The secret Emmy agony of Ed O’Neill (‘Modern Family,’ ‘Married… With Children’)


In “Married … with Children,” Ed O’Neill played one of TV’s biggest losers and, as bad luck would have it, he continues today to reign as one of the biggest losers of TV’s top award even though his current show, “Modern Family,” has won the Emmy as Best Comedy Series four years in a row.

What gives? Does Hollywood secretly hate O’Neill? He’s never won an Emmy, while his current costars have been hailed generously: Ty Burrell (once), Eric Stonestreet (twice) and Julie Bowen (twice).

“Married… With Children” was one of TV’s longest-running shows never to snag a single Emmy. Between 1987 and 1997, it was nominated on seven occasions in the tech categories, but got slapped down every time. A few Emmyless programs ran longer (“Ozzie and Harriet,” “My Three Sons,” “Baywatch”), but today its lofty place in TV’s pantheon as one of the tube’s biggest losers is notable because, well, the show was about losers — and, worse, they deserved their fate.

Al Bundy may have seemed like a lovable loser, but he wasn’t. He was an idiot, selfish and even cruel to his family members.

Al to Peggy: “You’re my wife. I will not talk to you while I have a TV.”

In another scene, in an outburst of self-pity, he even eschews his own son Bud, “I want my youth. I want my hair. I want… this room. It’s really nice… Are you thinking of moving out, son?” Bud replies, “No, Dad.” Al: “Damn. Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Peggy (Katey Sagal) didn’t deserve her fate. She wasn’t as cruel as Al, but yet the Loser Curse has plagued her, too. Like O’Neill moving on to “Modern Family,” Sagal is now on a hit TV series (“Sons of Anarchy”) and still can’t get any respect from the Emmys. (Though she did win a Golden Globe in 2010.)

O’Neill may have thought his luck would change once “Modern Family” started off as a bonafied hit on ABC in 2009. The show’s early ratings were through the roof and when Emmy nominations came out, the show was recognized 14 times, including — grab your tissues — five of its six supporting players: Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara.

The only name missing that nominations morning was Ed O’Neill.

Regarding the 2010 snub, “Modern Family” producer Dan O’Shannon told Zap2It, “Sadly, the unsung hero is Ed O’Neill. I think some of the stuff that’s really great about him is sometimes maybe overlooked in the bigger comedy of the other characters. But he just really holds the show down.”

When “Access Hollywood” interviewed O’Neill after the snub he reiterated that he was “fine” and continued on to say that if you’re an actor, “You want the calls [on Emmy nominations morning], but at the same time you kind of don’t want it. You know what I mean? It’s like, I don’t want to think about it. It’s okay!”

However, the following year turned everything around for O’Neill as he received his first career Emmy nomination (2011). Even though he lost to co-star Burrell, the fact that he was finally invited to the Emmy party must have seemed like the biggest shoe sale in Al Bundy’s life.

The show’s third season garnered O’Neill another nom, but he wound up losing to that other “Modern Family” co-star Stonestreet (2012). And last year presented O’Neill with his third consecutive nomination and third misfire, this time to “Veep‘s” Tony Hale (2013).

So, dear Derbyites, I ask you: Can O’Neill ever win an Emmy award? (Sound off in the comments section below!)

Even if he doesn’t prevail, he shouldn’t take it personally. The man once billed as “TV’s great one” went Emmyless throughout his life – Jackie Gleason – as did Andy Griffith and Buddy Ebsen, who were beloved.

I honestly think O’Neill can triumph someday. A recent January episode of “Modern Family” titled “Three Dinners” saw his character Jay Pritchett crying over the idea of his best friend Shorty (Chazz Palminteri) moving away, allowing O’Neill to be especially tearful. If Emmy voters see the episode, they may be too affected by his raw emotion to vote against him.

One huge factor in O’Neill’s court is the fact that he recently received a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with his two iconic TV wives — Sagal and Vergara– in attendance.

Closing out the ceremony, O’Neill joked, “And you know, I can’t help but thinking right now as I’m standing here — it’s a bit emotional — that somewhere in the world at this moment in a hospital, a beautiful little baby girl is being born. And when she grows up she’s gonna be my next wife on TV and I’m looking forward to it.” (Watch the edited ceremony below!)

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