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The TV Set

It's been said that television is the original American art form. More than the runways of Bryant Park or the soundstages of Tinseltown, it reflects our collective tastes as a nation. And when it comes to the female form, these tastes have proven themselves to be rather limited. In the past, small-screen beauties tended to come in only two varieties: the bombshell and the girl next door. Or, in Nick at Nite speak, Ginger and Mary Ann. Sure, there are exceptions. The multiracial features of The Cosby Show's Lisa Bonet spring to mind. But historically speaking, TV land has been populated by women who look like either Malibu Barbie (Farrah Fawcett, Heather Locklear, Pamela Anderson) or the Sun-Maid Raisins girl (Kristin Davis happens to be a dead ringer).

In the past few years, though, there's been, if not a sea change, then at least a step in a new direction—thanks, in no small part, to cable. Take, for instance, the still-ripe sex appeal of SATC cougar Kim Cattrall, the androgynous good looks of The L Word's Katherine Moennig, or the hourglass charm of Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. With the writers' strike finally over and many of our favorite shows—Gossip Girl included—set to air again soon, we salute TV hotties old and new.

—Evelyn Crowley

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