39th Primetime Emmy Awards

39th Primetime Emmy Awards
  • September 20, 1987
  • September 12, 1987
    (Creative Arts Awards)
LocationPasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, California
Presented byAcademy of Television Arts and Sciences
Hosted byBruce Willis
Most awardsPromise (5)
Most nominationsL.A. Law (13)
Outstanding Comedy SeriesThe Golden Girls
Outstanding Drama SeriesL.A. Law
Outstanding MiniseriesA Year in the Life
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program41st Tony Awards
Television/radio coverage
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The 39th Primetime Emmy Awards were held on Sunday, September 20, 1987. The ceremony was broadcast on Fox for the first time, as the network premiered a year earlier from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.

For the second straight year, The Golden Girls won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. The winner for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series was L.A. Law, which, for its first season, won four major awards, and led all shows, with 13 major nominations. The winner for Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special, Promise, set a new record, with five major wins. This record still stands for TV movies, though it was tied by Temple Grandin in 2010. The Tracey Ullman Show received three major nominations on the night, making it the first ceremony in which the network Fox received a major nomination. This was the only time that Hill Street Blues wasn't nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, in its seventh and last season; also, no males actors of Hill Street Blues were nominated (even with 20 previous nominations). Only Betty Thomas for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series was nominated, and did not win, making her the only one in the cast to be nominated in all seasons.

NBC continued its dominance of the field, becoming the first network to gain over eighty major nominations (82). Its résumé was highlighted by gaining all five nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series. This had been done only once before (in 1977, but with a field of only four shows), and has not been matched in either field since.

Winners and nominees




Lead performances


Supporting performances

Guest performances

  • John Cleese as Dr. Simon Finch-Royce in Cheers (NBC) (Episode: "Simon Says")
    • Art Carney as James "Weasel" Cavanaugh in The Cavanaughs (CBS) (Episode: "He Ain't Heavy")
    • Herb Edelman as Stan Zbornak in The Golden Girls (NBC) (Episode: "The Stan Who Came To Dinner")
    • Lois Nettleton as Jean in The Golden Girls (NBC) (Episode: "Isn't It Romantic?")
    • Nancy Walker as Angela in The Golden Girls (NBC) (Episode: "Long Day's Journey Into Marinara")
  • Alfre Woodard as Adrian Moore in L.A. Law (NBC) (Episode: "Pilot")
    • Steve Allen as Lech Osoranski in St. Elsewhere (NBC) (Episode: "Visiting Daze")
    • Jeanne Cooper as Gladys Becker on L.A. Law (NBC) (Episode: "Fry Me to the Moon")
    • Edward Herrmann as Father Joseph McCabe on St. Elsewhere (NBC) (Episode: "Where There's Hope, There's Crosby")
    • Jayne Meadows as Holga Oseransky in St. Elsewhere (NBC) (Episode: "Visiting Daze")

Individual performances




  • Family Ties (NBC): "A, My Name is Alex" – Gary David Goldberg and Alan Uger
    • Cheers (NBC): "Abnormal Psychology" – Janet Leahy
    • The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (NBC): "Here's Why Cosmetics Should Come in Unbreakable Bottles" – Jay Tarses
    • The Golden Girls (NBC): "Isn't It Romantic?" – Jeffrey Duteil
    • Newhart (CBS): "Co-Hostess Twinkie" – David Mirkin
  • Late Night with David Letterman Fifth Anniversary Special (NBC)
    • The 41st Annual Tony Awards (CBS)
    • Saturday Night Live (NBC)
    • The Tracey Ullman Show (Fox): "Girl on a Ledge"
    • The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC)

Most major nominations

Networks with multiple major nominations
Network Number of
NBC 82
CBS 36
ABC 15
Programs with multiple major nominations
Program Category Network Number of
L.A. Law Drama NBC 11
The Golden Girls Comedy 10
St. Elsewhere Drama
Cheers Comedy 8
Moonlighting Drama ABC 7
Cagney & Lacey CBS 6
Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder Miniseries NBC
Promise Special CBS
Family Ties Comedy NBC 5
Newhart CBS
The 41st Annual Tony Awards Variety 4
Escape from Sobibor Special
The Tracey Ullman Show Variety Fox
The Two Mrs. Grenvilles Miniseries NBC
LBJ: The Early Years Special 3
Night Court Comedy
Pack of Lies Special CBS
Unnatural Causes NBC
Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna Miniseries 2
The Cosby Show Comedy
The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
Hill Street Blues Drama
Late Night with David Letterman Fifth Anniversary Special Variety
Liberty Weekend ABC
Murder, She Wrote Drama CBS
Saturday Night Live Variety NBC
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
A Year in the Life Miniseries

Most major awards

Networks with multiple major awards
Network Number of
NBC 15
Programs with multiple major awards
Program Category Network Number of
Promise Special CBS 5
L.A. Law Drama NBC 3
The Golden Girls Comedy 3
Family Ties 2
  1. ^ a b "Major" constitutes the categories listed above: Program, Acting, Directing, and Writing. It does not include the technical categories.

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