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A Critic Picks the Emmys

September 16, 1990|HOWARD ROSENBERG | Times Television Critic

As a prophet on TV matters, I bottomed out in 1976 when predicting flat out that a new series named "Laverne & Shirley" wouldn't last six weeks. It left the air, all right, seven years and four months later.

So I'm out of the forecasting business. That means you won't get any predictions here about awards being handed out on the Emmycast airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on Channels 11 and 6.

You will get some personal picks. And, in a dazzling display of integrity, I shall limit myself to programs and performances that I have actually seen:

Lead Actress in a Comedy

Kirstie Alley of NBC's "Cheers," Delta Burke of CBS' "Designing Women," Betty White of NBC's "The Golden Girls" and Candice Bergen of CBS' "Murphy Brown" are the nominees who don't deserve to win.

Blair Brown of Lifetime's "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" is the nominee who does. Of the five, she is the only one whose role consistently demands depth and dimension beyond conventional TV comedy. And she comes through, consistently.

Lead Actor in a Comedy

John Goodman of ABC's "Roseanne" gets the edge here over Ted Danson of "Cheers," Craig T. Nelson of ABC's "Coach," Richard Mulligan of NBC's "Empty Nest" and Fred Savage of ABC's "The Wonder Years." Although Roseanne Barr is center stage, it's Goodman who is the solid, dependable heart of "Roseanne."

Lead Actress in a Drama

Patricia Wettig had an outstanding season as cancer patient Nancy Weston on ABC's "thirtysomething," giving her the edge over Jill Eikenberry of NBC's "L.A. Law." The other

nominees are Dana Delany of ABC's "China Beach," Angela Lansbury of CBS' "Murder, She Wrote" and Piper Laurie of ABC's "Twin Peaks," who should have been nominated as a supporting actress.

Lead Actor in a Drama

Faced with playing a different character each week on NBC's "Quantum Leap," Scott Bakula arguably has the most challenging assignment of any actor in a dramatic series. However, he loses out to Edward Woodward who, as investigator Robert McCall, turned a rather stock character into one of interest and intrigue. So Woodward wins, even though some say the show shouldn't be eligible ("The Equaliz-er" was canceled more than a year ago, but a few new episodes ran last summer).

Also nominated are Peter Falk of ABC's "Columbo," Robert Loggia of NBC's "Mancuso FBI" and Kyle MacLachlan of "Twin Peaks." Unfairly omitted once again--the Emmy voters apparently just don't like sensitive male characters--is Ken Olin of "thirtysomething."

Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Special

This is the strongest category in this year's Emmys.

I'd make it a three-way tie among Lesley Ann Warren, the weak and neurotic mother in CBS' "Family of Spies"; Barbara Hershey, the mousy ax swinger in CBS' "A Killing in a Small Town"; and Christine Lahti, the homeless

mother in CBS' "No Place Like Home." The other nominees--Annette O'Toole of ABC's "The Kennedys of Massachusetts," Alfre Woodard of NBC's "A Mother's Courage: The Mary Thomas Story," and Farrah Fawcett of ABC's "Small Sacrifices"--also delivered strong performances.

Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special

Absolutely no contest, with Hume Cronyn giving the performance of the season as the retirement home resident in HBO's "Age-Old Friends." Other nominees are Albert Finney of HBO's "The Image," Michael Caine of ABC's "Jekyll & Hyde," Tom Hulce of NBC's "Murder in Mississippi" and Art Carney of NBC's "Where Pigeons Go to Die."

Comedy Series

ABC's "The Wonder Years" is the pick because it is still an extraordinarily wise, inventive and funny series. Of the other nominees, "Cheers" remains very funny and "Murphy Brown" has some grand moments. The also-rans are CBS' "Designing Women" and NBC's "The Golden Girls."

Drama Series

Week in and week out, "thirtysomething" continues to be the most challenging series on TV. For that alone--in addition to its many sterling performances--it merits the Emmy. Also nominated are "China Beach," "L.A. Law," "Quantum Leap" and "Twin Peaks."


"Family of Spies" wins over NBC's "Blind Faith" and "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story" as well as "The Kennedys of Massachusetts" and "Small Sacrifices."

Drama/Comedy Special

By a wide margin, "A Killing in a Small Town." Other nominees are CBS' "Caroline?," ABC's "The Final Days" and CBS' "The Incident" and "Murder in Mississippi." None of the latter four compared with "Age-Old Friends," which inexplicably wasn't nominated.

Variety, Music or Comedy Series

Another strong field. "The Arsenio Hall Show" is a syndication superstar. Fox's relatively new "In Living Color" is often terrific. NBC's "Late Night With David Letterman" is still a kick and NBC's "Saturday Night Live" still has spark on occasion.

If ever there was a time to celebrate the canceled Fox series "The Tracey Ullman Show," however, it's now--with an Emmy.

How sad that someone as uniquely gifted as Ullman, and a series that soared as often as this one, turned out to be such a ratings failure by commercial TV standards. "The Tracey Ullman Show" was no creative failure, though. There was simply nothing else in prime time remotely like it, and no one else like Ullman.

Animated Program of an Hour or Less

All right, fans of those other nominees, CBS' "Garfield's Feline Fantasies," "Garfield's Thanksgiving" and "Why, Charlie Brown, Why?" Get serious.

Rarely has there been a clearer Emmy choice than either "The Simpsons" the series or "The Simpsons Christmas Special," which introduced the series on Fox.

"The Simpsons," in fact, is a category all to itself, a prime-time animation that fits no conventional Emmy definition, and suffers in the nominations because of it. That it should get only three--and none for the writing that has been the show's comedic soul--is absurd.

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