Emmys Flashback: 'Seinfeld' Won Its Only Comedy Series Statuette in 1993

Michael Richards, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander ONE TIME USE - Getty - H 2018
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The Hollywood Reporter's review of the 1989 pilot called it "misfired" and said star Jerry Seinfeld's role was that of an "imperturbably amused bystander," but the show went on to become a commercial and critical juggernaut over its nine-year run.

It wasn't until its fourth season, ?in 1993, that Seinfeld won its ?sole Emmy for outstanding comedy series. (Over its nine-year ?run of 169 episodes, the show won a total of 11 Emmys in all categories.)

One reason Seinfeld had time to develop and find its audience is that NBC's president at the time, Brandon Tartikoff, ignored The Hollywood Reporter's initial evaluation, which called the show's 1989 pilot "misfired." The reviewer's take on the show (originally named The Seinfeld Chronicles) might best be summed up as "meh."

THR said the sitcom was "too light on plot and character to attract much interest." It did give star Jerry Seinfeld some kudos as a "likable guy capable of handling a featured or starring part," calling the other characters "under-conceived." THR's advice was that Jerry's role as "imperturbably amused bystander" needed to be shifted to his being "a more engaged character."

Seinfeld did get off to a slow start in the ratings (it was up against ABC's juggernaut Home Improvement), but when it moved into the Thursday-night slot ?after Cheers, it took off. As for the 1993 awards, it was a slightly odd year. CBS, NBC and Fox weren't thrilled about attending because the TV Academy had signed a long-term deal (later dropped) with ABC instead of annually rotating the show among networks.

THR said Emmy's 45th edition was not strong in the "we are family department." Angela Lansbury hosted and — except for Bryant Gumbel in 1997 — this was the last year a non-comedian would hold the job. "What we learned over time is that this is a show with 26 awards, many of which the viewers are not invested in," says producer Don Mischer. "A comic helps you get through the evening. It helps keep the energy up."

Seinfeld co-creator Larry David got one of the bigger laughs of the night when he accepted the show's award, saying, "This is all well and good, but I'm still bald."

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.