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8 Elder Statesmen (and Women!) of 2010

by Kim Potts, posted Dec 16th 2010 3:00PM
Betty White
Countdown to Festivus on Dec. 23: On the eighth day of Festivus, TV gave us to ... eight elder statesmen (and women) reigning.

Like fine wine and George Clooney, the TV stars on our list of elder statesmen and women -- statespeople? -- have only gotten better with age. From Tom Selleck entering his fourth decade as one of TV land's sexiest men (and best mustaches) to Betty White entering her seventh decade as one of the tube's most beloved (and energetic) funny ladies, see our picks for TV's most enduring class acts.

Dabney ColemanDabney Coleman
'Boardwalk Empire'

Age: 78
Years on TV: 49

'The Fugitive,' 'I Dream of Jeannie,' 'The Flying Nun, 'That Girl,' 'Bonanza,' 'The F.B.I.' and 'McMillan & Wife' are just a few of the shows Coleman had appeared on as an in-demand guest star before his first signature TV role, as Mayor Merle Jeeter on the wacky soap spoof 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman' and its spin-off, 'Fernwood 2 Night.' In between movie roles -- most notably, of course, as hog-tied boss Franklin Hart in 'Nine to Five' -- Coleman would continue to land recurring roles on shows like 'Quincy M.E.,' 'Diff'rent Strokes' and 'Barnaby Jones,' before more starring roles on short-lived, but cult fave shows like 'Buffalo Bill,' 'The Slap Maxwell Story' and 'Madman of the People.' He won an Emmy for the TV flick 'Sworn to Silence' and played Simon Baker's estranged father on the CBS drama 'The Guardian,' and, this year, has earned rave reviews for his role as Commodore Louis Kaestner -- mentor to Steve Buscemi's Nucky Thompson -- on HBO's critically-acclaimed and Golden Globe-nominated Atlantic City Prohibition drama 'Boardwalk Empire.'

Sally FieldSally Field
'Brothers & Sisters'

Age: 64
Years on TV: 45

She was a TV star on 'Gidget,' 'The Flying Nun' and 'The Girl With Something Extra' before she became an Oscar-winning big-screen star. And since winning Best Actress Academy Awards for 'Norma Rae' and 'Places in the Heart,' she's returned to the tube to snag an Emmy for her guest role as Maura Tierney's mom on 'ER,' to direct an installment of the Emmy-winning HBO miniseries 'From the Earth to the Moon' and as the ubiquitous TV ad spokeswoman for the postmenopausal osteoporosis drug Boniva. And, in the most acclaimed role of her TV career, Field currently portrays 'Brothers & Sisters' strong mama Nora Walker, a role that has earned her three Emmy nominations and one Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series win.

Cloris LeachmanCloris Leachman
'Raising Hope'

Age: 84
Years on TV: 62

She's won more primetime Emmys -- eight -- than anyone in TV history, and she's also nabbed a Daytime Emmy and a Golden Globe for her tube work. She's a veteran, of course, of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and its spin-off 'Phyllis,' she played Timmy's mom on 'Lassie,' replaced Mrs. Garrett as the girls' mentor/roommate on 'The Facts of Life' and was the boys' sadistic grandma on 'Malcolm in the Middle.' Leachman -- Miss Chicago of 1946 -- also became the oldest contestant to compete on 'Dancing With the Stars' during her memorable Season 7 appearance and, since September, has been proving she's still got her comedy chops as the delusional Maw Maw, the grandmother who raised Martha Plimpton's Virginia, on Fox's delightful new sitcom 'Raising Hope.'

Craig T. NelsonCraig T. Nelson
'Parenthood'

Age: 66
Years on TV: 37

His first tube role was on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' an auspicious start to a career that has, so far, included multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy win. Nelson followed the 'MTM' spot with guest appearances on 'Charlie's Angels,' 'The White Shadow' and 'WKRP in Cincinnati,' and a starring role in the short-lived military drama 'Call to Glory,' before he premiered in the show that remains his signature role, college football coach Hayden Fox in the ABC sitcom 'Coach.' Nelson earned an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy for the show, which he followed with another starring role, as the Washington, D.C. police chief in 'The District,' as well as recurring roles on 'My Name Is Earl,' 'CSI: NY' and 'Monk.' Currently, Nelson stars as paterfamilias Zeek Braverman on NBC's 'Parenthood,' the second -- and far superior -- TV remake of the Ron Howard-directed, Steve Martin-starring 1989 big-screen comedy of the same name.

Ed O'NeillEd O'Neill
'Modern Family'

Age: 64
Years on TV: 30

1-800-COLLECT TV commercials, a stint on the forgettable remake of 'Dragnet' in 2003, a role in the weird, short-lived HBO drama 'John From Cincinnati' and playing the Veep to Jimmy Smits' POTUS on 'The West Wing' make up the middle of O'Neill's TV legacy, which has been sealed by two roles as classic, but very different TV dads. He earned a pair of Golden Globe nominations as beleaguered shoe salesman and family man Al Bundy on 'Married ... With Children' and, more than two decades after 'Children' premiered, he's again one of TV's top pops as 'Modern Family's' Jay Pritchett, the self-made businessman with a much younger, hotter wife and a stepson who's younger than some of his grandchildren, along with an extended fam that includes a highly excitable son-in-law and a gay son and son-in-law whose lifestyle old-fashioned Jay tries to understand.

Tom SelleckTom Selleck
'Blue Bloods'

Age: 65
Years on TV: 41

He'd guest starred on everything from 'Mannix' and 'Charlie's Angels' to 'Taxi' and 'The Rockford Files' before his Emmy and Golden Globe-winning performance as 'Magnum, P.I.,' and he followed that up with a comeback as Courteney Cox's boyfriend on 'Friends.' Starring in and producing a series of movies based on Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone novels followed that, as did a stint as James Caan's replacement on 'Las Vegas,' a high-profile guest gig on 'Boston Legal' and playing Dwight D. Eisenhower in History Channel's 'Ike: Countdown to D-Day' miniseries. And now, 30 years after 'Magnum' made him, and his trademark mustache, a household name, Selleck is once again starring in a CBS drama, playing NYPD commissioner, and Reagan family paterfamilias Frank Reagan, in 'Blue Bloods,' one of the few new fall 2010 dramas to make a splash.

William ShatnerWilliam Shatner
'$#*! My Dad Says'

Age: 79
Years on TV: 56

He seemed fated to be known as Captain James T. Kirk forever, until a whole new generation who may or may not have even seen him on 'Star Trek' watched his Emmy-winning performance as over-the-top shark attorney Denny Crane on 'The Practice' and 'Boston Legal.' Now, he's back on the tube as the titular trash-talkin' papa on CBS' '$#*! My Dad Says,' and hosting his own talk show ('Raw Nerve With William Shatner'), Discovery Channel unexplained phenomenon series 'Weird or What?' and the Bio Channel's whatever-happened-to interview series 'Aftermath With William Shatner.' He's also still popping up in those Priceline commercials, has starred in several 'Star Trek' flicks and penned a series of 'TekWar' novels that were turned into comics, a video game and TV show. And all this came after a TV career that launched with live TV in the '50s, guest gigs on shows like 'The Big Valley' and 'Gunsmoke' and a role in one of the most beloved, classic episodes of 'The Twilight Zone': 1963's 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.'

Betty WhiteBetty White
'Hot in Cleveland'

Age: 88
Years on TV: 61

Can we all just go ahead and agree that the beloved Betty is the official Queen of TV? The Emmy winner (primetime and daytime) has starred on two of the most iconic sitcoms in tube history -- 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'Golden Girls,' of course -- but she's currently experiencing the most popular, and productive, period of career as an eightysomething. She never really went away (thankfully), but a recurring stint as murderous Catherine Piper on 'Boston Legal' in 2005 snowballed into more and more Betty gigs, including guest appearances on '30 Rock,' 'My Name Is Earl' and 'The Bold and the Beautiful,' which led to a Facebook campaign to get the delightfully sharp and witty star to host 'Saturday Night Live' (for which she won an Emmy this year) and a new series, TV Land's 'Hot in Cleveland,' in which she plays saucy caretaker Elka Ostrovsky ("Free Elka!"). White, who also guest starred on 'The Middle,' 'Community' and the animated series 'Pound Puppies' this year, also released a book, calendar and clothing line this year, and was recognized for her long-running contributions to TV land with a 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.



Yesterday on Festivus: 9 Unanswered 'Glee' Questions
Tomorrow on Festivus: 7 Reasons the 'Lost' Finale Was Awesome/Terrible (Point/Counterpoint)

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dee

You forgot Hal Holbrook in The Event

December 17 2010 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skunkyDan

just give me Charo , cuchi-cuchi

December 17 2010 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JLGreenlee

William Shatner in "Star Wars" movies? REALLY? And what about "T.J. Hooker?"

December 16 2010 at 10:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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