"Hill Street Blues," the innovative police drama heaped with praise by critics but largely ignored by the viewing public, swept the 33rd Annual Emmy Awards last night, winning eight trophies, including the prize for best dramatic series.
Others connected with the show who won Emmys include Michael Conrad (Sgt. Esterhaus), Daniel J. Travanti (Lt. Furillo) and Barbara Babcock (Grace Gardner). Writers Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco, who created the series, also won, and the program, nominated for more Emmy awards than any other show in history, was also cited for best direction, cinematography and sound editing.
Other multiple award winners on the program, telecast live from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, included "Playing for Time," the grim concentration camp drama that won Emmys for writer Arthur Miller, actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Alexander and as best dramatic special. "Taxi," the ABC comedy series, won for writing, direction and for the performances of regulars Judd Hirsch and Danny De Vito.
By the final tally, a total of 18 Emmys went to CBS shows, 17 to NBC and 13 to ABC. The syndicated "Muppet Show" won the Emmy for writing of a variety, musical or comedy program.
Although "Hill Street Blues" had 21 nominations, it could not possibly win that many Emmys since in several categories various episodes or stars of the program were pitted against each other. The "Hill Street" triumph meant a near shut-out for television's other high-toned drama series, "Lou Grant," which took home only one Emmy: the one Nancy Marchand got for playing Mrs. Pynchon, publisher of the Los Angeles Tribune where the series is set.
Although the theme song to "Hill Street Blues" is currently a Top 10 hit, the program itself has yet to make it into the hallowed ground of holy high ratings, and yet NBC has kept the program on the air and renewed it for at least the start of the coming season.
Accepting the writing Emmy for the show, co-creator Bochco thanked Grant Tinker, formerly head of MTM Enterprises, which produces the show, and now chairman of NBC, "and," said Bochco, "most especially, Fred Silverman, wherever you are." Silverman, the man Tinker replaced, was responsible for commissioning the show in the first place.
Conrad got to lead off the "Hill Street" winning streak. He said, "Wow!" and, his voice cracking, explained that his mother was watching the show from Miami and uttered two words that get said at almost every awards show, "Hi, Mom."
"Shogun," the successful NBC See EMMYS, C2, Col. 1 EMMYS, From C1 mini-series that led off the season a year ago, won the Emmy for best "limited series," with author James Clavell one of those accepting. Lily Tomlin's high-rated special "Lily: Sold Out" took the Emmy for best variety, musical or comedy program.
When Isabel Sanford won the best actress in a comedy series Emmy for long playing the long-suffering wife of George Jefferson in "The Jeffersons," she strode out on stage and told the audience, "At last!" She said the award was so unexpected that it caught her chewing on a piece of cheese, which she gulped down between words of thanks.
Eileen Brennan was named best supporting actress in a comedy series for playing the tough sarge on the relatively new CBS sitcom "Private Benjamin." Brennan was nominated for playing the same role in the original movie of "Private Benjamin" at the Academy Awards earlier this year, but lost.
Also cited by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences were David Warner for his supporting role, that of a crafty Roman politician, in "Masada"; James Goldstone for his direction of "Kent State," a low-rated NBC movie about the 1968 shooting of students by the Ohio National Guard; and Anthony Hopkins for playing Hitler in "The Bunker," about the last days of the Third Reich.
The evening was punctuated with taped or kinescoped moments from Emmy shows and TV programs of the past, but the big nostalgic heartwarmer came late in the program when the Academy offered a special tribute and standing ovation to hardy television perennial Lucille Ball. Co-host Shirley MacLaine told the smiling but teary Lucy as she handed her the plaque, "You're just a human national treasure."
As a burst of emotional fireworks, this certainly put to shame an earlier Governors' Award given to Elton H. Rule, president of the American Broadcasting Companies Inc.
The producing-directing team of Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, themselves multiple Emmy winners from years past, had promised a larger quotient of actual entertainment on the awards show this year and delivered the goods. Among the special tributes festooning the evening were a nod to Lawrence Welk for his long-running (26 years) weekly musical program. Welk told the crowd, "My my my, what a great honor you're-a payin' me here this evening."
Actors Peter O'Toole and Rod Steiger paid homage to playwright Paddy Chayefsky, who died on Aug. 1 and who was, in the '50s, one of the brightest lights of TV's Golden Age of live drama. O'Toole, who was nominated but did not win for his role as a Roman commander in "Masada," said Chayefsky "wrote of the human condition in language we could all understand." Steiger, who starred in Chayefsky's original drama "Marty," read dialogue from Chayefsky's 1976 movie "Network," which lampooned the television business.
Among the lines Steiger read were, "Television is not the truth," "We are in the boredom-killing business" and "We lie like hell."
An additional note of toniness in the midst of all this Emmyness was sounded by violinist Itzhak Perlman who, after a few words on behalf of "the arts," played Sarasate's "Introduction and Tarantella." Near the opening of the program, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, two living ghosts from a more glorious era of television, paid respects to the late producer Max Liebman, who not only invented the term "spectaculars" for specials in the '50s but also produced the reverently remembered irreverence of "Your Show of Shows," a weekly comedy classic which made Caesar and Coca at least as famous in their time as Caesar and Cleopatra were in theirs.
Production numbers, also unusually classy, spoofed the prescience, or lack of it, of TV critics and, later, viewed with justifiable skepticism the television millennium allegedly to be ushered in by satellites and cable. The show's opener was a jolly ditty, "One Big Happy Family," sung -- through the magic of tape editing -- by the casts of "Happy Days," "Dallas," "CHiPs," "The Love Boat," and other TV hits.
In addition to the 27 Emmy awards doled out last night in Pasadena, 32 were presented at another ceremony, not televised nationally, on Saturday. Among the winners was the PBS science series "Cosmos," hosted by astronomer Carl Sagan; it was cited for technical achievement and as outstanding informational programming. "Cosmos," Sagan's little jaunt through space and time, became the most popular American-made series in the history of public television.
Other awards on Saturday went to NBC's "Shogun" for its costume and graphic design, to "Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown" (CBS) for its animation, to NBC's "Project Peacock" as outstanding children's program, to Steve Allen's "Meeting of the Minds" (PBS) as best informational series, and to the continuing CBS "Body Human" specials as best informational specials.
Among the most-nominated shows, in addition to the record-setting "Hill Street Blues," were "Lou Grant" (13 nominations), NBC's exotic mini-series "Shogun" (14 nominations), and ABC's historical mini-series, "Masada," with 15 nominations in various categories.
Last night's ceremony was co-hosted in a state of high solemnity by Ed Asner and Shirley MacLaine. In his opening remarks, Asner pledged that the show would be marked by, among other things, "brevity." It was the kind of television-generated promise no one could have been expected to believe, but at least the 33rd annual Emmy show was a far cry -- or a cry, anyway -- from the kind of awards program veteran viewers have come to dread.