Ranking the 50 greatest male TV stars ever, including Johnny Carson, Bob Newhart, Mr. Rogers

Who is the best male TV star of all time? Our new photo gallery above takes on the tough task of ranking the 50 greatest actors and performers. Agree or disagree with our choices?

With over 70 years of television to consider, we had to provide ourselves with a few rules to help simplify things. One of those was that every man in our gallery must have been an ongoing leading star at some point, preferably more often than not. That’s why you will not see such classic supporting actors as Art Carney, Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Peter Dinklage and more. We also do not include any news/sports anchors or journalists such as Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Peter Jennings, Howard Cosell since they are not performers.

In order to place them in the rankings, we were looking at a combination of quality (top rated shows with the public or critics), quantity (number of shows and TV appearances), Emmy wins and nominations, plus overall legacy and iconic nature. They also needed to be on television regularly for at least the last 15 years or more. That knocked out some very fine actors who’ve only just begun their TV careers in the past decade or so. In determining their rankings, we did not consider their behind-the-scenes work or other terrific parts of their career (some are the among the best entertainers ever but have lower rankings due to less work on TV than other places).

Among the gentlemen in our rankings are several that have been inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in the past 35 years. They are Alan Alda, Desi Arnaz, Edward Asner, Bob Barker, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, George Burns, Sid Caesar, Johnny Carson, Dick Clark, James Garner, Jackie Gleason, Andy Griffith, Sherman Hemsley, Jim Henson, Bob Hope, Michael Landon, Jay Leno, Bob Newhart, Carroll O’Connor, Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers), William Shatner, Ed Sullivan and Dick Van Dyke.

Unfortunately we do not include Bill Cosby in this photo gallery. While his acting career would put him in the Top 5, his recent judgments and incarceration would taint the choices we made of the others and cause our comment section to be overwhelmed with negativity.

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