I didn’t watch the Emmy awards show last Sunday. The reason being that I don’t watch much current TV. As with music, I’m stuck in the late 60’s and 70s. Which means my favorite TV channel is ME, an “oldies” channel.
I remember what my favorite TV shows back then were. But in the interest of comparative television history and in keeping with Emmy fever, I decided to research just what shows back then received an Emmy and what more current shows have been honored.
First, an overview…
Folks who watched these older shows should not be too surprised, other than maybe at the “numbers.” The three “oldies” shows receiving the most number of nominations across all categories have been Saturday Night Live (SNL) with 142, followed by ER with 124 and Cheers with 117.
The program with the most wins was the comedy Frasier, with 37 awards. That show’s top three challengers in comedy were Mary Tyler Moore Show (29), Cheers (28) and All in the Family (22). My favorite was All in the Family because of its “political” nature.
Next, let’s look at actors…
Kelsey Grammer, John Larroquette, and Peter Falk each won five Emmys for their roles in, respectively, Frasier, Night Court, and Columbo. Michael J. Fox has won four for his role in Family Ties. And Alan Alda won writing, directing, and acting Emmys for M*A*S*H.
Now let’s look at specific years, starting with 1967 because it had an award which surprised me. The winner for “Outstanding Comedy” was…. The Monkees. I didn’t think it was that funny compared to one of its competitors – Hogan’s Heros. (I know nothing! I see nothing! I hear nothing!)
The drama category award was tough because it included three shows I enjoyed: The Avengers, Star Trek and..the winner…Mission: Impossible, (MI) which also won in 1968. MI’s Martin Landau and Barbara Bain also won for best drama actor / actress. Too bad Diana Rigg, who was also nominated for “The Avengers” could not have shared the actress award. (As a young teen, I had the hots for Diana Rigg!)
In 1968 (and again in 1969), Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink in Hogan’s Heros) won for comedy supporting actor. He was nominated every year the series ran. The first two years of the show, he lost the award to Don Knotts (Andy Griffith Show). Interestingly, Bob “Col. Hogan” Crane was nominated only in the show’s first two years but did not win either year.
In 1970, I graduated high school and came to the U.S. for college. A few months later, in 1971, a comedy series so unlike any other one began a long dominance. I didn’t watch much TV in college, but I always joined “meatheads” across the nation in tuning in… All in the Family.
The huge success of the show was apparent from its Emmy awards the next year (1972). Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton won for comedy actor and actress. Sally Struthers won for supporting actress but Rob “Meathead” Reiner lost supporting actor to Mary Tyler Moore’s (MTM) Ed Asner. (Rob received his “Meathead’ Emmy in 1978.)
All in the Family also won best comedy and best comedy writing. Over the next few years, the comedy series Emmys were a see saw struggle between All in the Family and MTM.
In 1973, All in the Family again won best comedy over MTM. But another nominee, which premiered in September 1972, was making its presence known: M*A*S*H. Besides best comedy, it received nominations for best comedy actor (Alan Alda), best supporting comedy actor (“Radar”, who won the award in 1977 and was the only cast member from the movie to be in the TV series), best comedy director, best comedy writing and best new series.
The very next year (1974), M*A*S*H won Emmys for best comedy and comedy director. Alan Alda won both series actor of the year and best comedy actor. (Mary Tyler Moore won the female category of Alda’s awards.)
M*A*S*H went on to win another 10 comedy Emmys between 1975 and 1982:
1975 — Outstanding Directing – Gene Reynolds
1976 — Outstanding Film Editing – Fred W. Berger and Stanford Tischler
1976 — Outstanding Directing – Gene Reynolds
1977 — Outstanding Directing – Alan Alda
1977 — Outstanding Supporting Actor – Gary Burghoff
1979 — Outstanding Writing – Alan Alda
1980 — Outstanding Supporting Actress – Loretta Swit
1980 — Outstanding Supporting Actor – Harry Morgan
1982 — Outstanding Lead Actor – Alan Alda
1982 — Outstanding Supporting Actress -Loretta Swit
Perhaps the most telling statistic about M*A*S*H is that its 1983 finale drew 106 million viewers. (The U.S. population then was 233 million and that includes chpldren too young to watch the show.)
By contrast, when Cheers ended in 1993, the finale drew 84 million viewers and the U.S. population had grown by another 25 million. (Math wizards have calculated that 45% of the country watched the M*A*S*H finale compared to about 33% for Cheers’ finale.)
In 1974, 1975 and 1977, the drama Emmy went to an…unlikely…network: PBS, for Upstairs, Downstairs. That show is the only series for which PBS has won a drama Emmy, although recently Downton Abbey has been nominated each year beginning on 2010. (In the interest of research, I did check on this year’s award and learned that Downton Abbey lost to Breaking Bad.)
In 1976, the year before its run ended, MTM swept the major comedy Emmy awards as shown below:
Outstanding Series: Mary Tyler Moore Show
Outstanding Lead Actress: Mary Tyler Moore
Outstanding Supporting Actor: Ted Knight
Outstanding Supporting Actress: Betty White
In 1978, with MTM no longer in competition, it was All in the Family’s turn for a sweep of the major comedy awards. It won best comedy, best comedy actor and actress, and “Meathead” won best supporting comedy actor. But an MTM spin off, Lou Grant, made a strong showing in the drama category awards (and the show won best drama in 1979 and 1980):
Outstanding Series: The Rockford Files
Outstanding Lead Actor : Edward Asner, Lou Grant
Outstanding Supporting Actress: Nancy Marchand, Lou Grant
Finally, if you’ve read this far and you’re a “boomer” you may have noticed that a fairly popular TV show which only ran three seasons in the late 60’s in its original form has not been mentioned: Star Trek. That’s because the original show never won an Emmy.
One of its spin offs, The Next Generation (which I preferred to the original) won between two and four Emmys each year between 1988-1994. That was one of the few shows I watched regularly during those years.
Let’s fast forward 20 years to the 1999 awards for drama and comedy categories. Although I’ve heard of all these shows, I’ve not seen a single one:
Outstanding Drama Series: The West Wing
Outstanding Lead Actor: James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
Outstanding Lead Actress: Sela Ward, Once and Again
Outstanding Supporting Actor: Richard Schiff, The West Wing
Outstanding Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, The West Wing
Outstanding Comedy Series: Will & Grace
Outstanding Lead Actor: Michael J. Fox, Spin City
Outstanding Lead Actress: Patricia Heaton, Everybody Loves Raymond Outstanding Supporting Actor: Sean Hayes, Will & Grace
Outstanding Supporting Actress: Megan Mullally, Will & Grace
And it’s the same story for the 2010 awards, although I do watch Big Bang Theory.
Series: Mad Men
Actor: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Actress: Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Supporting Actor: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Supporting Actress: Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
Series: Modern Family (ABC)
Actor: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Actress: Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Supporting Actor: Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Supporting Actress: Sue Sylvester, Glee
If you watched the Emmys last Sunday, I hope you enjoyed it and that your favorite shows were recognized. Because unlike the captains of the Starship Enterprise, I’m quite happy staying in my own television galaxy!