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Seventeen of TV's hottest women over 40

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 6th 2007 11:22AM
Kate WalshAbout two years ago, I set out to list the hottest women on TV who are over 40, over 50, and over 60. There were a lot candidates to choose from, even in the over 60 category, making it a particularly tough set of list to compose.

But now that our friends at AOL have decided to compile a list of TV's 50 sexiest women of all time (starting today with Nos. 50-41), I'm going to take on an even greater challenge: making one master list of seventeen beauties over 40. It's not as easy as you think; the TV landscape has changed a bit, and a few new strong contenders have recently entered their 40s, and a few of the previous list members have left the TV landscape. To make this list, a woman has to have been a regular or significant guest on a TV series or news program in 2007. So, after the jump, a list -- in no particular order -- of fifteen beauties who combine looks, maturity and grace to make one compellingly sexy package.

Thumbnails are with the list, but you can click on the gallery below to get a much better view of these lovely women. Then add your own choices in the comments.

The Newcomers

These three actresses just joined the ranks of the "fortysomethings;" they should stay on the hot list for some time to come:

Lauren GrahamAfter all the gushing I've done about Lauren Graham over the years, you knew that if the list had my name on it, she was going to be on it.

She's probably on her way to a theatrical career, but her seven years on Gilmore Girls proved that she could be as cute as a button while also spewing pop-culture references at a record speed. Along with Lisa Loeb, she seems to be every geeky guy's dream girl (and the dream girl of a lot of not-so-geeky guys as well).

Kate WalshKate Walsh will probably never forget 2007, and it's not because she turned 40 this year. She not only got married and got her own Cadillac commercial, but her Grey's Anatomy character of Addison Montgomery was spun off onto one of the top-rated new shows this season, Private Practice.

If anyone deserves such success, though, It's Walsh. She managed to take the one-dimensional, supposedly vengeful character of Addison and make her into a very sympathetic figure. And, anyone who saw her rock a fat suit on The Drew Carey Show knows she can be pretty funny, too. Let's hope her 2008 is at least half as good as her 2007.

Melora HardinI almost forgot to add Melora Hardin to this list, which makes sense, as she's often overlooked in the ensemble of The Office. But she shouldn't be; her character of Jan has gone from corporate ice queen to emotionally co-dependent sponge pretty quickly, but Hardin has made the transition believable. She also has pretty good chemistry with Steve Carell, making Jan and Michael a more interesting couple to watch than even Jim and Pam.

Oh, and my fellow blogger Jay may think that Mindy Kaling is better looking than Hardin, but I've also seen Melora in person, and... well, let's just say I was very happy to let her know where she could find some sushi.

CSI's Finest

When I was compiling this list, I noticed I was downloading photos of all the fortysomethings from the three CSI shows. Since it was so hard to choose which one to put on the list -- or which one to leave off -- I just decided to list all three.

Khandi AlexanderI've got to say, if you have to die a grizzly death, having Marg Helgenberger (CSI), Khandi Alexander (CSI: Miami) or Melina Kanakaredes (CSI: NY) lean over your body isn't a bad way to go. Of course, all three are best experienced by the living; all three have had extensive careers and all three have proven themselves to handle a wide range of roles. Especially Alexander; she was great as a foil for the wacky WNYXers on NewsRadio, but had no problems handling the emotionally gripping role as Dr.
Benton's sister Jackie on ER.

Marg HelgenbergerHelgenberger has been one of those people that, before CSI, popped up from time to time all over the TV and movie landscape. Of course, she also had a recurring role on the 1980s Vietnam drama China Beach and as a love interest for Geroge Clooney during the early seasons of ER.

But most people know her as Catherine Willows, the best stripper-turned-CSI-cop Las Vegas has ever seen. You know CSI must be fiction, because most ex-strippers in Vegas don't look anywhere near as good as Marg does.

Melina KanakaredesKanakaredes is the underdog of this group, but she holds her own. I don't know what it is about her; maybe it's her gentle eyes, maybe it's the way she can adeptly look at splattered brain tissue without making too much of a mess. But you just know that when she's on the scene, everything's going to be OK.

Maybe she established that vibe during her starring stint on Providence. Hey, she played a doctor! Mike Farrell was her dad! How much gentler can you get? One thing I will say... look at the pictures of her in the gallery, and you'll notice that it's not all about being the best looking doctor/cop/mom on the block...

Give Me the News

The next two women could tell me that al-Qaeda was knocking on my front door, and I'd still have a hard time tearing my eyes away from the television:

Diane SawyerCould it be possible that Diane Sawyer looks better at 62 than she did at 41? I definitely think that she's improved with age. She seems to be looser and more comfortable with herself on the air than she ever was when she was the hard-charging up-and-comer that became 60 Minutes' first female correspondent in the mid-Eighties. Maybe it's the easy-going format of Good Morning America, or it may just be the confidence that being one of the highest-paid TV personalities brings, but Diane's been getting very flirty and adventurous lately, both as an interviewer and an interviewee.

Elizabeth VargasElizabeth Vargas has been having a tough year; she had to decide between taking care of her family and being the anchor of World News Tonight, and of course, anyone having a baby over 40 is going to have some difficulty (though mother and child both are healty). But she still continues to sparkle on 20/20. It's those eyes; they just lock you in and don't let go. I wonder if John Stossel ever thinks of leaving his wife when she smiles at him.

Jerry Lewis is Wrong

There are lots of funny women out there, and four of the best happen to belong in this group:

Mary-Louise ParkerYes, I know that Mary-Louise Parker has done drama -- and quite well, as West Wing fans could tell you -- but right now, she's doing a fantastic job as the drug-dealing mom Nancy Botwin on Weeds. Something about her smoldering looks, wise-ass nature and her seemingly accessible vibe makes viewers really want to see her in action. Or maybe it was the fact that she got dumped by Mr. Master Card, Billy Crudup, left her while she was very pregnant with their child. Not sure.

Julia Louis-DreyfusParker seems like a woman who can be pretty happy just foisting a beer with you at a local pub. it's the same vibe I get from the other hyphenated name on this list, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. We all know her history, from bit player on SNL to a career-defining role on Seinfeld to her current success on The New Adventures of Old Christine. But I always envisioned her hanging out at the pub after whatever improv or sketch show she happened to be doing back in the day, downing Guinnesses and talking comedy. Now? She's probably drinking less Guinness, since she and Brad Hall have two kids. But I bet she's the funniest mom on the block, making the most creative fart noises in the neighborhood.

Patricia HeatonSpeaking of "hot moms"...Yes, Patricia Heaton has had a lot of work done, and yes, her transformation led to an ugly sitcom trend of "fat husband/hot wife". But, I applaud her for not letting all those pregnancies and her approaching fifties get her down. She didn't enhance and pull back, she just lifted and tucked what she had. And she looks fairly natural because of it. Also, Patricia doesn't pretend to be anything but a Republican who loves her religion and her family, which flies in the face of what anyone would expect to see from a Hollywood star (judging by what I'm seeing in this picture, I don't think she's a Laura Bush-esque prude, either). Not that I agree with her, but you've got to admire the strength she has in her convictions, considering she's on a political island out there in La-La-Land.

Jean SmartJust like with Parker, I know Jean Smart has done drama before (The District, 24), but her most memorable roles have been in comedy; first she was the sweet but somewhat clueless Charlene on Designing Women, then played a great guest role on Frasier as the explosive Lana, Frasier Crane's childhood crush. Now she's Christina Applegate's mother on Samantha Who?, playing the status-craving, martini-swilling ball-buster to the hilt. And, for those of you who don't think Smart can have a 35-year-old daughter... well, that just means that she's doing something right...

Drama Queens

No, I don't mean that they're emotional wrecks. It's that the following two women give performances with such red-hot intensity, that they always bring a presence to any show they're on, even if that show is a frothy-light soap.

Mariska HargitayBoy, can Mariska Hargitay kick ass! On Law & Order: SVU, Mariska does a slow burn, trying to right the wrongs that sickos and pedophiles perpetrate week after week. And while she's kicking ass, she's even sexier. The suits, the tight shirts underneath those suits, those "I want to tear your d**k off" looks in her eye... man oh man, who wouldn't want to get locked in an interrogation room with Mariska?

She can play sweet, too, as she did when she played Mark Greene's girlfriend Cynthia on ER, but I like her determination and grittiness on SVU much better. Oh, and her mom was Jayne Mansfield. That Jayne Mansfield had some big breasts...

Dana DelanyWe all know Dana Delany can do comedy; she taunted Sam Malone in a memorable guest spot on Cheers and she's currently holding her own with the gals on Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives. But watch her turn last year on the late, lamented Kidnapped, and you can just feel the hell her character of Ellie Cain is going through, not knowing whether her abducted son is alive or not and whether her husband had anything to do with the crime. Of course, we all came to know Dana as Nurse Colleen McMurphy on China Beach, so her dramatic chops are well known to us.

After meeting her in person and reading interviews she's done, I can tell that Delany has a free spirit about her that belies the fact that she's well over 50. And she still has that wry smile that can make a guy's heart melt. Oh, and she also looks equally sexy in a pair of glasses, as I found out.

Maura TierneyThere's just something about Maura Tierney that rivets me to the screen. It may be an accessibility that many others on this list don't have; she's played flawed characters and characters that are tough as nails. She was an underrated presence amongst the crazies on NewsRadio, and she's kept me watching ER for many years after the show itself became boring and ridiculous.

Why else do I like Maura so much? Well, for one, in a scene on ER, you could hear the Pixies blaring on her car stereo right before she turned the it down. It just seems like she picked that song, not the producers.I could see myself in the car with Maura, groovin' to "Gouge Away" while gulping down some 40s (and yes, I know the character Abby was an alcoholic. Please chill and let me have my fantasies), then having a life-altering talk before going back to... well, ok, that's enough of that, but you get the idea.

Daytime's Royalty

The following two women have been the stars of their soap operas for not just years, but decades. And -- with maybe a skosh of help from the medical community -- both look almost the same as they did when they first started.

Susan LucciI've mentioned before that Susan Lucci has had "help" to look so great, but, in her case, who cares? The grand dame of soaps has been on top of her game for thirty-five years, and at 58, is still vixenishly sexy. No wonder why Erica Kane has gotten married so many times on All My Children; she may be a bitch, but she's an irresistible bitch.

One thing I never realized about Lucci -- mainly because I don't watch soaps and usually see her in a long gown losing at the Daytime Emmys -- is that she is a tiny, tiny woman. I once saw her in either a TV movie or on AMC wearing a one-piece short dress. It looked great, but it hung on her like it was still on a sales rack! She can't weigh more than 100 pounds, and most of that is probably hair spray.

Deidre HallNo other soap holds on to their veterans like Days of Our Lives, and it amazed me when I flipped past it the other day that Deidre Hall was still on, playing Dr. Marlena Evans, a role that she's been playing since 1976, according to her website. And, to be honest, she didn't look much different from how she looked when I was an avid viewer of the show in my grammar school years (hey, it was summer and there was one TV in the house! I should have gone out and played a little more...).

The reason why I picked the picture to the above, even though it's not one where Hall is wearing a gown on the red carpet, is because it was just taken last week. Yes, she might have had a touch-up done here and there. But damn, considering she just turned 60, the fact that she needed just a little touch-up instead of a Joan Rivers-style overhaul is a miracle by itself.

I know I'm missing a bunch of names here. Let me know who you think should be added to it in the comments.

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My Mia

Who ever made up this list really should check themselves . IT is very SAD that in this day and time you can only find One Woman of Color to be on this list. I guess we should be greatful for that . But, I"M NOT !!!!!! Maybe you should be more OPEN to seeing Beauty in more then just WHITE women. Don't get me wrong they are lovely ladies but beauty comes in more then one COLOR!!!!!!!!!

January 10 2008 at 4:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
harlowe Kvale

As mentioned by another, how could you not mention Gail O Grady!! She is one of the most beautiful women out there!!She has a very sexy smile and a body to match. And her eyes make you melt. On top of that she is a great actress. She's always playing different roles.Drama, comedy, horror. You never hear any bad press.I think you should post a picture and have people vote.

December 28 2007 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sommoses

did you forget JANE SEYMORE or PAULA ZAHN

December 28 2007 at 8:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
harleygrip

Can't believe you left out Kim Delany and Catherine Bell of 'Army Wives' these two hotties give sizzle to TV.

December 18 2007 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WatkinsGlen1

You forgot Vivica A. Fox, who had a recurring role on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with Larry David this year. She looked better than ever and in the season finale, had a very sweet scene with David.

December 08 2007 at 11:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephen

I also have fond memories of the hot girls on "Pettycoat Junction" Loved the bathing in the huge train water tower in the opening sequence.

December 05 2007 at 1:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephen

when you were listing Star Trek cuties, you left out, from the current show,"Enterprise" the young lady playing a young T'pol. She had one very memorable sweaty scene in a de-contamination chamber that is an absolute tv classic.

December 05 2007 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron

Demi Moore should be added to this list at 46

December 04 2007 at 1:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jay blaisdell

It's hard to imagine that anyone can watch "Private Practice" and come away focused on only Kate Walsh. There has to be others out there who have this thing for Amy Brenneman -- who has always been hot in a quiet, unassuming way. ( She may, of course, not yet be 40 --which would give the voters an excuse for ignoring her. ) -- Jay Blaisdell, Cleveland

November 30 2007 at 9:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Psychodog

What the heck??? No mention whatsoever of Heather Locklear? She's so hot I need to get the fire extinguisher out when she's on!!!

November 29 2007 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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