Emmys flashback 40 years ago to 1982, when ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘Barney Miller’ triumphed

It was a night of record-making firsts and honoring legends from Hollywood’s Golden Era. John Forsythe and Marlo Thomas hosted the 34th Primetime Emmy Awards on ABC on September 19, 1982 — before cable TV and streaming services took over and network TV still ruled the small screen. Read on for our Emmys flashback 40 years ago to 1982.

One of the most celebrated dramas of all time set new records and dominated the acting categories. “Hill Street Blues” received 16 major nominations, breaking the two-decade record of 14 for “Playhouse 90” in 1959. It’s also the first series to receive nine acting noms in one ceremony (since tied by “L.A. Law,” “The West Wing” and “Game of Thrones”). It would end the evening tied with “Fame” for the most wins with four, including Best Drama Series, a writing win (it received four out of the five bids in that category) and two acting trophies.

“Hill Street Blues” is the only series ever, drama or comedy, to claim every nomination in a major acting category. Michael Conrad, Taurean Blacque, Charles Haid, Michael Warren and Bruce Weitz each received a nom for Best Supporting Actor for his role in this groundbreaking show. Conrad claimed victory for the second year in a row; he would receive two more notices over the next two years before his untimely death in 1983 during the fourth season of the series.

Conrad’s “Blues” costar Daniel J. Travanti also won his second consecutive Emmy, for Best Drama Actor; like Conrad, this was his last win, but he was nominated the next three years. Travanti beat out Edward Asner (“Lou Grant”), James Garner (“Bret Maverick”), Tom Selleck (“Magnum P.I.) and ceremony host John Forsythe (“Dynasty”).

Although three actresses from “Blues” received nominations, none of them claimed victory. Emmy favorite Michael Learned had previously received six consecutive bids for Best Drama Actress for “The Waltons,” winning three; this evening she won her fourth statue in this category, for the short-lived series “Nurse.” Also mentioned in this category were Debbie Allen (“Fame”), Michele Lee (“Knots Landing”), Stefanie Powers (“Hart to Hart”) and “Hill Street Blues” representative Veronica Hamel.

Another Emmy darling also won her fourth Emmy, this one for Drama Supporting Actress. Nancy Marchand was nominated every year from 1978-1982 for her role on “Lou Grant;” she only lost once, in 1979. Years later, she would gain a new generation of fans and receive two more citations for her role as Tony Soprano’s mother on “The Sopranos” before her death in 2000. Marchand beat out her “Lou Grant” costar Linda Kelsey, as well as Julie Harris (“Knots Landing”) and two “Hill Street Blues” actresses, Barbara Bosson and Betty Thomas.

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On the funny side, a longtime favorite finally won Best Comedy Series, with the long-overlooked cop comedy “Barney Miller” finally earning a statue for its final season on its seventh consecutive nomination. The other nominees in this category included “Love, Sidney” and “WKRP in Cincinnati,” as well as the winner from the previous three years, “Taxi.” Surprisingly, final nominee “M*A*S*H” only won one time in this category (in 1974), but its stars fared better.

Alan Alda has been Emmy-nominated an outstanding 34 times; 27 of these noms were for “M*A*S*H” for acting, writing or directing. He had previously won two acting awards, and one each in writing and directing for this series; this night he won his final Best Comedy Actor prize (he would later win a Supporting Actor Award for “The West Wing.”). He prevailed over the previous year’s winner, “Taxi” star Judd Hirsch, as well as “Barney Miller” himself Hal Linden, who never won in this category despite seven consecutive nominations. Leslie Nielsen also garnered a bid, even though his series “Police Squad!” only lasted six episodes. The final nominee was Robert Guillaume, who had won a Supporting Comedy Actor award in 1979 for his role as Benson DuBois on “Soap;” this character branched off into the series “Benson,” and Guillaume accumulated five Best Comedy Actor nominations for that character, until he finally won in 1985.

Best Comedy Actress went to first-time nominee Carol Kane, who won her first of two awards for “Taxi” (she would win in supporting the next year). Three of her fellow nominees also were up for the first time: Bonnie Franklin (“One Day at a Time”), Swoosie Kurtz (“Love, Sidney”) and Nell Carter (“Gimme a Break”) – who did win that evening, for Individual Achievement, Special Class (“Ain’t Misbehavin'”). Rounding out the category was Charlotte Rae (“Facts of Life”) and previous winner Isabel Sanford (“The Jeffersons”).

Also winning from “Taxi” on a first nomination was Christopher Lloyd, who achieved Best Supporting Comedy Actor over costar Danny DeVito, who had prevailed the year before. It was a category in which several costars faced off: Ron Glass and Steve Landesberg from “Barney Miller” and Harry Morgan and David Ogden Stiers from “M*A*S*H.”

“M*A*S*H” did claim another acting win, though, with Loretta Swit‘s Supporting Comedy Actress victory. She triumphed over the previous year’s recipient Eileen Brennan (“Private Benjamin”), as well as Marla Gibbs (“The Jeffersons”), Anne Meara (“Archie Bunker’s Place”) and Inga Swenson (“Benson”). For the first time, a performer from a variety series received a comedy acting nomination. Andrea Martin was recognized for her work on “Second City Television;” although she lost in this category, she won a writing award for that series (like “Hill Street Blues” for drama, “SCTV” secured four of the five spots for comedy writing).

Old Hollywood claimed victory in three of the four acting categories for Limited Series or Special. Already a Triple Crown of Acting recipient (competitive Oscar, Emmy, Tony), Ingrid Bergman won her final acting award posthumously, for Lead Actress in a Limited Series/Special, for “A Woman Called Golda.” This was only the fourth posthumous Emmy acting award, and the second from a non-network syndicated show. After three previous nominations, Mickey Rooney finally claimed an Emmy, for Lead Actor in a Limited Series/Special, for “Bill.” Supporting Actor in this category went to Laurence Olivier, who received his fourth of five Emmys, this time for his work on “Brideshead Revisited.” The final winner in this genre was first-time nominee Penny Fuller, who received a supporting statue for her role in “The Elephant Man.”

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