By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 staff

When VH1's list of the top 200 pop culture icons came out last week, it led with a shocker (Oprah No. 1) and kept us sputtering from there. After going over the list, it was obvious (as always) that pointing out flaws beats creating our own. So in 10 of our own categories, we list some of the more egregious over- and under-ratings:

Athlete
Overrated: Magic Johnson (58). If only for "The Magic Hour" talk show. Also receiving votes: Tiger Woods (51), Joe Namath (188).
Underrated: Babe Ruth (136). Literally and figuratively, the original sports icon, both as a player and as a marketer. Also receiving votes: Muhammad Ali (16), Bruce Lee (141).

Tom Cruise
From Joe Goodson to Maverick to Ethan Hunt -- Cruise has meant money in the bank.

Butt-kicker
Overrated: Tom Cruise (5). No question, Cruise is the biggest leading guy going, but the Top 5 should be exclusively for "first-namers." Also receiving votes: George Clooney (33), Brad Pitt (38).
Underrated: Sylvester Stallone (115). "Rocky: and "Rambo"? And a revitalized career in "Spy Kids 3-D?" Yo, how'd this happen? Also receiving votes: Arnold Schwarzenegger (78), Judge Judy (197).

Diva
Overrated: Oprah (1). As much of a cultural presence as Oprah casts, she has really only been a daytime-TV force, and for just around a decade or so at that. No. 1? Bold call, but a stretch. Also receiving votes: Diana (9), Julia Roberts (23).
Underrated: Martha Stewart (43). What Oprah did for self-empowerment, Stewart did for self-imprisonment. Wait, that's self-improvement. Also receiving votes: Prince (137), Regis (191).

Late-night talk-show host
Overrated: Jay Leno (72) . Unfortunately, has to live in the shadow of 36th-ranked Carson's legacy -- impossible to live up to. "Jaywalking?" Try "We'resnoozing." Also receiving votes: Katie Couric (39), Arsenio Hall (193).
Underrated: Dave Letterman (102). Gave a generation of thirty- and twentysomethings a reason to stay up extra-late, always with the coolest gimmicks (I mean, Top Ten!) and most double-edged celeb interviews. Also receiving votes: Johnny Carson (36), Jon Stewart (Unranked).

James Dean
The original "rebel" would get beat down in today's high schools.

Societal archetype
Overrated: James Dean (26). The idea of disaffected youth lasted just long enough for all those "rebels" to ruin Wall Street and fight to get their precious kids into the best schools. Also receiving votes: John Wayne (54), Archie Bunker (56).
Underrated: J.R. Ewing (180). On the other hand, the unambivalently scheming Dallas capitalist was an icon in the boom-n-bust '70s, the boom-n-bust '80s, plus foreshadowed the boom-n-bust '90s. Also receiving votes: Roseanne (173), Jackie Gleason (175).

Pop star (male)
Overrated: P. Diddy (35). But not by as much as you probably want him to be. Hard to see him so far above many of the artists he needed to sample to create his hits. Also receiving votes: Bee Gees (45), Elton John (55).
Underrated: Bob Marley (184). Single-handedly put reggae on the pop-music map, and influenced decades of pop sound (and frat-house hanging-out). Also receiving votes: Kurt Cobain (37), Tupac (174).

Pop star (female)
Overrated: Jennifer Lopez (15). Can't question her star power (but perhaps everyone is getting a little sick of the Jen-n-Ben thing?), but can an icon make the top 20 without being able to sing? Also receiving votes: Britney Spears (20), Cher (41).
Underrated: Janet Jackson (134). Before J-Lo even thought about being a singing-dancing-acting triple-threat (emphasize threat), JJ was reinventing music videos, putting on a sick stage show and starring in both "Good Times" and "Diff'rent Strokes." Also receiving votes: Babs Streisand (66), Madonna (7).

TV institution
Overrated: The Bradys (19). As the top-ranked of the "kitscsh" genre, there are many others that could have topped it, particularly coming out of an era known for a dozen shows of equal (or better) pop-culture value. Also receiving votes: Katie Couric (39), The Flintstones (42).
Underrated: The Fonz (99). Not only did he epitomize "cool" for more than a decade, in a second-life to his relevance, he played the key role in developing the all-time-great pop-culture cliche?: "Jumping the Shark." Also receiving votes: Susan Lucci (74), Spock (162).

Monica Lewinsky
Some people shouldn't even get their 15 minutes.

One-hit wonder
Overrated: The Osbournes (40). The show never again reached the height of its first season (and in reruns, it gets less funny every viewing). Also receiving votes: " E.T. " (118), Tony Soprano (140).
Underrated: Monica Lewinsky (161). Nearly brought down a presidency, and single-handedly dominated the news for more than a year. Also receiving votes: Harry Potter (154), OJ Simpson (Unranked).

Couples
Overrated: Kermit and Miss Piggy (60). First of all, they are puppets. More important, their pop-culture relevancy peaked out in the early 1980s. Also receiving votes: Scarlett and Rhett (95).
Underrated: Venus and Serena Williams (156). Will very likely end their career as the most dominant force in women's sports (not to mention women's sports marketing) of all time. Also receiving votes: Beavis and Butthead (192), Three Stooges (167).

Dan Shanoff is a columnist for Page 2. His "Daily Quickie" commentary appears every weekday morning.




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CULTURE SHOCK