Emmy Awards rewind to 1971: Flip Wilson makes history, George C. Scott accepts weeks after refusing Oscar …

The television landscape was changing when the 23rd Emmy Awards took place at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood on May 9, 1971, with Johnny Carson as host. History was made in more than one way that night.

NBC’s “The Flip Wilson Show,” the first comedy-variety series hosted by an African-American, won the genre and writing awards. Wilson shared in both victories. And Mark Warren became the first black helmer to win an Emmy for his direction of NBC’s “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”

George C. Scott, who had declined the Oscar just 24 days earlier for “Patton,” didn’t attend the Emmys either. However he didn’t turn down this award for his leading role in NBC’s “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentation of Arthur Miller’s “The Price.” Jack Cassidy accepted on his behalf. David Burns, who had died two months earlier of a heart attack during a stage performance of the musical “70, Girls, 70,” won for his supporting role in “The Price” and Fielder Cook won for helming.

American television became a bit more British with the Jan. 10, 1971 premiere of PBS’ “Masterpiece Theatre” which kicked off with the 12-part historical drama series “The First Churchills” starring John Neville and Susan Hampshire. The series, now known as “Masterpiece,” is still going strong half-a-century later. Hampshire won the drama actress race. She had prevailed in this category the year for “The Forsyte  Saga” and would triumph again two years later for “Masterpiece”’s “Vanity Fair.”

CBS had recently purged all its rural comedies — “Mayberry R.F.D.,” “Green Acres,” “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Hee Haw” — to make way for more sophisticated sitcoms. The Tiffany network introduced two groundbreaking comedy series: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the fall of 1970 and Norman Lear’s frank and funny  “All in the Family,” which revolved around a working-class New York family and dissected such hot button topics as racism, anti-Semitism and homosexuality,  in early 1971.

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“All in the Family,” which had earned seven nominations, won Best Comedy Series, Best New Series and for leading lady Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker. The series, which ended in 1979, would win a total of 22 Emmys.

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which went into the ceremony with eight nominations, won four including the supporting awards for scene stealers Ed Asner and Valerie Harper. Director Jay Sandrich won for the “Toulouse Lautrec is One of My Favorite Artists” episode, while co-creators James L Brooks and Allan Burns won for writing the “Support Your Local Mother” installment. “MTM,” which ended in 1977, would win 29 Emmys during its run.

Jack Klugman won the lead actor comedy race for ABC’s “The Odd Couple,” playing the ultimate slob Oscar Madison. He would repeat two years later, with his co-star Tony Randall, who played neatnik Felix Unger, winning for the final season in 1975.

NBC’s “ The Bold Ones: The Senator,” a well-crafted drama series starring Hal Holbrook as an earnest, liberal senator, had earned nine nominations. Though it only lasted one season, “The Senator” won the genre prize plus lead actor, directing for Daryl Duke for “The Day the Lion Died” episode, writing for Joel Oliansky for “To Taste Death but Once” installment and film editing. “A Clear and Present Danger,” the 1970 pilot for “The Senator,” was nominated for Holbrook’s performance and directing.

PBS’ “The Andersonville Trial,” which Scott directed (Cassidy was one of the stars) won the single program prize as well as for writer Saul Levitt.

Veteran British actress Margaret Leighton won the supporting actress drama award for NBC’s “Hallmark Hall of Fame” presentation of “Hamlet” while Lee Grant won for the NBC telefilm, “The Neon Ceiling.” She was also nominated for the “Columbo” NBC movie, “Ransom for a Dead Man.”

And 26-year-old Tracy Keenan Wynn, the son of actor Keenan Wynn and grandson of comedian Ed Wynn, won the drama writing Emmy with Marvin Schwartz for ABC’s “Tribes.” Wynn would receive two more writing Emmys for 1972’s “The Glass Hour” and 1974’s “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.”

Composer Burt Bacharach was extremely popular with Emmy voters that year. CBS’ “Singer Presents Burt Bacharach” won variety special and a writing award. Bacharach was competing against himself as NBC’s “Another Evening with Burt Bacharach” also earned a nomination. The variety directing award went to Sterling Johnson for NBC’s “Peggy Fleming at Sun Valley.”

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