Cosby Show Wins Emmy for Best TV Comedy Series

Times Staff Writer

Bill Cosby’s hit series about family life, “The Cosby Show,” was named last season’s best comedy series Sunday night during television’s 37th annual Emmy Awards ceremonies, triumphing over its strongest competitor, the breezy saloon sitcom “Cheers.”

The Cosby series had been nominated for eight Emmys and might have gotten nine nominations, but Cosby took himself out of the running for best actor in a comedy series.

“Cheers,” which had won the Emmy for best comedy the last two years, had 12 nominations this time for television’s top honor.


Another notable Emmy contest, for the best drama series, pitted the neon-lit cops of “Miami Vice” against the gritty constables of “Hill Street Blues.” The latter has won more Emmys--25 in five seasons--than any other dramatic series in history.

Other contenders in the dramatic series category were NBC’s “St. Elsewhere” and CBS’ “Murder, She Wrote” and “Cagney & Lacey.” The other rivals for honors as best comedy series were NBC’s “Family Ties” and “Night Court” and CBS’ “Kate & Allie.”

Sunday’s black-tie ceremonies, televised by ABC, were held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

The night’s first winner was composer John Addison, awarded an Emmy for his score for an episode of “Murder, She Wrote.”

Most preshow speculation about probable winners focused on “Cosby” versus “Cheers” and “Vice” versus “Blues.” The competition was a happy battle for NBC. It airs all four series and is making a strong bid to unseat CBS as the leader in prime-time ratings this season.

NBC was No. 1 in Emmy nominations for prime-time programs in the 1984-85 season, with 125 of 297 nominations for television’s top honor--15 of them for “Miami Vice,” the most for any series.

CBS, which has won the prime-time ratings race for six consecutive seasons, got 75 nominations. ABC, which last season slumped to third in the ratings for the first time in a decade, got 41. PBS programs received 39 nominations, and syndicated programs 17.

The nominees for one of the major categories, the best drama special, included three contenders from NBC: “The Burning Bed,” “Fatal Vision” and “Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story.” CBS’ “Do You Remember Love” and ABC’s “Heartsounds” rounded out the field.

CBS was well-represented in the best mini-series category, with three in the running: “Robert Kennedy and His Times,” “Ellis Island” and “Space.” There were two other contenders in this category, neither from NBC or ABC.

Other Mini-Series

They were “A Woman of Substance,” aired on Operation Prime Time, an ad-hoc program syndication network, and PBS’ “The Jewel in the Crown,” a British adaptation of Paul Scott’s “Raj Quartet” novels.

“Jewel” had six nominations, but only one cast member, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, was nominated. Last March, the 77-year-old actress won an Oscar for her performance in “A Passage to India” which, like “Jewel,” was about British colonial rule.

She was one of two Oscar-winners up for an Emmy. The other was George C. Scott. It was a situation akin to last year, when Jane Fonda, a two-time Oscar recipient, won her first Emmy for “The Dollmaker,” a farm drama, and Sir Laurence Olivier, who also has two Oscars, won his fifth Emmy for his performance in a PBS version of “King Lear.”

Ashcroft’s night rivals in the category of best actress in a mini-series were Farrah Fawcett for “The Burning Bed,” Jane Alexander for CBS’ “Malice in Wonderland,” Mary Tyler Moore for “Heartsounds” and Joanne Woodward for “Do You Remember Love.”

The male contenders were Richard Chamberlain for “Wallenberg,” Richard Crenna for “The Rape of Richard Beck,” James Garner for “Heartsounds,” Richard Kiley for “Do You Remember Love” and Scott for his title-role performance in “Scrooge” on PBS.

Sheen Sought No Award

In theory, Martin Sheen, who starred in CBS’ controversial “The Atlanta Child Murders,” also could have been nominated. He wasn’t. He had asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration, saying that he does not believe that actors should compete against each other for awards.

The same reason was given earlier by Cosby, who although he won three Emmys in the 1960s as the co-star of “I Spy,” also withdrew his name from consideration.

His top-rated family comedy series, now beginning its second season, helped propel NBC to second in prime-time ratings last season.

Cosby’s withdrawal left five others up for an Emmy as best actor in a comedy series: Harry Anderson of “Night Court,” Robert Guillaume of ABC’s “Benson,” Bob Newhart of CBS’ “Newhart” and Jack Warden of CBS’ “Crazy Like a Fox,” an hourlong series.

Jane Curtin, who won last year as best actress in a comedy series, was nominated again this year, as was her “Kate & Allie” co-star, Susan Saint James. Also nominated: Isabel Sanford of CBS’ “The Jeffersons,” Shelley Long of “Cheers” and Phylicia Ayers-Allen of “The Cosby Show.”

Drama’s Best Actor

Nominations in the category of best actor in a drama series went to Don Johnson of “Miami Vice,” Daniel J. Travanti of “Hill Street Blues,” Ed Flanders and William Daniels of “St. Elsewhere,” and to CBS’ “Magnum, P.I.” star Tom Selleck, a winner last year.

Best actress nominees in the dramatic series category were Tyne Daley and Sharon Gless, co-stars of “Cagney & Lacey,” Angela Lansbury of “Murder, She Wrote,” Veronica Hamel of “Hill Street Blues” and Debbie Allen of the syndicated “Fame” series.

Three of the night’s nominations were posthumous: to Richard Burton for his performance in “Ellis Island,” to raspy-voiced Selma Diamond of “Night Court” and to Nicholas Colasanto, the good-hearted Coach of “Cheers.”

In all, Emmys in 29 categories, plus two special awards, were made Sunday. The show was produced by Alexander H. Cohen, who for 19 years has produced Broadway’s annual Tony Award telecasts, one of which once won an Emmy Award.

Sunday’s winners were decided Aug. 24 and 25 by blue-ribbon panels of more than 1,000 members of the Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, a spokesman for the academy said. The voting was tabulated by the firm of Price, Waterhouse.

132 Earlier Emmys

Earlier this year, 132 other Emmys were awarded during three separate ceremonies honoring achievement in daytime television, news and craft and technical work on prime-time shows.

A fifth Emmy ceremony--for achievement in televised sports--will be held early next year, according to a spokeswoman for the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which administers the TV sports awards.

All the ceremonies illustrate both the growth of television and the number of Emmy Awards over the years. In the first Emmy ceremony in Los Angeles in 1948, only six awards were given--four for programs, one for technical achievement and a special award to Louis McManus for his “original design of the Emmy.”