‘L.A. Law’ Wins Emmy as Best Drama Series : ‘Golden Girls’ Chosen as TV’s Top Comedy; Gless, Willis, McClanahan Take Acting Honors

Times Staff Writer

“L.A. Law” capped a glorious first year on the air by being named best drama series of the season, while “The Golden Girls” was named outstanding comedy for the second year in a row during the 39th annual Emmy Awards ceremonies Sunday night.

“L.A. Law,” an NBC series about the intrigues inside a large legal firm, shared top honors for the 1986-'87 season with “Promise,” a CBS movie that was honored as best drama special of the season. Each garnered five statuettes.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Sept. 23, 1987 FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday September 23, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 8 Column 1 Television Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
The Times mistakenly reported Monday that James Garner’s Emmy Award as co-executive producer of the TV movie “Promise” was his first. Actually, he won one in 1977 for his starring role on “The Rockford Files.”

Despite eight nominations for the ensemble cast of “L.A. Law,” acting honors for dramatic series went to Sharon Gless, a repeat winner from last year for CBS’s “Cagney & Lacey,” and to the irreverent Bruce Willis of ABC’s “Moonlighting.”

The wise-cracking Willis stuck out his tongue at the camera as he made his way to the stage to pick up his award.

“Woo-hoo! God bless America,” he proclaimed.

Willis took issue with industry wags who suggested that an Emmy vote for “Moonlighting” was a vote for anarchy because of its propensity to spend more time and money than other shows.


“Moonlighting” led all programs in nominations last year, but ended up winning only one for editing. This year it won four.

“People want to see a little more quality,’ Willis admonished them, “and if that’s what it takes, what the hell?”

In a record four-hour ceremony at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium--broadcast for the first time on the upstart Fox Broadcasting Co. network, instead of ABC, CBS or NBC--other major winners were “A Year in the Life” (NBC) as top miniseries and “The 1987 Tony Awards” (CBS) as best variety, music or comedy program.

On a night when the awards for the 1986-'87 season’s top nighttime programs were spread among a wide array of shows, NBC topped its competitors with 16 Emmys. CBS collected eight and ABC garnered four.

Counting the Emmys for technical categories, handed out in non-televised ceremonies Sept. 12, NBC wound up with 32 statuettes, compared to 19 for ABC, 15 for CBS, eight for PBS and one for syndicated programming.

Along with the Emmy as best comedy, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences also honored “The Golden Girls” (NBC) with awards for star Rue McClanahan and director Terry Hughes.

Gless was not the only performer to be honored for the second consecutive year. So were Michael J. Fox of “Family Ties” (NBC), named best actor in a comedy, and Bonnie Bartlett of NBC’s “St. Elsewhere,” who won as best supporting actress in a drama series.

And John Larroquette, who plays prosecutor Dan Fielding on NBC’s “Night Court,” was selected as best supporting actor in a comedy series for the third year in a row.

‘Slightly Embarrassed’

“Oh boy, I’m beginning to get slightly embarrassed by your generosity,” Larroquette quipped from the stage. “I emphasize ‘slightly.’ If you really want to embarrass me, keep this up.”

“L.A. Law,” which won critical acclaim and strong ratings after its premiere last fall, had captured 20 Emmy nominations--the second-largest ever for a weekly series.

Besides being named best drama series of the season, it won for writing (Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher), directing (Gregory Hoblit), art direction (Jeffrey L. Goldstein and Richard D. Kent) and guest performer (Alfre Woodard).

“We are all working on a show we are very proud of and this is our treat,” Hoblit said.

Among the Emmys for “Promise,” a movie about a man dealing with his brother’s schizophrenia, was one for actor James Woods, who played the afflicted sibling.

Beats Out His Co-Star

He won out over his co-star, James Garner, as best actor in a drama special. But Garner also was one of the film’s executive producers, and therefore got an Emmy--his first--when the program was named best special.

“Promise,” presented on the “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” also won awards for director Glenn Jordan, supporting actress Piper Laurie and writers Richard Friedenberg, Kenneth Blackwell and Tennyson Flowers.

“I can only hope that through the magic of television . . . (we have) opened the door a crack on that darkest of closets, schizophrenia,” Friedenberg said in accepting his award.

The Emmy for best animated program went to “Cathy,” a TV adaptation of the popular newspaper comic strip about a young single woman trying to cope with life’s dilemmas. It aired on CBS.

Gena Rowlands was a first-time Emmy honoree, winning as best actress in a miniseries or special for the title role in “The Betty Ford Story,” an ABC movie about the former First Lady’s battle with drug and alcohol dependency.

Wins for Dramatic Work

Dabney Coleman, best known as a comic actor, captured the Emmy as best supporting actor in a miniseries or special for his dramatic work in an ABC movie, “Sworn to Silence.”

Other acting awards went to John Hillerman of “Magnum, P.I.” (CBS), Jackee (formerly Jackee Harry) of “227" (NBC), Robin Williams for a guest performance on “A Carol Burnett Special: Carol, Carl, Whoopi & Robin” (ABC) and John Cleese for a guest role on NBC’s “Cheers.”

The TV academy gave its prestigious Governors Award, honoring career contributions to the medium, to Grant Tinker, the former chairman of NBC who resigned last year to return to independent production.

During his tenure at NBC, Tinker led the network from third to first in the ratings.

Previously he had been president of MTM Enterprises, the production company that made such hit series as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Hill Street Blues.”

The Emmy for best comedy writing went to Gary David Goldberg and Alan Uger for “Family Ties,” while the comedy directing honor went to Terry Hughes of “The Golden Girls.”

Other variety Emmys went to director Don Mischer for CBS’s “The Kennedy Center Honors” and to NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman” for best writing.