TV Stars Who Had Multiple Hit Shows
Most actors are content if they manage to attain one significant role in a successful television series. However, TV history is surprisingly full of stars who, for a combination of reasons, managed to attain not just one but multiple hit shows. Some of these–such as Lucille Ball–attained the success in television which they were never able to achieve in films, while others would attain some success in one television series before going on to have a comeback. Given how fickle the viewing public can be, the achievements of those stars who have gone on to have more than one successful series are truly a testament to their longevity, their dedication to their craft, and their charisma.
- 1390 VOTESPhoto: The Golden Girls / NBC
Few actresses have had quite the exemplary career of Betty White. She came of age with the medium of television itself, and she would go on to appear in not one but three hugely successful series. After appearing in a number of her own series throughout the 1950s and 1960s, she hit her stride in the 1970s, appearing in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which she played the “happy homemaker” (and sexually voracious) Sue Ann Nivens.
She would achieve even greater success in The Golden Girls, the hit 1980s sitcom which focused on four older women living together in a house in Miami. She played the character of Rose, whose rural charms, naivete, and tendency to share very long St. Olaf stories were a source of irritation for her friends and hilarity for audiences. White wasn’t content to let age slow her down, however, and she would appear in yet a third long-running sitcom, Hot in Cleveland, throughout the 2010s, where she played the character of Elka Ostrovsky, the cantankerous neighbor who becomes a mother figure to the other characters.
- Age: 101
- Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, USA
- 2350 VOTESPhoto: Married... with Children / Fox
During the 1990s, Ed O’Neill was firmly associated with his character of Al Bundy. O'Neill's Bundy was bitter, cynical, and very jaded about the direction his life had taken–to say nothing of his contempt for his wife, Peg, and his children Kelly and Bud. He was the antithesis of the father figure so common in the American sitcom.
Several years later, he would appear as yet another father figure, this time in the series Modern Family. Though Jay Pritchett had some similarities with Al, notably his cynical approach to life, he was notably much fonder of his wife and children than Al. He also proved to be a source of his own unique brand of wisdom during the show's lengthy run.
- Age: 77
- Birthplace: Youngstown, Ohio, USA
- 3392 VOTESPhoto: The Good Place / NBC
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, Ted Danson was famous for playing the character of Sam Malone on the long-running Cheers. Though Sam wasn’t always the most respectful man when it came to women, Danson was remarkable for the extent to which he teased out the many deep-seated reasons he behaved as he did. After starring on Becker for six seasons, he would go on to play the character of Arthur Frobisher on Damages.
In the late 2010s, he returned to network TV in a big way on The Good Place. He played Michael, an “architect” working in the Bad Place who develops what he thinks is the perfect method to torment the souls of the damned. Gradually, however, Michael showed himself capable of change, and Danson brought out the remarkable richness and complexity of this fascinating immortal being.
- Age: 75
- Birthplace: San Diego, California, USA
- 4275 VOTESPhoto: Spin City / ABC
Though he would go on to become most famous for appearing in the Back to the Future trilogy of films in the 1980s, Michael J. Fox had already established himself as a television star as a result of his appearance in Family Ties. In the series, he portrayed a young man whose staunch, Reaganite conservatism was sharply at odds with his parents’ liberalism. He would appear in the series throughout much of the 1980s.
He would go on to have significant success in a variety of ventures in both film and television, including Spin City. Fox portrayed the character of Mike Flaherty, the Deputy Mayor of New York City, who had to contend with a hectic professional life (as the title implies, he’s in charge of spin), while largely ignoring his personal life. Fox, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease early in the 1990s, ultimately left the series but did return for a number of guest appearances.
- Age: 61
- Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
- 5220 VOTESPhoto: The Mary Tyler Moore Show / CBS
Mary Tyler Moore is one of those stars whose career largely mirrored the rise of television. Her first significant role was in The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which she played Laura Petrie, wife to Van Dyke’s Rob. Even this early in her career, it was clear Moore had a great deal of on-screen charisma, and there’s no denying her chemistry with her co-star Van Dyke.
When Moore appeared in her own series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, her star continued to rise. She portrayed the character of Mary Richards, a career woman who worked at a television station. Moore’s character would become truly iconic–it’s even memorialized in a statue–especially given the paucity of independent women on television at the time of its run. In many ways, Moore, and her character, became symbolic of second-wave feminism.
- Age: Dec. at 80 (1936-2017)
- Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
- 6242 VOTESPhoto: The Bob Newhart Show / CBS
With his dry wit and sometimes shy, self-effacing manner, Bob Newhart is a bit of a surprising television star. However, he has appeared in a number of notable roles, beginning with his own show, The Bob Newhart Show. In the series, Newhart played the character of Robert Hartley, a “straight man” psychologist who was surrounded by the antics of others, including his wife, Emily (played by Suzanne Pleshette).
Later, Newhart once again returned to television success, this time in the series Newhart. In contrast to his earlier outing, this one saw his character, Dick Loudon, running a small inn in a remote Vermont village which, of course, is filled with various eccentric characters. In a bit of a twist, however, the famous finale reveals the entire series was an extended dream of his earlier character, who awakens and explains the entire thing to his wife, Emily.
- Age: 93
- Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, USA