Primetime Emmy Winners – 1980s

Are you ready to take a trip back to the 1980s? When there were basically three channels you could watch on your TV (not counting PBS), cheesy sitcoms reigned supreme, as well as doctor/cop/lawyer shows. Hmmm, how are things really that different now? Cheesy sitcoms are still popular, and you’re hard-pressed to scroll through your TV listings without seeing at least a couple of doctor/cop/lawyer shows airing at any time of the day. Only now, we also have numerous animated series, way too many reality shows, way too many “song and dance” shows and several different 24-hour news channels. What did Bruce Springsteen say about cable TV? Ah, Fifty-seven Channels and Nothing On. Sounds about right, Bruce!

Since in the 1980s there were only so many TV shows and actors to go around, they were kind of passed around like cheap hookers when it came to Primetime Emmy awards. If Sharon Gless from Cagney and Lacey won in “X” year, you can bet Tyne Daly would win it the next year. Ditto for The Golden Girls, with Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur and Betty White trading awards for best leading actress in that series. Two Hill Street Blues actors – Ed Flanders and William Daniels – also traded Primetime Emmy awards. I don’t work in the TV industry, and I have no idea how they decide which actors/shows get bestowed with these awards, while other ones get ignored. My first guess would be “popularity contest,” though I’m not ruling out the use of Magic 8 ball toys – or the performing of sexual favors on just the right people as means of determining who wins Emmy awards. In other words? It’s a mystery to me as to how Emmies are awarded (yes I’m spelling it this way…this is happening)!

Note, I am only including the lists of best drama/comedy lead actor/actress nominees and series nominees for drama/comedy series. There are plenty of places on the ‘Web to see a full list of Emmy nominees/winners. Winners will be denoted in boldface type.

1980

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Polly Holliday, star of the Alice spin-off Flo. Alice ran for nine seasons, Flo ran for just two, just long enough for her to have been nominated for best leading actress in a comedy series. We missed a final trivia question involving this series in March, 2017, which made me cry out: “Kiss my grits!”

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Richard Mulligan, Soap
  • Hal Linden, Barney Miller
  • Robert Guillaume, Benson
  • Alan Alda, M*A*S*H*
  • Judd Hirsch, Taxi

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Edward Asner, Lou Grant
  • Larry Hagman, Dallas
  • Jack Klugman, Quincy, M.E.
  • James Garner, The Rockford Files

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Cathryn Damon, Soap
  • Sheree North, Archie Bunker’s Place
  • Polly Holliday, Flo
  • Katherine Helmond, Soap
  • Isabel Sanford, The Jeffersons

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas
  • Sada Thompson, Family
  • Kristy McNichol, Family
  • Mariette Hartley, The Rockford Files
  • Lauren Bacall, The Rockford Files

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Taxi
  • Barney Miller
  • M*A*S*H*
  • Soap
  • WKRP in Cincinnati

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Lou Grant
  • Dallas
  • Family
  • The Rockford Files
  • The White Shadow

 

1981

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I had a living situation similar to Three’s Company when I was in college, only it was two guys – and me living in one apartment (we all had separate bedrooms)! None of us pretended to be gay, though there was that one Halloween party where we all went in drag! My boyfriend was a FAR more convincing woman than I was as a guy! He actually had a guy hitting on him in the bar, but to be fair – I was in charge of his wardrobe, hair styling and makeup so I deserved a bit of credit…

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Judd Hirsch, Taxi
  • Hal Linden, Barney Miller
  • John Ritter, Three’s Company
  • Alan Alda, M*A*S*H*
  • Richard Mulligan, Soap

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Edward Asner, Lou Grant
  • Larry Hagman, Dallas
  • Jack Klugman, Quincy, M.E.
  • James Garner, The Rockford Files

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Isabel Sanford, The Jeffersons
  • Lynn Redgrave, House Calls
  • Eileen Brennan, Taxi
  • Cathryn Damon, Soap
  • Katherine Helmond, Soap

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Barbara Babcock, Hill Street Blues
  • Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas
  • Linda Gray, Dallas
  • Veronica Hamel, Hill Street Blues
  • Michael Learned, Nurse
  • Stefanie Powers, Hart to Hart

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Taxi
  • Barney Miller
  • M*A*S*H*
  • Soap
  • WKRP in Cincinnati

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Hill Street Blues
  • Dallas
  • Lou Grant
  • The Rockford Files
  • The White Shadow

1982

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I used to like the series Benson when I was a kid…

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Alan Alda, M*A*S*H*
  • Hal Linden, Barney Miller
  • Robert Guillaume, Benson
  • Leslie Nielsen, Police Squad!
  • Judd Hirsch, Taxi

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Daniel J. Travanti, Hill Street Blues
  • Edward Asner, Lou Grant
  • John Forsythe, Dynasty
  • Daniel J. Travanti, Hill Street Blues
  • Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Shelley Long, Cheers
  • Nell Carter, Gimme A Break
  • Mariette Hartley, Goodnight Beantown
  • Rita Moreno, 9 to 5
  • Isabel Sanford, The Jeffersons
  • Swoosie Kurtz, Love, Sidney

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Tyne Daly, Cagney and Lacey
  • Veronica Hamel, Hill Street Blues
  • Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey
  • Debbie Allen, Fame
  • Linda Evans, Dynasty

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Barney Miller
  • Love, Sidney
  • M*A*S*H*
  • Taxi
  • WKRP in Cincinnati

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Hill Street Blues
  • Dynasty
  • Magnum P.I.
  • Lou Grant
  • Fame

1983

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Ed Flanders and William Daniels on St. Elsewhere. I don’t know which one is which, but they traded Primetime Emmies quite a few times for best leading actor in a drama series during the 1980s. To me, they’re Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. For trivial purposes, you might want to remember that singer Gnarls Barkley had a hit album called St. Elsewhere.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Judd Hirsch, Taxi
  • Ted Danson, Cheers
  • Robert Guillaume, Benson
  • Alan Alda, M*A*S*H*
  • Dabney Coleman, Buffalo Bill

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Ed Flanders, St. Elsewhere
  • William Daniels, St. Elsewhere
  • John Forsythe, Dynasty
  • James Garner, Bret Maverick
  • Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Shelley Long, Cheers
  • Nell Carter, Gimme A Break
  • Mariette Hartley, Goodnight Beantown
  • Rita Moreno, 9 to 5
  • Isabel Sanford, The Jeffersons
  • Swoosie Kurtz, Love, Sidney

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Tyne Daly, Cagney and Lacey
  • Veronica Hamel, Hill Street Blues
  • Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey
  • Debbie Allen, Fame
  • Linda Evans, Dynasty

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Cheers
  • M*A*S*H*
  • Buffalo Bill
  • Taxi
  • Newhart

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Hill Street Blues
  • Dynasty
  • Magnum P.I.
  • Cagney and Lacey
  • Fame

1984

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Jesus, I’m SO sorry, I don’t know which of these women from Cagney and Lacey is which! I think Tyne Daly is the brunette and Sharon Gless is the blonde? Like those guys on St. Elsewhere, these two traded Primetime Emmy award wins a few times in the 1980s.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • John Ritter, Three’s Company
  • Ted Danson, Cheers
  • Sherman Helmsley, The Jeffersons
  • Robert Guillaume, Benson
  • Dabney Coleman, Buffalo Bill

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I.
  • Ed Flanders, St. Elsewhere
  • William Daniels, St. Elsewhere
  • John Forsythe, Dynasty
  • Daniel J. Travanti, Hill Street Blues

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Jane Curtin, Kate and Allie
  • Shelley Long, Cheers
  • Joanna Cassidy, Buffalo Bill
  • Susan St. James, Kate and Allie
  • Isabel Sanford, The Jeffersons

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Tyne Daly, Cagney and Lacey
  • Veronica Hamel, Hill Street Blues
  • Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey
  • Debbie Allen, Fame
  • Joan Collins, Dynasty

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Cheers
  • Buffalo Bill
  • Family Ties
  • Kate and Allie
  • Newhart

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Hill Street Blues
  • Magnum P.I.
  • St. Elsewhere
  • Cagney and Lacey
  • Fame

1985

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Yay, I DO know which one of these women from Kate and Allie is which! Susan St. James is on the left, Jane Curtin is on the right! Some of you might remember Jane Curtin from old SNL episodes, and even fewer of you might remember St. James from the 1970s series McMillan and Wife. Rock Hudson was also in that one.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Robert Guillaume, Benson
  • Harry Anderson, Night Court
  • Ted Danson, Cheers
  • Bob Newhart, Newhart
  • Jack Warden, Crazy Like a Fox

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • William Daniels, St. Elsewhere
  • Ed Flanders, St. Elsewhere
  • Don Johnson, Miami Vice
  • Daniel J. Travanti, Hill Street Blues
  • Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Jane Curtin, Kate and Allie
  • Shelley Long, Cheers
  • Phylicia Rashad, The Cosby Show
  • Susan St. James, Kate and Allie
  • Isabel Sanford, The Jeffersons

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Tyne Daly, Cagney and Lacey
  • Veronica Hamel, Hill Street Blues
  • Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey
  • Debbie Allen, Fame
  • Angela Lansbury, Murder, She Wrote

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Cheers
  • Family Ties
  • The Cosby Show
  • Kate and Allie
  • Newhart

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Cagney and Lacey
  • Hill Street Blues
  • St. Elsewhere
  • Miami Vice
  • Murder, She Wrote

1986

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I almost used a photo I found online of Markie Post wearing a bikini and riding a bicycle, but good taste prevailed. You can look that up on your own if you want! Here’s the cast of Night Court, which I thought was an enjoyable comedy series. I particularly enjoyed the cranky old woman played by Selma Diamond.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Michael J. Fox, Family Ties
  • Harry Anderson, Night Court
  • Ted Danson, Cheers
  • Bob Newhart, Newhart
  • Jack Warden, Crazy Like a Fox

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • William Daniels, St. Elsewhere
  • Ed Flanders, St. Elsewhere
  • Bruce Willis, Moonlighting
  • Daniel J. Travanti, Hill Street Blues
  • Edward Woodward, The Equalizer

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Betty White, The Golden Girls
  • Bea Arthur, The Golden Girls
  • Rue McClanahan, The Golden Girls
  • Phylicia Rashad, The Cosby Show
  • Shelley Long, Cheers

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey
  • Tyne Daly, Cagney and Lacey
  • Cybill Shepherd, Moonlighting
  • Alfre Woodward, St. Elsewhere
  • Angela Lansbury, Murder, She Wrote

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Cheers
  • Family Ties
  • The Cosby Show
  • Kate and Allie
  • Newhart

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Cagney and Lacey
  • Hill Street Blues
  • St. Elsewhere
  • Miami Vice
  • Murder, She Wrote

1987

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Did you know that Bruce Willis had to film almost all of his Die Hard scenes at night so as not to conflict with his Moonlighting shooting schedule? Another 1980s series I enjoyed…

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Michael J. Fox, Family Ties
  • Harry Anderson, Night Court
  • Ted Danson, Cheers
  • Bob Newhart, Newhart
  • Bronson Pinchot, Perfect Strangers

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Bruce Willis, Moonlighting
  • Ed Flanders, St. Elsewhere
  • William Daniels, St. Elsewhere
  • Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law
  • Edward Woodward, The Equalizer

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Rue McClanahan, The Golden Girls
  • Betty White, The Golden Girls
  • Bea Arthur, The Golden Girls
  • Blair Brown, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
  • Jane Curtin, Kate and Allie

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey
  • Tyne Daly, Cagney and Lacey
  • Susan Dey, L.A. Law
  • Jill Eikenberry, L.A. Law
  • Angela Lansbury, Murder, She Wrote

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Cheers
  • Family Ties
  • The Cosby Show
  • Kate and Allie
  • Newhart

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • Cagney and Lacey
  • Hill Street Blues
  • St. Elsewhere
  • Miami Vice
  • Murder, She Wrote

1988

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Want to be the hero of your trivia team? Remember that 9 to 5 actor Dabney Coleman was Emmy-nominated for TWO different series in the 1980s – Buffalo Bill – and The Slap Maxwell Story (pictured here). I can totally see a pub trivia question writer digging deep for these facts! Elbow deep, as it were! You might also want to remember that actor Richard Mulligan was also nominated for two different series – Soap – and Empty Nest.  🙂

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Michael J. Fox, Family Ties
  • Dabney Coleman, The Slap Maxwell Story
  • Ted Danson, Cheers
  • Tim Reid, Frank’s Place
  • John Ritter, Hooperman

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Richard Kiley, A Year in the Life
  • Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law
  • Ron Perlman, Beauty and The Beast
  • Michael Tucker, L.A. Law
  • Edward Woodward, The Equalizer

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Bea Arthur, The Golden Girls
  • Betty White, The Golden Girls
  • Rue McClanahan, The Golden Girls
  • Blair Brown, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
  • Kirstie Alley, Cheers

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Tyne Daly, Cagney and Lacey
  • Susan Dey, L.A. Law
  • Sharon Gless, Cagney and Lacey
  • Jill Eikenberry, L.A. Law
  • Angela Lansbury, Murder, She Wrote

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • The Wonder Years
  • Cheers
  • Frank’s Place
  • The Golden Girls
  • Night Court

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • thirtysomething
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • L.A. Law
  • Rumpole of the Bailey
  • St. Elsewhere

1989

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My high school BFF’s mom insisted that when I was in high school, I bore a resemblance to Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown. For the record, my hair was NOTHING like this! The same BFF’s father also had a creepy crush on me, and to this day I still do NOT like being hugged by him (they had their 50th anniversary party a couple of years ago and he just HAD to cop a feel…shudder). Hey, I digress with this random “metoo memory,” don’t I? And whew, this decade of TV is almost over!

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:

  • Richard Mulligan, Empty Nest
  • Michael J. Fox, Family Ties
  • John Goodman, Roseanne
  • Fred Savage, The Wonder Years
  • Ted Danson, Cheers

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

  • Carroll O’Connor, In The Heat of the Night
  • Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law
  • Ron Perlman, Beauty and The Beast
  • Michael Tucker, L.A. Law
  • Edward Woodward, The Equalizer

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series:

  • Candice Bergen, Murphy Brown
  • Betty White, The Golden Girls
  • Bea Arthur, The Golden Girls
  • Rue McClanahan, The Golden Girls
  • Blair Brown, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:

  • Dana Delany, China Beach
  • Susan Dey, L.A. Law
  • Linda Hamilton, Beauty and the Beast
  • Jill Eikenberry, L.A. Law
  • Angela Lansbury, Murder, She Wrote

Outstanding Comedy Series:

  • Designing Women
  • The Wonder Years
  • Cheers
  • The Golden Girls
  • Murphy Brown

Outstanding Drama Series:

  • L.A. Law
  • thirtysomething
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • China Beach
  • Wiseguy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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