‘Will & Grace’ loves Lucy, and Emmys did too

I Love Lucy” is the subject of a heartfelt tribute from “Will & Grace” on April 9. In “We Love Lucy,” Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally) each imagine themselves as Lucy Ricardo opposite Will (Eric McCormack) as her hubby Ricky. Part of the fun is seeing this trio of talent also play Fred and Ethel in various combinations.

“Will & Grace” and “I Love Lucy” both won Best Comedy Series at the Emmys. The former did it in 2000; Hayes and Mullally won that year as well. McCormack prevailed in 2001 and Messing in 2003. “Will and Grace” is only the third TV series in Emmy history in which all four of the main cast won awards, following “All in the Family” and “The Golden Girls.”

Of the quartet of talent on “I Love Lucy,” it was only the women — Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance — who won over the TV academy voters. William Frawley lost all five of his bids and Desi Arnaz was never nominated for his on-screen role. However, as the head of Desilu he shared in show’s two wins for Best Situation Comedy twice (1953, 1954).

Ball and Arnaz co-hosted the 4th Emmys in 1952 but went home empty-handed. When Ball’s one-time on-screen love interest Red Skeleton picked up the prize for best comedian or comedienne, he quipped, “You’ve given this to the wrong redhead.” And his self-titled show also beat the debut season of hers for best comedy series even though “I Love Lucy” was the most buzzed-about in America.

WATCH Lucie Arnaz on ‘Will and Grace’ tribute: ‘We Love Lucy’ proves ‘healing power of laughter’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

The next year, just two weeks after giving birth on both the show and in real-life on the same day, Ball won her first Emmy (Best Comedienne) and the show was honored as well.

In 1954, the show won again and Vivian Vance took home the first supporting actress Emmy ever awarded. Ball lost to one of her Desilu employees — Eve Arden of “Our Miss Brooks” — while Frawley was edged out by Art Carney, who won the first of his five Emmys for “The Jackie Gleason Show.”

In 1955, the show lost to another Desilu production, “Make Room for Daddy,” while Ball lost the Best Actress race to Loretta Young for her anthology show. Vance and Frawley were bested by “Jackie Gleason”regulars Audrey Meadows and Carney.

Ball skipped the 1956 Emmys when “I Love Lucy” was not nominated for Best Comedy Series. In her absence, she won Best Actress (Continuing Performance) but lost the comedienne race to Nanette Fabray (“Caesar’s Hour”).

When Arnaz hosted the 1957 awards, his three co-stars all lost their races as they did the following year for the last season of the sitcom. None would be nominated for the hour-long version of the show that aired sporadically for the next three years.

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Following her divorce from Arnaz in 1960, Ball starred in a Broadway musical, “Wildcat.” The rigors of the rialto soon sent her packing and she headed back to TV in 1962 with “The Lucy Show.” For that show’s first season, she lost Lead Actress in a Series to “Hazel” star Shirley Booth. Not nominated the following two years, she was back in the race in 1966, losing to Mary Tyler Moore for the final season of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

Ball went on to take home two more Emmys for the last two seasons of “The Lucy Show.” In 1967, she edged out “Bewitched” stars Elizabeth Montgomery and Agnes Moorehead and “That Girl’s” Marlo Thomas. In the video above watch when Ball wins. As her name is announced by Carl Reiner, she is visibly stunned, saying “I don’t believe it.” At the podium, she is moved to tears during her acceptance speech. While she mixes up her wins from the 1950s — thinking that her second Emmy came “because I had a baby” when that had been her first — she is clearly grateful for this honor from her peers.

The following year, in what was to be her final Emmy race, Ball prevailed yet again. Her competition: Montgomery and Thomas, as well as Barbara Feldon (“Get Smart”) and Paula Prentiss (“He and She”). By the way, Montgomery never won an Emmy, despite nine nominations, including five for her work as that witch with a twitch.

While Ball was never nominated during the six seasons of “Here’s Lucy” or for her subsequent television appearances, she was the second inductee into the TV academy’s Hall of Fame in 1984, following Mr. Television himself, Milton Berle. And, five months after she died in April 1989, the Emmys honored Ball with the Governors Award. Her frequent costar Bob Hope saluted her with a montage of memorable moments and her husband, Gary Morton accepted the honor.

More than three decades after her death, Ball and company are still a ratings winner for CBS. The Tiffany net has aired colorized episodes of “I Love Lucy” at Christmas for the past seven years as well as several spring editions.

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