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The 16 Most Accomplished 'Real' Women on TV Right Now

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 16th 2011 1:30PM
Oprah WinfreyA couple of weeks ago, we gave you the list of the 100 most memorable female characters in TV history. There was lots of talk and conjecture among the readers about who we missed and who shouldn't have been there, which is why we do these lists to begin with.

But there were a fair number of people who asked us "Where's Ellen DeGeneres?" or "Where's Oprah?" among others. Well, since we were talking about TV characters and not real people, those folks had to be left off the list (And, yes, we know Ellen played a pretty important TV character ... more on this later.)

Fear not, loyal TV watchers. We've got a list for those of you who want to celebrate women who put themselves out there, have created a brand, or have made significant contributions to the current TV landscape as themselves and not a fictional character.

The list isn't in any particular order; after the first few obvious names, the rest of the women on this list come so close, it's hard to rank them. So we'll just start with TV's most accomplished woman (hint: her name starts with an O ... and it ain't Omarosa) and go from there.

Oprah WinfreyOprah Winfrey
What can you say about the big O that hasn't already been said? Syndication's biggest daytime talk show for a quarter-century, a production company that has either launched or helped launch the talk show careers of Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Nate Berkus and Rachael Ray, among others, and her OWN cable network would be enough to put her at the top of this list. But the fact that her endorsement can make a book a bestseller, a cable reality series a hit, or Illinois' junior senator the president makes her the most powerful person on TV, regardless of gender.

Martha StewartMartha Stewart
TV is just a part of Martha's empire, but without it, she would be just another home expert. Her company isn't called Martha Stewart Omnimedia for nothing; books, magazines, a line of housewares and other retail products, and multiple TV shows on multiple networks almost makes her the Queen of All Media. After she left the Fine Living Network, she has subsequently taken over a large chunk of the Hallmark Channel.

Katie CouricKatie Couric
There are lots of reporters and anchors on this list, but Couric comes out a little bit ahead because of one accomplishment: When she took over the 'CBS Evening News' in 2006, she became the first-ever solo female anchor of an evening network newscast. This was after her fifteen-year stint on 'Today,' a period when the show became the dominant force in the mornings. Now Couric is seriously thinking of leaving the anchor seat and starting her own daytime talk show in 2012... could she become the next Oprah?

Ellen DeGeneresEllen DeGeneres
Yes, Ellen played the first main character of a primetime show to come out of the closet. But since 'Ellen' left the air in 1998, DeGeneres has done much more as herself than she ever did as Ellen Morgan. 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' has been at or near the top of the daytime heap for eight years, and she's used the show to champion causes like gay marriage, pet adoption and the revival of her hometown of New Orleans post-Katrina.

Rachael RayRachael Ray
Right now, Rachael Ray only has 3 television shows on the air; at one time, she seemed to not only be all over the Food Network, but between her own daytime talk show and her appearances on Oprah, QVC, 'Today' and others, her cherubic smile was everywhere. But just because Ray has decided to "scale" back doesn't mean she's any less accomplished, with a line of cookbooks, a successful magazine, and a line of cookware that can be found in kitchens across the country.

Tina FeyTina Fey
Tina is the only person who is so accomplished, she shows up on both this list and our 100 most memorable characters list. Liz Lemon is only the most visible of Fey's accomplishments. She's the executive producer, head writer and showrunner of '30 Rock,' a show she was able to bring to life after seven years as the first female head writer on 'Saturday Night Live.'

Barbara WaltersBarbara Walters
A news legend who has been on America's TV screens for close to 50 years, Walters is a pioneer, paving the way for all the women in network news who have come since. From her long hosting stint on 'Today,' she went on to become the first female network evening news anchor when she made the jump to ABC in the mid-'70s. On '20/20' and her own specials, she's interviewed every major newsmaker -- statesman or scandalous celebrity -- over the past four decades, and she created the "around the coffee table" chat format that's has made 'The View' one of the top daytime shows for the last 14 years.

Diane SawyerDiane Sawyer
Sawyer has been on the top of her game for over 30 years. She came to the nation's attention working as an intrepid network reporter for CBS, including a stint on '60 Minutes,' where she was show's first female correspondent. During her long career on ABC, she's hosted 'Good Morning America' in two separate periods, was the co-anchor for the debut of 'Primetime' and anchored '20/20.' Currently, she's the anchor of ABC's signature newscast, 'ABC World News.'

Robin RobertsRobin Roberts
The reason why Roberts makes this list is because of her versatility. Anyone who saw her as a 'SportsCenter' anchor on ESPN in the '90s knew Roberts had presence and knew her stuff. But, since switching to the news side, her career has taken off. She's risen from news anchor of 'Good Morning America' to the show's senior co-anchor spot, and her personal stories about fighting cancer and the Post-Katrina recovery of her home region on the Mississippi gulf coast have been her high points.

Meredith VieiraMeredith Vieira
Because she's spent the last fifteen years in daytime, people tend to forget that Meredith Vieira has a hard news background. She anchored the CBS newsmagazine 'West 57th' in the late '80s, transitioning to a correspondent position on '60 Minutes' in 1989. But she successfully reinvented herself in the '90s, when she wanted to stay closer to home; she was the moderator of 'The View' from 1997 to 2006, has hosted 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' since 2002, and has been the co-anchor of 'Today' since 2006.

Chelsea HandlerChelsea Handler
She's not everyone's cup of tea, but there's no denying Handler's accomplishments; she's broken into the boys' club of late night with her E! chatfest 'Chelsea Lately,' a show that's so successful that the network has given her a 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'-style comedy called 'After Lately.' In addition, Handler has three bestselling books; one of those books, 'Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea,' is currently being made into a sitcom pilot.

Kelly RipaKelly Ripa
Ripa is best known for her boundless energy and enthusiasm, which are highlighted when she tells her tales about her extraordinarily busy life. She's the co-host of 'Live with Regis and Kelly,' a reality-show producer, loving wife to her former 'All My Children' co-star Mark Consuelos, and the mother of three. The former 'AMC' and 'Faith and Hope' star's profile has only increased during her decade alongside Regis; she's poised to make the show her own when Regis leaves later this year.

Lesley StahlLesley Stahl
Stahl has been a CBS news stalwart for close to three decades, coming to prominence as a reporter in the early '80s, which led to an eight-year stint moderating the venerable 'Face the Nation.' For the last 20 years, she's been a correspondent on '60 Minutes,' interviewing everyone from Boris Yeltsin to Mark Zuckerberg.

Ann CurryAnn Curry
Using a unique combination of crack reporting skills and on-camera empathy, Ann Curry has been NBC's most versatile news player. She's been the news anchor of 'Today' since 1997, but also anchors 'Dateline' and often subs in for Brian Williams on the 'NBC Nightly News.' Curry has also reported on location for almost every major international news story over the last fourteen years.

Lara LoganLara Logan
Logan goes where the battle is, embedding herself with combat troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In her time as CBS's chief foreign correspondent, she has not been afraid to put herself in harm's way to get a story, and she's brought back stories that have been memorable and horrifying all at once.

Christiane AmanpourChristiane Amanpour
Amanpour established her credentials as a top foreign affairs reporter during her close to three decades on CNN, reporting from every world hotspot and interviewing heads of state, terrorist leaders, and despots. Now, as the anchor of ABC's 'This Week,' Amanpour is bringing a global flavor to the usually stodgy and policy-driven Sunday morning talk shows.

Tell us: Who else do you think should be on this list?


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47 Comments

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Michael

Suze Orman is definitely missing

April 08 2011 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

Suze Orman is definitely missing

April 08 2011 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marie

Great article.....but then you covered all my favorites

March 19 2011 at 1:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
goodallkate88

oh please...get off your freakin high horse about God! it's the freaking 21st century get over your homophobic nature! Lets get something straight! Gay people are just like you. You are just scared of what you don't know! The people who are gay are not hurting you or God! Godgave us free will, if we didn't have that then being gay wouldn't be an option! i used to be like you....I believed, based on what I had read in the Bible, that even the most loving and monogamous of same-sex relationships was evil in God's eyes. But as I studied the Bible, my view on that subject changed. I now believe that homosexual behavior is appropriate within the confines of a committed, loving, monogamous, lifelong, Christ-centered relationship. Essentially, I'm arguing that a Christ-centered marriage is a good thing, regardless of the gender of the people involved. And really to call her Ellen de Generate....are you that childish? She has done so many great things that have nothing to do with her being gay. She doesn't push her ideals on anyone, she just promotes them to educate people. Maybe you should open your eyes...what kind of christian are you....

March 19 2011 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to goodallkate88's comment
lacabrera

How can a jail bird ,like Martha Steward ,be counted with the rest of them ,,,,,,,,,maybe K-Mart ,dump her line of home decor ,she is not worth the attention she is getting

March 19 2011 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
yourtea

I glad too see the first two are gay. Thank God

March 19 2011 at 11:33 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to yourtea's comment
diamond

Thank God? you got to be kidding!

March 19 2011 at 1:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
lacabrera

The only one I don't agree with is Katie Couric,,,,,,,,,,,,,she became known with Sarah Palin ,,,,,,,,before that she wasn't that good of a tv. personality ,,,,,,,,and everyone knows that ,,,,,,,,,Sarah Palin made her !!!!!!!

March 19 2011 at 11:30 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
angalmarketing2

It is obvious that whomever picked these people did not look beyond the liberal/progressive media; I mean Fox is by far TV's number one and so are their women. If find it reprehensible that none of Fox News women were not picked. By the way; I don't believe God wanted women (Ellen de Generate) who lie with women to be idolized.

March 19 2011 at 11:11 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
JE WA ZA WI

I see women every day that I consider much more talented ,glamourous,intelligent then any of these women featured .Just because they get exposure on television ,producers think they have the best of the best.I'm not going to go so far as the ones featured are not worthy,but there is more to a woman's acceptance in society then has been stated in the article .

March 19 2011 at 10:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ray Evans

Oprah Winfrey? Ellen DeGeneres? Katie Couric? Barf. Give me women with brains, looks and common sense any day. Where do you find them? On the most-watched, most popular network in America: Fox News. It is so refreshing to know that the majority of Americans still care about the timeless values that made our country great. However, it saddens me to know that this group will be dead in 30-40 years, and America will be left in the hands of a generation who would not know patriotism if it bit them on the ass.

March 19 2011 at 10:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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