Thursday, July 2, 2020

Classic TV Statues: Leave Them Alone

We are either in the midst of a cultural revolution or a crime wave, depending on your perspective. And while the damage to real people and property embodies the most regrettable aspect of these uprisings, there have been other victims as well.

Statues. Lots of statues.

I know – this isn’t the place for politics. “Save it for your book!” Okay – I will. And that book will be out next year. Details to follow in another month or two.

But as this is Comfort TV let’s talk about the statues that have been erected to honor performers and characters from many of television’s most memorable series. Thus far they have escaped the carnage. But who knows what tomorrow might bring? This could be a good time to plan a road trip to visit some of these monuments before they meet their fate.

Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden
New York City
Erected: 2000

This was the first statue commissioned by TV Land – hard to believe it’s already 20 years old. And what better place to honor Ralph Kramden than at New York’s bustling Port Authority Bus Terminal? It’s a wonderful likeness of Ralph, with lunch box in hand, chest out proudly, ready to start another shift. Or as Alice would say, “That’s not his chest, that’s his stomach, and it’s always out!”

Could it Come Down?
No statue in New York appears to be off limits at the moment. Fortunately, Its Port Authority location means it will be seen primarily by those traveling to or from work – and most rioters have an aversion to honest employment.

Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards
Erected: 2001

Few classic TV freeze frames are as famous as the one at the end of the opening credits to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. A jubilant Mary flings her cap into the air, while a sourpuss woman in the background scowls in contempt. 

That was the moment the sculptor attempted to recreate, with a statue located near the place where that scene was shot – the corner of 7th and Nicollet in Minneapolis. On the base is written, “Who can turn the world on with her smile?” 

Sadly, the artist who created the bronze statue, Gwendolyn Gillen, died just two days after Mary Tyler Moore passed away in January of 2017.

Could it Come Down?
Minneapolis was the epicenter for the ongoing national protests, so anything is possible.

Andy Griffith and Ronny Howard as Andy and Opie Taylor
Erected: 2003

There are two statues depicting the same famous moment of Andy and Opie going fishing, as shown in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show. After TV Land erected the original in Raleigh’s Pullen Park, residents of Mount Airy protested the location. They had a point – Mount Airy was Griffith’s hometown and the city that inspired Mayberry. So a second version went up there, in front of the Andy Griffith Playhouse. I think they did a wonderful job with this one. 

Could it Come Down?
Let’s see – which side did North Carolina support in the Civil War? Uh-oh. Maybe this should be the first stop on your tour.

Bob Newhart as Bob Hartley
Erected: 2004

This subject always struck me as an odd choice, though I have always loved The Bob Newhart Show. Certainly the interactive quality is fun – how many thousands of people have taken a seat on the couch next to Dr. Hartley and shared their problems? After it first appeared on Michigan Ave. it was moved to Navy Pier, one of Chicago’s most popular spots for tourists and locals.  

Could it Come Down?
I doubt it will get torn down. But it might get shot.

Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stevens
Erected: 2005

From a distance, this nine-foot, 3,000-pound bronze of Samantha astride her broom looks pretty amazing. 

But it loses a little something up close. Still, we should be happy it’s still there in Lappin Park, as some local residents thought it was a disrespectful reminder of those who were persecuted at the actual Salem witch trials. See? People who don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality are nothing new. 

Could it Come Down?
Salem survives on tourism, and even the grumblers have noticed how many visitors enjoy taking selfies with Sam. She should be safe.

James Garner as Bret Maverick
Erected: 2006

This may be the biggest statue on the list, standing more than 10 feet tall. Norman, Oklahoma was James Garner’s hometown, and this was an appealing tribute to both a favorite son and a classic TV character. 

Could it Come Down?
The Old West? Do we really need to honor another intolerant historic era? Thankfully, very few professional agitators live in Oklahoma.

Henry Winkler as Arthur Fonzarelli
Erected: 2008

The Fonz in bronze! TV Land was going to move forward on this but changed its mind, probably around the same time they stopped airing any TV shows worth watching. So the city’s tourism board stepped in, raised $85,000, found a local artist that knew cool when he saw it, and the rest is history. I’m still not sure if the coloring on the leather jacket and jeans was a nice touch or an overreach. 

Thankfully, despite the Riverwalk location, he’s not wearing water skis.

Could it Come Down?
Does he represent the oppressive 1950s? Those weren’t happy days for everyone, you know.

Noel Neill as Lois Lane
Erected: 2010

Yes, Metropolis, as in Metropolis, Illinois. The statue immortalizes The Daily Planet’s ace reporter, as played by Noel Neill on The Adventures of Superman. Neill was pushing 90 when it was unveiled, but she was there to see it. That’s awesome. 


Could it Come Down?
Try it and you’ll have to answer to you-know-who.

Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo
Erected: It’s Complicated

At last, a statue that disappeared and no one, regardless of race, creed or political affiliation, ever missed it. The original Lucille Ball statue by Dave Poulin was so hideous it was dubbed “Scary Lucy,” and even the rioters and the pigeons wouldn’t go near it. 

Poulin died at the too-young age of 58, and it’s sad that this became his best-known work, as he really was quite talented.

Still, that version had to go, and a much more flattering bronze sculpted by Carolyn Palmer was unveiled on August 6, 2016, Lucy’s 105th birthday. 

Could it Come Down?
I Love Lucy may be the most iconic situation comedy ever created, but one of its running gags was having Lucy mock Ricky’s Cuban accent. People now lose their jobs for doing that.

Who needs a statue next? My nominees:

Maxwell Smart
How many times does a man have to save the world from the forces of KAOS to get a little respect? Besides, Washington D.C. is going to need something to fill all those empty pedestals.

Emma Peel
London loves its statues. They’re everywhere – from Sir Thomas More to Sherlock Holmes, Prince Albert to Paddington Bear. So why not honor the English rose that has been described as the ultimate ‘60s style icon? Diana Rigg would look great in bronze, because she looked great in everything. 

Captain James T. Kirk
Max saved America – Kirk saved the whole galaxy, and slept with half of it too. There’s probably a statue of him already on Rigel II, aka the “pleasure planet,” but we need one on earth as well.


  1. Well done! And I'm excited to hear more about the book!

  2. If I may add one:
    Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose as Rocky and Bullwinkle
    Los Angeles
    Erected: 1961

    Hokey Smokes! This monument to Frostbite Falls' favorite sons has had more movement than the animation in their own show, having been relocated to various environs for restoration purposes since 2013. As that trick never works, the duo was situated this past Spring on a corner of Sunset Boulevard, where hopefully they're causing many a fender-bender.

    Could it come down?
    Thanks to the appearance of Col. Jefferson Beauregard Leeza, head of the League of Confederate Correctors in the "Wossamotta U." storyline, the chances for some civil...I mean, war-between-the-states disobedience will be something we really won't like.

    1. Thank you for taking the piece in the spirit in which it was created. You'd be surprised how many folks didn't! And yeah, always loved that statue and the old Dudley Do-Right Emporium. Those were the days.

  3. The BEWITCHED status is the only one of these I've seen in person, on visits to Salem in 2016 & last year. Looking at the closeup of her face, she does look a bit like "Scary Sam" to me.

  4. I nominate Lt. Uhura - a character who broke barriers, and indicated that a future of dignity, purpose, and mutual respect was possible for everyone.