Lamenting Television's Week of Losses

It's been a tough week for television. In between the deaths of Ed McMahon on Tuesday and Billy Mays on Sunday, both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson left us on Thursday. Celebrity deaths tend to come in twos and threes, but the departure of this foursome was particularly dramatic because together they tell us a lot about how TV has evolved as a result of their influence.

Each was an innovator, although each represented a different corner of television -- late night, prime time, music videos and commercials. This past week's blow was especially devastating because it took four incredible legacies off the airwaves -- legacies that will be difficult to replace.

Ed McMahon kept Johnny Carson's goofball antics in line, playing it straight for over 30 years. He was just as much an on-screen staple as Carson was, proving to viewers that the dynamic duo could be trusted every night to entertain and inform. As the first late-night one-man support system, he set a precedent for current right-hand men like Andy Richter and Paul Schaffer, who are left to "Hey-o!" as best they can.

Farrah Fawcett gave us an endless smile and a reason to ignore stereotypes. She was one of the first "complete packages" -- and beauty and talent haven't combined so flawlessly since. Actresses like Charlize Theron and Natalie Portman, who often take roles that mask their classic good looks, will have an opportunity to step up and continue to smash the stereotype.

Billy Mays beamed with enthusiasm for every product he advertised. He was a believer in infomercials -- and in the booming but overlooked industry that sustained them. No one was quite like him, and even familiar faces like Ron Popeil (the Veg-O-Matic guy) and Vince Schlomi (the Sham-wow guy) will have to work hard to break away from their single-product association.

Michael Jackson was, quite simply, the musical icon of the century. Everything he sang, danced and produced turned to pop culture gold (or platinum, rather). He inspired artists like Justin Timberlake and Usher, but they have yet to invent a move as revolutionary as the Moonwalk.

With the passing of these four people, television is in for a drastic, immediate change. The legacies of McMahon, Mays, Fawcett and Jackson have left four pairs of shoes to fill. Let's see who tries on the first pair.

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I don't know if i say Billy Mays was that big i mean did a commercial for Oxy big wow.Michael was a pop singer and Ed M and Farrah Fawcet have been around forever. I say those three were big. i really wouldn't call Bill Mays a legend like the other 3.
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With the passing of these legends and icons, it's certainly the end of an era. I hope that the future of the entertainment industry isn't now resting on the shoulders of "artists"(?) such as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Lord have mercy on us all.
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What a year yeah, Carradine, Fawcett, Bea Arthur and many more left us.
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dont forget David Carradine,Gail Storm & Fred Travalena. so much for deaths coming in 3's.
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i'm going to miss billy mays. i love his commercials. i'm also going to miss michaal jackson. i really haven't listened to his music but i was interested in it.
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Those who are certain that there is fact in the "everything happens in threes" therory --- are either going to convinced that we got a "spare" or that we just started another "threesome" with the passing of Billy Mays!! I hope that is not the case --- though I truly am concerned that we will hear of a few more passings in the next week or so --- heaven forbid, but Patrick Swayze is in failing health & may be next!
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What a weird week.
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This is terrible, four people as iconic as this dying in one week. They really did revolutionize television each in their own way and there will never be anyone else like them. I've been wondering what's going on all week and I think it's safe to say that the end of days must be upon us.

RIP, you will all be missed dearly.
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