With the Emmys underway very soon, let's return to the history of the Emmys in the outstanding comedy category with NBC. If you've missed my other Emmy articles here are the links below.
The Emmys: The History of Outstanding Comedies - Introduction
The Emmys: The History of Outstanding Comedies - CBS
Let's get to a full analysis and breakdown of NBC in the Best Comedy category at the Emmys.
It was 1952, the first year of the Best Comedy award, and already NBC threw their hat in the ring winning the very first award with The Red Skeleton Show. Despite the win, that was basically the end of the road for the peacock network as CBS took the crown almost every other year with The Phil Silvers Show, I Love Lucy, and The Jack Benny Program, even ABC managed to win. While NBC got many nominations for Mister Peepers and a couple other comedies, it was a rather slow start for the network that would soon not only keep their hat in the ring, but knock out the other hats out in the process.
In 1970, NBC won Outstanding Comedy Series with My World and Welcome to It, inspired by the Melville Shavelson cartoons. That's not to say the show lived to see a second season. Also in that category for NBC was the first season of The Bill Cosby Show. Not to be confused with The Cosby Show. Fun fact: every single show in the category was a freshmen show in 1970. The luck wasn't there for NBC in 1971, though, as they were completely shut out of the category. In 1972 and 1973, they received nominations for Sanford and Son, but after that, they were shut out for the rest of the decade. CBS, meanwhile, had some better luck, with all nominations going to a CBS sitcom in 1975.
In 1982, NBC was finally invited back to the Outstanding Comedy Series category, with a show called 'Love, Sidney', which was the fist to feature a gay man as a main character. Things got even better in 1983; while Love, Sidney wasn't nominated, Buffalo Bill, Taxi, and a little show called Cheers, were all nominated, the latter of which won. In 1984, Cheers won again, with Buffalo Bill and the second season of Family Ties joining it in the category. In 1985, Cheers was up for a trifecta and lost to the first season of The Cosby Show, which gave NBC yet another win in the category. Alongside The Cosby Show and Cheers, NBC also got Night Court and Family Ties (again) nominated, meaning that the peacock network had 4 of the 5 shows in the category. With that year, Night Court became the second NBC show in two years to have its second season nominated, but not the first.
As if things couldn't get any better, The Golden Girls came along for NBC and won in both 1986 and 1987. In those two years, only one show in the category was on a network not named NBC. However, in 1988, ABC ended NBC's streak of wins with the first season of The Wonder years, though NBC shouldn't have had to complain given that three of their shows were nominated that year, and Cheers came back to win again in 1989. As the 1980s came to a close, NBC had more wins in the category than they had nominations in the previous decade.
In the 1990s, NBC had their famous "Must See TV" Thursday comedy block, airing shows like Seinfeld and Friends that are still remembered and aired constantly in reruns today. While Seinfeld got off to a slow start, it was nominated for its third season in 1992, and while it only took home the prize once, was nominated for every single season after that. Friends didn't have as much luck, but still got nominated two times for its first five season--still, not as much as you would have thought. Most importantly was the critical success (and of course popularity) of Frasier, which won Outstanding Comedy Series for its first five seasons, and still got nominated for three seasons after that. Apparently, the Emmys didn't consider Seasons 9, 10, or 11 anything to write home about. Also, with the continued success of The Golden Girls and multiple nominations for Mad About You, NBC had more wins and nominations than any other decade prior.
It should also be noted that all this was done under more competition. The Larry Sanders Show on HBO was consistently getting nominated, and FOX won its first-ever Outstanding Comedy Series award with Ally McBeal in 1999. Gone were the days of "The Big 3" being the only competition.
The 2000s saw the rise of Will & Grace, which won in 2000 and was nominated for almost the entirety of its run; its last season got shut out somehow. In 2000, they were also still hanging on to Frasier (in its 7th season) and Friends (in its 6th season), but both had an on-again-off-again relationship with the committee in terms of getting nominated in the early 2000s. In the second half of the year, things actually got a little bit better in terms of taking home the top prize for NBC; the second season of The Office won in 2006, and the committee's love for 30 Rock was prominent for the three following years which closed out the decade. They didn't have as good as a decade as the 90s, but that was likely due to new competition; FOX had Arrested Development for three seasons as well as a nomination for Family Guy, while HBO had Curb Your Enthusiasm and Sex and the City, and Showtime was the sixth-ever network to receive a nomination in 2009.
OK, there's really not much to say here. Modern Family went on a wild winning streak, and when that ended, HBO's Veep took over. NBC picked up a bunch of nominations with 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and The Office, but no wins. With the recent return of workplace comedies on NBC, maybe that will change. A successful decade this far with nominations, at least.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!