Franz Best Lead, but prizes fall short of the Emmy record 'NYPD Blue' misses shot

September 12, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

It was a good night for "Frasier" and "Picket Fences." But it was mainly the blues for "NYPD Blues," the controversial ABC series that went into the 46th Annual Emmy Awards show with a record 26 nominations.

"NYPD" didn't get shut out. Dennis Franz won the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his depiction of Detective Andy Sipowicz. Franz beat out co-star David Caruso, who did attend last night's ceremony. "NYPD" also won for Outstanding Writing and Direction.

But three of the top five drama awards went to CBS' "Picket Fences," the series that swept the drama category last year. "Picket Fences" won as Outstanding Drama, and Leigh Taylor-Young and Fyvush Finkel won as Outstanding Supporting Actress and Actor, respectively, in a Drama Series.

In comedy, it was almost all "Frasier" last night. The series took the Emmy as Best Comedy, and Kelsey Grammer won as Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series. The show, which is the linchpin of NBC's fall season strategy with its move to Tuesday night starting this week, also took the Emmys for comedy writing and directing.

The other top comedy awards went to: Candice Bergen, who won as Best Actress in "Murphy Brown"; Laurie Metcalf of "Roseanne," Best Supporting Actress; and Michael Richards of "Seinfeld" as Best Supporting Actor.

The big surprise, though, was the lack of more Emmys for "NYPD Blue." Most analysts expected the television industry to honor Steven Bochco's series not only for its excellence but also for going against the climate of caution that marked so much programming last year. Even though "NYPD Blue" is a ratings success, it is not yet breaking even financially, because many advertisers still don't want to be associated with the show.

In his acceptance speech, Franz thanked ABC "for standing behind us through some very trying times."

The Emmy voters did honor another production marked by controversy and protest from conservative pressure groups, HBO's "And The Band Played On." The film about AIDS won the Emmy as Outstanding Made-for-Television Movie.

In thanking HBO, producer Aaron Spelling reminded the industry that no one else had wanted to make the controversial picture, and that it took five years to find the backing to bring Randy Shilts' book to the screen.

Among the major networks, CBS clearly had the best night. In addition to its success for "Picket Fences," the "Late Show With David Letterman" won as Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series. And, three CBS movies -- "David's Mother," "To Dance With The White Dog" and "The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All" -- accounted for six major awards last night.

The ABC telecast was one of the most solidly entertaining productions in years. It opened with a knockout number by Bette Midler from "Gypsy." Co-host Ellen DeGeneres was consistently funny throughout the evening doing "on location" reports from around the Pasadena Civic Center. At one point, as she was standing in front of a bank of reporters and telephones in the pressroom, she urged viewers to phone in their pledges "to keep the telethon going." Jason Alexander did a nice turn crooning his way through a swinging, mock homage to great TV theme songs.

The best and classiest moments of the evening, though, were those that made note of the death of Jessica Tandy and commented on her outstanding work on television.

Tandy, 85, who died Sunday morning after a four-year fight with cancer, was nominated as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special for her performance in "To Dance With The White Dog." She did not win the Emmy, but her husband, Hume Cronyn, did win as Best Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special for his performance in the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame film.

Mr. Cronyn, who was at Tandy's side when she died at their home in Easton, Conn., did not attend the Emmy ceremony.

In "White Dog," Cronyn plays a grieving widower trying to cope with the loss of his wife, played by Tandy. He believes he sees her spirit return in the form of a white dog.

"Your friends in television say goodbye to you tonight," said actor John Lithgow, paying tribute to Tandy. "We will all miss you very, very much.

"This was one of Jessica and Hume's last works together, and in a sense it described who she was and what she meant to all of us."

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