Who were the top TV stars of 1979? Here’s what teens said back then

Top stars of the 70s - Celebrities famous in 1979 at ClickAmericana com

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In 1979, television was a cultural phenomenon that brought families together every evening. The stars of this golden age were as iconic as the shows they headlined, delighting audiences with their unique talents and memorable characters. From comedic geniuses to action heroes, these actors left their mark on the hearts of viewers across the US.

The vintage news article below was originally published in January 1980 and highlights the top TV stars of 1979, as voted by teens of the era. Discover who made the biggest impact on young audiences of the era — many of them who went on to become beloved figures in television history.

Whether you were tuning in for laughs, adventure or inspiration back then, these actors were the faces you looked forward to seeing on your screen each week.

TV stars of 1979 in the Gallup Youth Survey: Ladd, Williams teenagers’ top TV personalities

The Daily News Leader (Staunton, Virginia) January 9, 1980

America’s teenagers have favorite television programs and favorite TV stars, but those two categories have surprisingly little to do with each other, according to the latest Gallup Youth Survey.

This week’s survey results, revealing the most popular TV personalities among young viewers, indicate that in many cases, those stars are not regulars on the teens’ favorite programs. Indeed, in some cases, the most popular stars are not to be found on regular series at all.

The top TV personalities according to teenagers 1979

Above, Top row, L to R: Farrah Fawcett, John Ritter, Cheryl Ladd, Kristy McNichol, Robin Williams; Middle row: Erik Estrada, James Garner, Alan Alda, Pam Dawber, Suzanne Sumers; Row 3: Shaun Cassidy, Jaclyn Smith, Loni Anderson, Henry Winkler, Robert Urich

To be sure, there are exceptions — most notably the number one male slot. This was occupied for the second straight year by Robin Williams, star of “Mork and Mindy“, which happens to be the overwhelming favorite program among teens today.

But, while “Charlie’s Angels” only earned 10th place in the list of favorite teen programs, one of its stars, Cheryl Ladd, was at the top of the most popular female stars. And that isn’t all. Another “Angel” Jaclyn Smith, was second on that list, followed by ex-“Angel” Farrah Fawcett. Another graduate of the program, Kate Jackson, was sixth on the female list.

Charlie's Angels - Time magazine cover (1976)

While “M*A*S*H” and “Happy Days” were prominent on last week’s most-watched programs list, each show has only one star represented among the favorite male personalities. Alan Alda, of “M*A*S*H” and Henry Winkler, of “Happy Days”, placed fourth and sixth respectively.

Meanwhile, Burt Reynolds, who is not in a regular television series, placed second to Robin Williams on the list of favorite male stars, and Clint Eastwood, also not a series regular, placed fifth.

Several other male and female stars of programs that were not among the teens’ favorites were, nonetheless, named by teenagers as being among their favorite TV personalities. In another interesting sidelight, while comedies dominated the teens’ list of favorite programs, many top stars — especially on the male list — are to found on crime dramas and other adventure shows.

Both Williams and Ms Ladd were at the top of last year’s lists as well as this year’s. It should be noted, however, that in 1978, the male and female performer categories were combined, and Ms Ladd was preceded by four male stars, while this year two separate lists were compiled.

Erik Estrada as CHiPs TV series Officer Francis Ponch Poncherello
Erik Estrada as CHiPs TV series Officer Francis ‘Ponch’ Poncherello

Teenage girls and boys generally agreed on the personalities that made the lists this year, although the order in which those stars placed was not always the same for both sexes.

For example, while Williams was the favorite overall, and the favorite among teen boys, teenage girls put “CHiPs” star Erik Estrada at the top of their list, just above Williams. Similarly, Ms Ladd placed first on the boys list and on the overall list, but among girl voters, she was second to fellow “Angel” Jaclyn Smith.

The findings, based on telephone interviews conducted last month with a representative national cross-section of over 1,000 teenagers, ages 13-18 are shown in the charts.

TV actresses: Most popular female TV stars of 1979

TV actresses: Most popular female TV stars of 1979
Clockwise from upper left: Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd, Pam Dawber, Kristy McNichol, Carol Burnett

Favorite female TV stars of 1979 (choices of all teenagers)

1. Cheryl Ladd
2. Jaclyn Smith
3. Farrah Fawcett-Majors
4. Suzanne Somers
5. Carol Burnett
6. Kate Jackson
7. Pam Dawber
8. Cheryl Tiegs
9. Loni Anderson
10. Kristy McNichol

Farrah Fawcett's hair: See her famous long feathered hairstyle from the 70s

Favorite female TV stars (choices of girls)
1. Smith
2. Ladd
3. Burnett
4. Dawber
5. Jackson
6. Somers
7. Fawcett-Majors
8. McNichol
9. Tiegs
10. Lynda Carter

Favorite female TV stars (choices of boys)
1. Ladd
2. Fawcett-Majors
3. Smith
4. Somers
5. Tiegs
6. Anderson
7. Jackson
8. Burnett
9. Carter
10. Dawber

Far out! 70s teenage fashion for girls was bold and revolutionary

TV actors: Most popular male TV stars of 1979

Clockwise from upper left: Robin Williams, John Ritter, Erik Estrada, Henry Winkler, Alan Alda
Clockwise from upper left: Robin Williams, John Ritter, Erik Estrada, Henry Winkler, Alan Alda

Favorite male TV stars of 1979 (choices of all teenagers)

1. Robin Williams
2. Burt Reynolds
3. Erik Estrada
4. Alan Alda
5. Clint Eastwood
6. Henry Winkler
7. Robert Urich
8. Robert Conrad
9. John Ritter
10. James Garner

Favorite male TV stars (choices of girls)
1. Estrada
2. Williams
3. Reynolds
4. Alda
5. Urich
6. John Travolta
7. Winkler
8. Shaun Cassidy
9. Scott Baio
10. Eastwood

Favorite male TV stars (choices of boys)
1. Williams
2. Reynolds
3. Eastwood
4. Alda
5. Winkler
6. Conrad
7. Estrada
8. Urich
9. Ritter
10. Garner

NOW SEE THIS: 16 Magazine in the 1980s tracked the most popular teen heartthrobs

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