects about war, Alzheimer’s, religion, Robert Durst, Scientology, plus her variety special with Elaine Stritch.
37. James Arness
Arness played the solemn, trustworthy Marshal Matt Dillon on “Gunsmoke” for 20 seasons. That’s the longest-running consecutive run for a dramatic actor in TV history. He received three Emmy nominations but never won for his most famous role.
38. Don Mischer
Mischer is the king of producing and directing live television programs, including several Emmys and Oscars ceremonies, Super Bowl halftime shows, presidential inaugurations, Kennedy Center Honors, and more. He has won 15 Emmy Awards during his career and served on the TV Academy’s Board of Governors.
39. Stephen J. Cannell
Very few producers and writers have been as prolific as Cannell. His highly rated and award-winning programs have included “The Rockford Files,” “The A-Team,” “Black Sheep Squadron,” “Baretta,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Wiseguy,” “21 Jump Street” and “The Commish.” He won one Emmy out of six nominations.
40. Jimmy Smits
For over three decades, Smits has been a steady and welcome presence on TV. He started out with a big bang on “L.A. Law” and followed with regular roles on “NYPD Blue,” “The West Wing,” “Dexter,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” He has one Emmy win in 12 nominations.
41. Lesley Stahl
Stahl has been a journalist and host for CBS since 1972, which has included her long-running stint reporting for “60 Minutes” since 1991. She has won 13 News Emmys in her career plus a lifetime achievement award in 2003.
42. David Lloyd
If you enjoy classic TV comedies, Lloyd probably wrote some of your favorite episodes. He was the writer of one of the most acclaimed of all time: “Chuckles Bites the Dust” for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” His other regular gigs included “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Taxi,” “Cheers,” Frasier” and “Wings.” He won three Emmy Awards in 13 nominations.
43. Raymond Burr
Burr accomplished something only a few have done before or since — starring on two long-running drama series. His most remembered is the legal program “Perry Mason,” which brought him two Emmy wins in 1959 and 1961. He then had six straight nominations for his wheelchair-bound ex-cop “Ironside.”
44. Susan Lucci
Lucci has one of the most memorable Daytime Emmy wins in history in 1999. That’s because she finally won for her role on the soap opera “All My Children” on her 19th nomination. Due to her role as Erica Kane, she might be the most famous daytime drama performer of all time.
45. Larry King
King was already a radio talk show legend for decades when he joined CNN in 1985. He then hosted “Larry King Live” for the next 25 years, welcoming politicians, celebrities, authors, and pretty much everybody else on his nightly show. He received a life achievement award at the News Emmys in 2011.
46. Matt Groening
Three decades in, and “The Simpsons” is the most famous, longest-lasting animated series in TV history. And it was all the brainchild of Groening. He is a 12-time Emmy winner, with 10 of those for “The Simpsons” and two more for “Futurama.”
47. Jack Klugman and Tony Randall
Klugman and Randall will always be linked as “The Odd Couple,” but both men had extensive TV histories even beyond that classic comedy. Klugman won two Emmys for that show plus another for “The Defenders.” He was also known for “The Twilight Zone” and “Quincy.” Randall won once for this program and also starred on “Mr. Peepers,” “The Tony Randall Show” and “Love, Sidney.”
48. Buffalo Bob Smith
Every child of the 1950s grew up with Buffalo Bob Smith and his puppet Howdy Doody. It began in the earliest days of television in 1947 and continued until 1960.
49. William J. Bell
Three of the most memorable and long-running soap operas of all time were created by Bell: “Another World,” “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” He won 10 Daytime Emmy Awards and was rewarded for life achievement in 1992.
50. Robert Wright
Wright was president of NBC from 1986 to 2001 and was then promoted to chairman until 2007. During his reign, the network experienced some of its biggest growth and was the home to TV classics such as “Seinfeld,” “L.A. Law,” “Friends,” “E.R.,” “Frasier” and “The West Wing.”