When “Entertainment Tonight” first came on TV, serious people derided it as a video version of “People” magazine, shallow and trite and fluffy. “ET” and “A Current Affair” would reduce the American mind to thin dumb mush, and the culture would spiral down until everything was seen through the lens of tabloid values. But stick around long enough, and you’re a cultural icon:

Those legs are made for walking: Longtime "Entertainment Tonight" host Mary Hart said Thursday she's leaving the show after her upcoming 30th season.

 The leading syndicated newsmagazine for entertainment had no immediate comment on reports that Lara Spencer has already been selected as Hart's successor. Spencer anchors "ET's" sister broadcast, "The Insider."

Hart, a former English teacher from Sioux Falls, S.D., joined "Entertainment Tonight" in 1982, with the show not even a year old. She was paired most famously at the anchor desk for 10 years with John Tesh, who left in 1996 to concentrate on his music career. Mark Steines is her current co-anchor.

Hart, 59, was known for shapely legs considered such an asset that "Entertainment Tonight" built a see-through desk on its set to show them off, said Bill Carroll, an expert in the TV syndication market for Katz Television.

 "She's a cultural icon," he said.

The reason she’s leaving? Hollywood Reporter notes:

There's five million reasons "Entertainment Tonight" was willing to part with Mary Hart.

 Five million dollars is the astronomical sum the iconic anchor was making in her 29th year at the entertainment news show. Hart accepted a pay cut -- which one informed source says amounted to 50% -- in May for one final season. She last struck a multiyear contract renewal with "ET" in 2006.

So either she took the cut because she knew she was going, or going because she took the cut? It’s difficult to get used to showing up on the set every day for $2.5 mil; after taxes and expenses, it’s hardly worth it.

 By the way, this newspaper used to have a beloved food writer named Mary Hart. Here she is with Art Linkletter; the caption says he is admiring her pigs in a blanket, but she doesn’t seem happy with them at all.




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