Last year “Veep” did what had seemed impossible: it defeated “Modern Family” for Best Comedy Series after “Modern” won that award a record five years in a row (2010-2014). But that wasn’t the first time an Emmy giant was finally conquered. The same thing happened back in 1999: after “Frasier” became the first show to win five Emmys for Best Comedy (1994-1998), FOX’s “Ally McBeal” dethroned it (watch the presentation of that award above).
“Ally McBeal” won for its second season, and its victory was doubly historic because it opened the door for hour-long dramedies to compete in the Best Comedy race. But while several other hour-long shows have been nominated for the top prize in subsequent years — “Desperate Housewives” (2005), “Ugly Betty” (2007), “Glee” (2010-2011) and “Orange is the New Black” (2014) — none have won since. Indeed, “Ally McBeal” was never nominated again after its 1999 victory despite airing for three more seasons.
That Emmy win was momentous for yet another reason: David E. Kelley became the first producer ever to claim Best Comedy and Best Drama in the same night. He had won the top dramatic prize for “The Practice” for the second year in a row just before taking the stage again for “Ally.” “They said backstage, ‘You gotta go back out!’ and I thought there’d been a mistake and ‘The Sopranos’ had won Drama,” said a surprised Kelly in his speech.
Kelley thanked “Ally” star Calista Flockhart in his speech, saying, “If someone were going to ask me what the fastest or best way to win an Emmy is, I’d say, ‘Write a script and get Calista Flockhart to say the words.'” Ironically, Flockhart never won an Emmy of her own; she lost all three of her bids for Best Comedy Actress, twice to Helen Hunt (“Mad About You,” 1998-1999) and once to Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” 2001).