Last night was the annual Emmy Awards ceremony. I am not going to comment on it (although I am happy that Rami Malek won for Mr. Robot). Instead I want to take a look back nearly 50 years ago to the Emmy Awards for the 1966-1967 season. The 1966-1967 Emmys (the ceremony took place on June 4 1967) are particularly interesting because a number of historic shows were nominated. In fact, the show of the night was the low-rated, but critically acclaimed Mission: Impossible. It walked away with three wins. Among other shows that were nominated in various categories were The Avengers, Star Trek, Bewitched, and Get Smart.
I am not going to discuss every single category, as I really don't want this blog post to be very long. That having been said, I will discuss what are generally considered the major awards. The winner of each award is in bold face.
Outstanding Comedy Series
The Andy Griffith Show
I think you can see what I mean about a number of historic shows being nominated for the 1966-1967 Emmys. Every single comedy series from the 1966-1967 season that was nominated for "Outstanding Comedy Series" can still be seen today in syndication. What is more, every single one of them is available on DVD. I dare say every single American, no matter how young or old, has heard of all them. In many ways I think Emmy voters had to make some very hard choices in this category. That having been said, I think The Monkees certainly deserved to win the award. While I must admit I am biased here (it is my favourite sitcom of all time), I think at the time it was positively revolutionary. It was fast paced, made use of effects rarely seen on sitcoms before, and incorporated music into its episodes in a way no other sitcom had before.
Of course, that having been said, if I had been old enough to appreciate television in 1966 and 1967, I don't think I would have been disappointed if a show other than The Monkees had won. All five number among my favourite shows of all time and I think there is no denying that all five are classics.
Outstanding Dramatic Series
Run for Your Life
Like the comedies, the dramas nominated for the 1966-1967 season were also particularly strong. In fact, three of them have persisted in syndication ever since (The Avengers, Mission: Impossible, and Star Trek). One of them could even be the most successful drama of all time in syndication (Star Trek). Certainly Mission: Impossible numbers among the most successful shows of all time. Even people who have never seen the show or the movies can recognise its theme song. That having been said, I don't think Mission: Impossible should have won. And, no, I would not have gone with Star Trek either. My winner would have been The Avengers. It is my favourite drama of all time, and this was when The Avengers was at its height artistically: the black and white episodes with Dame Diana Rigg as Emma Peel. As revolutionary as both Mission: Impossible and Star Trek were, they could not match The Avengers in sheer quality during the 1966-1967 season, as far as I am concerned.
Outstanding Variety Series
The Andy Williams Show
The Dean Martin Show
The Hollywood Palace
The Jackie Gleason Show
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Unlike the sitcoms and dramas, I rather suspect some younger people might not recognise some of the titles listed here. This is probably particularly true of The Hollywood Palace. For those who are wondering, The Hollywood Palace was essentially ABC's answer to The Ed Sullivan Show. It featured a variety of acts, everything from acrobats to stand up comedians. The Rolling Stones made their debut on American television on The Hollywood Palace. Unlike The Ed Sullivan Show, The Hollywood Palace did not have a regular host, instead relying on guest hosts throughout the its run. Bing Crosby held the record for hosting The Hollywood Palace the most times (31 in all).
Like the Comedy and Dramatic Series Categories, it is hard to pick a winner for the Variety Series category for the 1966-1967 season. That having been said, I can say who I don't think should have won. While I am a huge fan of Andy Williams, I don't think The Andy Williams Show deserved to win the Emmy. I also have to say that I don't think The Hollywood Palace, The Jackie Gleason Show,and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson deserved the award either. While of these shows were excellent, by the 1966-1967 season they had all been on the air for a while (The Hollywood Palace was the youngest at around three years old). None of them added anything particularly new to the variety show format during the 1966-1967 season.
As to who should have won, I would have to go with either The Dean Martin Show or The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The Dean Martin Show had a totally relaxed atmosphere from other variety shows of the time, so much so that bloopers often made it into the final tape of any given edition of the show. Much of the show was extemporised, and much of the humour was physical. I must admit that, it is quite possibly my favourite variety show of all time (if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I am a huge Dean Martin fan). That having been said, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour had a good deal going for it as well. The show expanded the boundaries of what was considered acceptable for a variety show, often featuring biting political satire. It made several references to youth culture, something rarely done on variety shows at the time. It also regularly featured rock acts, including Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Donovan, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Who (whose appearance on the show became legendary). It is very difficult for me to say which of these two shows should have win. I would probably go with The Dean Martin Show, but I can see very good arguments for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour as well.
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series:
Don Adams as Maxwell Smart on Get Smart
Bob Crane as Col. Robert E. Hogan on Hogan's Heroes
Brian Keith as Uncle Bill Davis on Family Affair
Larry Storch as Cpl. Randolph Agarn on F Troop
This category proves difficult for me. I definitely think Don Adams deserved to win for Get Smart, but then there is the small matter of Larry Storch on F Troop. I think he did at least as good a job as Don Adams, perhaps even better. The problem is that I am not sure that Corporal Agarn was a lead role on F Troop. To me the lead role was most definitely Forrest Tucker as Sgt. O'Rourke. The question is then whether Corporal Agarn was a lead character or a supporting character. I would say he was a lead, but then I think of Mr. Spock as a lead role on Star Trek as well. That having been said, Leonard Nimoy was nominated as a supporting actor for this very Emmy Awards! Anyway, if Larry Storch is counted as a lead, I might well give him the award for Actor in a Leading Role. If not, then it would go to Don Adams.
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series
Lucille Ball as Lucy Carmichael on The Lucy Show
Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched
Agnes Moorehead as Endora on Bewitched
Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie on That Girl
Okay, as much as I love Lucy, I wouldn't have given her the Emmy for Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. That having been said, as much as I love Agnes Moorehead as Endora, I think it is another case like Corporal Agarn and Mr. Spock. Is Endora a lead character? A supporting character? I think I will then just take the easy way out and give the Emmy to Elizabeth Montgomery, who definitely played the lead on Bewitched. She was fantastic as Samantha, who remains one of the most memorable characters of all time.
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series
Bill Cosby as Alexander Scott on I Spy
Robert Culp as Kelly Robinson on I Spy
Ben Gazzara as Paul Bryan on Run for Your Life
David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble on The Fugitive
Martin Landau as Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible
Okay, I have to admit that Martin Landau as Rollin Hand brings up the Agarn/Spock/Endora question again. Is Rollin Hand a lead character? A supporting character? Given Mission: Impossible was pretty much an ensemble, I would say all of the regular characters on the shows were leads (so, yes, Greg Morris could have been nominated in this category as well--I think he deserved to be). That being the case, I would then have given the Emmy to Martin Landau. As Rollin Hand he was a master of disguise, essentially playing at least two or more characters per episode (well, playing Rollin Hand playing one or more characters, anyway). When I watch Mission: Impossible today, it's not the technology that stands out for me (which, by today's standards is pretty primitive), it's Martin Landau as Rollin Hand. I honestly don't see how he lost this award.
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series
Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter on Mission: Impossible
Diana Rigg as Emma Peel on The Avengers
Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley on The Big Valley
First, can we talk about how there were only three women nominated in the Lead Actress in a Drama category? Granted, the 1966-1967 was the height of a cycle towards action-adventure shows on which most of the leads were men, but it is not as if there were only three dramas that aired during the season on which there were female leads. There was Dana Wynter on The Man Who Never Was, Kathryn Hays on The Road West, and Stefanie Powers on The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Now I've never seen The Road West, so I can't vouch for Kathryn Hays's performance on the show, and I can't say I was overly impressed with Stefanie Powers on The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (although, in Miss Powers's defence, she didn't have a lot to work with), but surely Dana Wynter deserved to at least be nominated!
Anyway, this is one of those categories I have always had an issue with. While I think Barbara Bain did well enough as Cinnamon Carter, I really
don't think she should have won the Emmy in this category. I think both Diana Rigg and Barbara Stanwyck did much better jobs in their respective roles than Barbara Bain did (for that matter, I think Dana Wynter did a better job...). As to who did the best out of all of them, I would have to say it was Diana Rigg. There is a reason that even people who have never seen The Avengers know who Emma Peel is. At least in the United States it was a groundbreaking role and it is an iconic role across the English speaking world. While a lot of the credit goes to The Avengers's writing staff, a lot of the credit for Emma Peel becoming one of the best known television characters is simply Diana Rigg's talent. To me, that she didn't win the Emmy for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series is one of the greatest errors in judgement in the history of the Emma Awards.
Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy
Gale Gordon as Mr. Theodore J. Mooney on The Lucy Show
Don Knotts as Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, (Episode: "Barney Comes to Mayberry")
Werner Klemperer as Col. Wilhelm Klink on Hogan's Heroes
I might well have put Larry Storch in this category, which would have only made it even harder to choose who should have won! Barney Fife is one of the all time greatest TV characters, and it is all because of Don Knotts. At the same time, Gale Gordon was easily the best thing about The Lucy Show. No one could do a slow burn like he did! And Werner Klemperer was great as Colonel Klink. Ultimately I would still have to go with Don Knotts as the winner, but it would still be tough to choose!
Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy
Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show
Nancy Kulp as Jane Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies
Marion Lorne as Aunt Clara on Bewitched
As great as Frances Bavier was as Aunt Bee, I don't think I would have given her the Emmy in this category. In fact, I think Nancy Kulp as Miss Jane may have deserved the award more. That having been said, I think I would have ultimately given the award to Marion Lorne. As Aunt Clara she was one of the best things about Bewitched. In fact, aside from Sam, Darrin, and Endora, she seems to be the one character everyone remembers, this despite the fact that she didn't appear in every episode! Now that is the mark of a great character played by a great actress.
Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama
Leo G. Carroll as Alexander Waverly on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock on Star Trek
Eli Wallach as Happy Locarno on Poppies Are Also Flowers
Okay, I realise this category says "Drama" rather than "Dramatic Series", which means performances in TV movies would also be eligible. Still, it doesn't seem right to me that Eli Wallach was nominated. To me the category should have been open to actors from TV series only and there should have been a completely separate category for supporting roles in TV movies. While I have never seen Poppies Are Also Flowers (for those who are wondering, it was a highly regarded anti-drug TV movie), I think the Emmy should have gone to Leonard Nimoy. There is a reason that, even in the first season of Star Trek, Mr. Spock became the most popular and recognisable character on the show. As Spock during the first season of Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy gave one of the greatest performances in the history of episodic television.
Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama
Tina Chen as Vietnamese girl on CBS Playhouse, (Episode: "The Final War of Olly Winter")
Agnes Moorehead as Emma Valentine on The Wild Wild West, (Episode: "Night of the Vicious Valentine")
Ruth Warrick as Hannah Cord on Peyton Place
Unlike the Supporting Actor category, only one of the nominees was for a regular role in a series--the other two were guest appearances (for those who are wondering, CBS Playhouse was an anthology series that aired about three episodes a year). I must confess, that makes me less than comfortable with this category. I'd rather it have been Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series. That having been said, I barely remember Peyton Place and I haven't seen any episodes of CBS Playhouse (that I remember, anyway). Despite this, I have to suspect that they were right in giving Agnes Moorehead the Emmy. I think it was one of the best performances of her career, to the point that Emma Valentine is always the third character who comes to my mind when I think of Agnes Moorehead (the first two are Endora, of course, and then Margot Lane on the radio show The Shadow).
Beyond these major categories, I have to mention another category, one that had been newly created. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences created the category of Individual Achievements in Music - Composition for the 1965-1966 Emmy Awards. While the category was well publicised for the 1966-1967 Emmy Awards (to the point that the four nominees were announced ahead of time), it was not even mentioned during the ceremony. What is more, no winner was ever announced. Among the four nominees was Lalo Schifrin for Mission: Impossible, whose theme music has since become one of the most famous in the history of American television. A Billboard story from the June 17, 1967 issue addressed the disappointment of Broadcast Music, Inc. (better known by its initials BMI) at what it perceived as the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' snub of composers. Not only do I have to sympathise with BMI, but I think most people will agree with me that Lalo Schrifin should have won an Emmy for the theme to Mission: Impossible alone. As to the other nominees, they were: Aaron Copland (for CBS Playhouse), Earle Hagen (for I Spy), Pete Rugolo (for Run for Your Life), and Ticker Freeman and George Wylie (for The Andy Williams Show).
Looking back, I have to say that we should perhaps feel fortunate that so many iconic shows were nominated for the 1966-1967 Emmy Awards. In fact, today I have to suspect that such shows as The Avengers and Star Trek would not have even been nominated. For that matter, The Monkees probably would not have been nominated, much less won. That so many shows now regarded as classics today (The Andy Griffith Show, The Avengers, Bewitched, F Troop, Get Smart, Mission: Impossible, The Monkees, Star Trek, and others) were nominated shows that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was at least doing something right in the 1966-1967 season. While I do have my problems with some of the categories, I do think the awards for the 1966-1967 season were better than they would be in later years.