Entertainment Weekly Presents: Greatest Emmy Moments

  1. Greatest Emmy moments

    From ''Hill Street Blues''' astounding 1981 best drama win to Conan's 2006 ''trip'' through the best of prime-time TV, the Emmy Awards ceremony has never been short on surprises. Here are 14 of the most head-turning happenings in Emmy history

    Girl Gone Wild
    In 1965, America had heard plenty about Broadway's hottest new star, Barbra Streisand. TV viewers got their chance to see her perform when the 23-year-old ingénue appeared in her first tube special, My Name Is Barbra, which went on to win five Emmys. The ''Funny Girl'' lived up to her title when she appeared at the awards podium, giggling and joking about a run in her stocking. ''This is too fantastic!'' she gushed. ''When I was a kid — I mean a younger kid — my favorite shows were the Oscars and the Emmys. I didn't care who won then, just how she looked, how he looked...was he drunk? Television is a marvelous business.''

    Lucy Crowns Mary
    Lucille Ball's appearance at the podium to present the prize for best comedy series of 1975 was marked by a mishap that would unnerve even the unflappable Mrs. Ricardo. ''Oh, I'm really in trouble!'' gasped the 64-year-old star when she tried to read the winner's name and realized she didn't have her eyeglasses. Milton Berle jumped up from the audience and handed her a wineglass, saying ''Here, look through this!'' Uncle Miltie eventually saved the day by fetching real glasses, which Lucy donned before trumpeting the news of the winner: first-timer The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That program would eventually reap 29 Emmys during its seven years on the air, more than any other series in the awards' history.

    S*M*A*S*H*I*N*G Success
    Alan Alda was so excited about winning an Emmy for writing in 1979 that he did a cartwheel down the aisle en route to the podium — and landed in Emmy's pantheon in the process. This wasn't his first victory. He'd been hailed as best comedy actor in 1974 and earned a statuette in 1977 for directing the M*A*S*H episode ''Dear Sigmund'' (which also earned him a writing nom). Alda's scripting success for the episode ''Inga'' made him the only person in Emmy history to win for acting, directing, and writing.

    A New King of the Hill
    ''Oh, boy!'' a shocked Daniel J. Travanti cried when he won best actor in a drama series for Hill Street Blues in 1981. It was an equally stunning moment for Emmy viewers. The previous year's big winner, Lou Grant, was expected to sweep the drama categories again, but instead found itself topped by a gritty police drama that was ranked 87th among the 96 prime-time programs. Hill Street Blues' record-breaking eight victories that night — including best drama series — helped the struggling new series stave off early cancellation. It remained on the air for six more seasons, eventually becoming the Emmys' biggest champ among all dramas, with 26 awards.

    Big Talk
    Cheers star Kirstie Alley (right) stunned Emmy watchers in 1991 when she accepted the award for best comedy actress and thanked her husband Parker Stevenson, ''the man who has given me the big one for the last eight years.'' Even the usually cool Jerry Seinfeld appeared flustered immediately afterward when he appeared at the podium to resume his hosting duties. ''The big one?'' he asked with a sly shrug. ''That could be anything!'' Alley's joke turned out to be a truly big hit when, moments later, Burt Reynolds (left) won best comedy actor for Evening Shade and thanked his then wife, Loni Anderson, for giving him ''two big ones.''
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  2. Father Knew Best
    ''Dad, if you're watching, this is for you!'' said Candice Bergen as she thrust her statuette heavenward after winning Best Actress in a Comedy Series for Murphy Brown in 1989. The gesture was more than just a daughter's salute to a beloved showbiz legend — ventriloquist Edgar Bergen — who'd died 11 years earlier. It was a moving reach across the awards' history. Pere Bergen was Emmy royalty — he'd been the first president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1947. Soon after winning her first award from that organization 42 years later, Edgar's little princess reigned as an Emmy queen, winning the lead acting award four more times to tie the record held by Peter Falk, Carroll O'Connor, and Mary Tyler Moore. But that first triumph was extra special. ''I really wanted it a lot,'' she told reporters backstage. ''I was dying for it.''

    Better Off Ted
    After eight Emmy nods and no wins, Cheers star Ted Danson was none too happy when media wags called him ''the Susan Lucci of prime time.'' He smiled good-naturedly, though, when costar Kirstie Alley ribbed him at the 1990 ceremony, likening his bad luck to that of a guy who takes a ''tease'' to a drive-in movie. An hour later, Danson finally scored. When he won best comedy series actor, he vaulted up to the stage, and the audience leaped out of their seats as well. ''This is exactly what happened to me in the drive-in,'' gasped an excited Danson. ''When I first got lucky, they all stood up and applauded.'' Then he added somberly, ''I guess you'll be saying 'You've been robbed' to some other boy. I'll miss that.''

    The Show Must Go On
    ''It's important for us to be here,'' host Ellen DeGeneres told the Shubert Theatre audience when the 2001 Emmys were finally staged after two unprecedented postponements following 9/11. The unflustered DeGeneres came out swinging with edgy jokes (''Welcome to the 53rd, 54th, and 55th Emmy Awards'') and kitschy couture (a replica of Björk's swan outfit from the Oscars). She ended up presiding over one of the most inspirational Emmycasts ever. ''They can't take away our creativity, our striving for excellence, our joy,'' she said. ''Only network executives can do that.''

    Lockin' Lips
    You knew the 2003 Emmys couldn't resist a parody of Madonna and Britney's infamous liplock at the MTV Video Music Awards — so we got not one, but two, lengthy smooches between unlikely celebrities. In the show's opening moments, Brad Garrett planted a big wet one on Garry Shandling (pictured), who then quipped, ''I just want to say to CBS, he's worth every nickel.'' Then, Garrett's costar Doris Roberts, picking up her trophy, got a long kiss from presenter Matthew Perry. Said the actress, ''That was worth getting up here for.''

    Sense or Censorship?
    Leave it to Stewart to make a political statement that was funny yet inoffensive. In a pre-taped sketch aired during 2005's ceremony, the Daily Show host delivered a seemingly profane rant about the government response to Hurricane Katrina, which was supposed to appear doctored by CBS censors. Deliberately obvious editing, redubbing, or superimposition of benign images (pictures of a puppy and a kitten masked Stewart's upturned middle fingers) muzzled his supposedly inflammatory remarks. Still, Stewart made a point: that the networks' post-Janet Jackson fear of government intervention has led to self-censorship of political speech as well as profanity.
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  3. Everybody (really does) Loves Raymond
    After nine successful years, the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond took a final victory lap in 2005. They dominated the show from beginning (Doris Roberts danced with the Black Eyed Peas) to end (the show won the final award, Best Comedy, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Roberts and Best Supporting Actor for Brad Garrett). Accepting that Best Comedy award, creator Phil Rosenthal declared that Raymond's departure signaled the death not only of the sitcom but also of laughter and of smiling. Given all the love the show was getting, you could almost think he wasn't joking.

    Emcee Ham-mer
    The first 15 minutes of last year's Emmys may have been the funniest awards show opening ever, thanks to its endlessly inventive host. First was a segment that saw O'Brien stumble through scenes from several popular shows, including Lost, The Office, and even South Park. Next was an acerbic monologue (on the weight of the Emmy trophy: ''Of course it's heavy. It contains the shattered dreams of four [losers]''). And he wrapped with a song-and-dance parody of ''Ya Got Trouble'' from The Music Man, a spoof about the grim state of the TV industry (the refrain: ''Gee, we're screwed!''). Can Conan emcee every year, please?

    ''A-- Over T--''
    At the 2006 awards, while accepting the Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie prize for the title role in HBO's Elizabeth I, classy British thespian Helen Mirren gave a thoughtful speech that gently urged writers to create more stories about women. But viewers are more likely to remember her opening line: ''My great triumph is not falling ass over tit as I came up those stairs.'' Not sure how that one slipped past the NBC censor, but it was so funny that presenters Calista Flockhart and Craig Ferguson both repeated it a few minutes later. They went unbleeped as well.

    Cagey Guy
    Last year, the Emmy producers found a diabolically creative way to encourage winners to keep their speeches short: They put Bob Newhart in a glass booth said to have exactly three hours of breathable air, so if the show were to run long, the beloved TV icon would suffocate to death. A running gag throughout the telecast saw the cameras cut to Newhart, pounding on the walls and screaming silently to be set free. It must have worked: The show actually ended three minutes early.
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  4. Emmys '07: Best and Worst Moments

    From highs (quips from Katherine Heigl and Elaine Stritch) to lows (Fox's strange censorship decisions), we size up Fox's broadcast
    By Gary Susman | Sep 17, 2007

    Katherine Heigl
    Katherine Heigl is not shy about speaking her mind — just ask former Grey's Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington — even on camera at an awards show. When an announcer mispronounced her name as ''Hei-jul,'' she pointedly corrected her. Later, when her name was read as the winner of the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama prize, the camera caught her mouthing an astonished, ''S---!'' At the podium, she explained that she'd been surprised because ''My own mother told me I didn't have a shot in hell of winning tonight.'' (Cut to Heigl's date, the mortified mom herself.) At least Heigl wrapped by thanking her mom, saying, ''This is because of you. I wouldn't want to be here without you.'' Nice save, young lady; otherwise, you might have been grounded.

    The Jersey Boys/Sopranos number
    Okay, we get the connections between the Jersey-set gangster drama and the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, especially since a reference to the stage bio of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was an in-joke in a later episode of The Sopranos, on which Valli himself had a recurring role. Still, it was odd to hear falsetto-crooned love songs performed over a video montage of scenes showing characters like Ralphie and Adriana getting whacked, or Tony and Carmela fighting, or AJ attempting suicide. (Is this really what Valli had in mind when he sang ''Can't Take My Eyes Off of You''?) After the awkward tribute, the Sopranos gang took the stage and basked in audience applause — a moment that somewhat detracted from the power of their Best Drama win at the end of the ceremony.

    The Roots tribute
    The most touching segment of the 2007 Emmys was the 30th anniversary tribute to Roots, starting with Queen Latifah's testimonial to the 1977 miniseries' impact on TV and on American society, and ending with a standing ovation for several of the stars of Roots, including LeVar Burton, Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett Jr., and Ben Vereen. Of course, it seemed anticlimactic to then make them present the award for this year's best miniseries, since no matter what won (it turned out to be Broken Trail), it certainly would not leave the footprint on TV history that Roots did.

    Fox's censorship
    For those of you keeping score at home: It was not okay for presenter Ray Romano to joke (regarding his former costar Patricia Heaton's new sitcom with Kelsey Grammer) that ''Frasier is screwing my wife,'' or for Best Actress in a Drama winner Sally Field (right) to call for an end to the ''goddamn war.'' Both moments were among those where Fox censors suddenly silenced the audio mid-sentence and cut away from a shot of the star to a shot of the ceiling of the Shrine Auditorium. On the other hand, it was okay for Fox stars Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher (left) to make endless leering jokes about Fisher's breasts, her wardrobe malfunction-courting gown, and her nearly exposed nipples. Does that make sense?

    Elaine Stritch
    One of the prerogatives of being 82, a stage and screen legend, and — well — Elaine Stritch is that you get to say whatever you want, no matter what the TelePrompTer says. Given the unusual theater-in-the-round stage set, it's no wonder she seemed not to know where to look for her cue as a presenter. ''I'm not fakin' this. I really don't know what the hell I'm doing,'' she announced. Then, objecting to the lame banter she'd been asked to recite with co-presenter Stanley Tucci (about how their asking prices just went up because of their Guest Actor in a Comedy prizes), Stritch said, ''Oh, wait a minute. I don't know about you, Mr. Tucci, but I have never been cheap. And I have never been easy, God knows. And my quotes have always been up. Which explains why I'm so rarely seen on television.'' Can someone remedy that, please?
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    Kanye West and Rainn Wilson
    Didn't that round stage resemble the set of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? No wonder Fox felt compelled to put on a little game show there. Don't Forget the Lyrics host Wayne Brady staged an abridged version of his show, pitting Kanye West against Rainn Wilson. The deck seemed stacked against the Office star, since the topic was ''The Songs of Kanye West.'' But West lost when he flubbed one word from his tune ''Stronger,'' correctly pronouncing the word ''you'' instead of the slangier ''ya.'' (Wilson went on to mispronounce it correctly.) West grumbled his frequent awards-show complaint: ''I never win.'' Moral: Don't bet against Dwight Schrute.

    Helen Mirren
    The always well-mannered Helen Mirren may have been the first awards show winner in history to beg to be played off by the orchestra for running long in her thank-you speech. Accepting the Best Actress in a Miniseries Prize for Prime Suspect: The Final Act, Mirren thanked all the colleagues she needed to thank and even expressed gratitude to the American people for their generosity, then decided she was babbling and pleaded, ''Come on, music, I'm going on and on.'' Don't worry, Helen, you weren't. And the music didn't.

    James Spader
    James Gandolfini may have been widely favored to win the Best Actor in a Drama prize for the final Sopranos season, but the name in the envelope was that of Boston Legal's James Spader, awarded his third Emmy for playing attorney Alan Shore. A surprised and nervous Spader handled the upset with grace, saying, ''Oh my goodness, I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the Mob. And they're all sitting right over there. Where the hell is Elaine Stritch when you need her?'' Even Gandolfini cracked a faint smile.

    Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart
    The Comedy Central faux newsmen poked fun at the evening's environmental theme, with Colbert wielding a leaf blower that he said was fueled by ''Al Gore's tears.'' Both men mulled the hypocrisy of green-minded stars throwing a lavish and wasteful awards gala to pat themselves on the back, but as Colbert said, ''If entertainers stop publicly congratulating each other, then the Earth wins.'' Finally, to keep Ricky Gervais' Best Comedy Actor prize from going to waste (since the Extras star wasn't there to accept it), the presenters decided instead to give it to their old Daily Show pal-turned-Office star Steve Carell, who bounded onto the stage for a triumphant group hug (pictured). The ceremony may have been ecologically mindful, but none of Colbert and Stewart's gags seemed recycled.

    30 Rock's Best Comedy award
    Tina Fey's a funny lady who provided some of the evening's biggest laughs, both in her awards presentation with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and in her American Express commercial. So it was a pleasant surprise to see her brainchild 30 Rock snatch the Best Comedy prize from such popular contenders as The Office and Ugly Betty. Hoping that the Emmy would grant her low-rated show a few extra seasons the way Arrested Development's did, Fey thanked incoming NBC entertainment chief Ben Silverman in advance for not pulling the plug, and she also thanked 30 Rock's ''dozens and dozens of viewers.''
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    Ryan Seacrest's Weeds wisecrack
    How did Ryan Seacrest fare as emcee? Well, he didn't sing (thankfully), he didn't dance, and he had only one disastrous costume change — into a Henry VIII outfit from The Tudors (pictured). He did try to tell jokes, with varying degrees of success, and often at the expense of some hapless celebrity targets. Naturally, one of the meanest was directed at a fellow American Idol star. Talking about pot-themed comedy Weeds, Seacrest remarked, ''A great show, an amazing after-party.'' Pause. ''Isn't that right, Paula?'' Cut to Paula Abdul, who lived up to the joke's punchline and her own reputation by displaying an oblivious expression for a few seconds. At least Seacrest and Simon Cowell refrained from gay-baiting each other. Still, Seacrest's performance offered a cautionary reminder of why the Emmy producers usually hire trained comedians, with actual joke-telling skills, to host the show.

    America Ferrera
    Ugly Betty star America Ferrera's win for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy wasn't really a surprise; in the show's first year, it seems she's already won every possible award for her performance. Still, it was a treat to see her win the Emmy, if only because she delivered a speech that optimistic striver Betty Suarez could have written herself. ''It is truly an amazing and wonderful thing that happens when your dreams come true, and I just wish that for everybody, that they get to do what inspires them,'' Ferrera said. Thanking her cast and crew, she said, ''The award is to be able to wake up and go to work tomorrow and see all of your faces.'' How can you not want to give her a big hug?

    They forgot one! To me, a very funny moment was Brian and Stewie Griffin opening the Emmys. (They used the tune from The Freakin' FCC which was originally on Family Guy's Season Four episode of PTV):
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  7. THanks for the update, I didn't get to watch it.