This story about “NYPD Blue” and the Emmys first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
When “Game of Thrones” received 32 Emmy nominations for its eighth and final season, the show broke a record that had stood for 25 years and had seemed unassailable for most of that time. The previous record holder was Steven Bochco and David Milch’s “NYPD Blue,” which debuted on ABC in late 1993, shocked some people by bringing profanity and nudity to broadcast television and racked up 27 nominations for its first season, a total it never again came close to achieving. (Its next-highest total was the following year, when it received 13.)
The series, which followed a group of Manhattan police detectives, dominated the Emmy drama categories at the 1994 Emmys to the point that it landed four of the five nominations in the drama-series directing category and all five in the writing category. (No show has turned that trick since then.) It also had nine nominated actors: David Caruso and Dennis Franz for lead actor; Nicholas Turturro and Gordon Clapp for supporting actor; Amy Brenneman, Sharon Lawrence and Gail O’Grady for supporting actress; and Penny Fuller and Dan Hedaya in the guest-acting categories.
But if “NYPD Blue” set a benchmark for nominations that would not be equaled for a quarter century, it wasn’t exactly a dominant force on Emmy night in 1994.
Things had already gotten rocky with Caruso, who was planning to leave the series in a contract dispute and had originally announced that he wasn’t going to attend the Emmys even though he was favored to win.
He ended up skipping the red carpet but attending the show, which took place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium — where he lost to his more amenable co-star, Franz, the only one of the show’s nominated actors to take home an Emmy.
The supporting nominees lost to Fyvush Finkel and Rachel Harris from “Picket Fences,” Hedaya lost to Richard Kiley from that same show and Fuller lost to Faye Dunaway for her guest appearance on “Columbo.”
And while it did win for writing (of course) and directing, and it had won at the Creative Arts Emmys for art direction, casting and single-camera editing, it lost the Outstanding Drama Series award to its Emmy nemesis, former Bochco employee David E. Kelley’s quirkier and friendlier “Picket Fences.”
“This is a bittersweet night,” Franz said in the press room, according to the Los Angeles Times. “There were so many nominations, and there were certain ones we thought were shoo-ins. The show, we thought, was pretty much a lock — we expected to win that.”
“NYPD Blue” would go on to win the top drama-series Emmy the following year, its only win in six nominations in that category. And it would win seven more acting awards, three of them for Franz.
But maybe “Game of Thrones” should watch out — because the year that “NYPD Blue” set the record that took 25 years to break, its Emmy night did not exactly live up to the promise suggested by all those nominations.
Read more from the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.