December 22, 2023

Two figures central to American culture died December 28: former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former NFL coach John Madden, whose namesake video game has enthralled football fans for decades, having sold more than 180 million copies by 2018. They are the latest in a list of high-profile losses in 2021, from the worlds of Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and beyond.


We lost 91-year-old Oscar-winning actor Christopher Plummer, whose long, distinguished career included everything from The Sound of Music to Knives Out to Pixar’s Up. Plummer’s Up costar, Ed Asner, who played the film’s lovable curmudgeon, also died at age 91; Asner was known for his husky delivery and comic chops in Elf and as iconic newsman Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Cloris Leachman, also an alum of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and the most-awarded performer in Emmy history, died in January. And Michael K. Williams, who most famously portrayed Omar Little on The Wire, died in September at age 54.

TV host Larry King died in January; he reportedly conducted more than 50,000 interviews during his decades-long career, including with every sitting U.S. president since Gerald Ford. We mourned many comedy stars: Jessica Walter, best known as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development; British comedian Sean Lock; and Saturday Night Live’s Norm MacDonald, whose deadpan style lives on, most memorably in his popular moth joke. We also lost two beloved actors from sitcom history:…

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