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Primetime Emmy Award Winners: Top TV Shows Of All Time

August 22, 2013 7:00 AM

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Photo by Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

Photo by Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

“American Horror Story: Asylum” (FX) and “Game of Thrones” (HBO) are currently leading the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy race with the most nominations this year. Last year, “American Horror Story” tied AMC’s “Mad Men” for a whopping 17 nominations. “Asylum” pulled in another 17 Emmy nods this year, which puts it at the top of the Emmy pack, taking a slight edge over “Game of Thrones,” which earned 16. In more than six decades, the Television Academy has honored hundreds of actors, actresses and television series for delivering exceptional work that has entertained millions of viewers around the world. Here’s a look at the top five television shows that have taken home the most Primetime Emmy Awards in history, since 1949. 

Saturday Night Live

snl Primetime Emmy Award Winners: Top TV Shows Of All Time

Photo Credit Kevin Winter/ImageDirect

“Saturday Night Live” hits the top of the roster, having won a whopping 37 Emmy Awards (and counting) since the series’ inception in 1975. As the longest running sketch comedy show on television (38 seasons and 745 episodes), this year’s 15 Primetime Emmy nominations bring the show’s total nods to 171, making it currently the most nominated show in TV history. 

SNL has maintained a revolving repertory cast, which has changed in the course of its nearly four decade history. Many older cast members have gone on to achieve great big screen success, including Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. Recent cast members like Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig have also enjoyed success behind the camera, with Fey producing and starring in “30 Rock,” for which she earned an Emmy in 2008 and two Golden Globes in 2007 and 2008. Wiig earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination and a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination in 2011 for “Bridesmaids,” which she penned with Annie Mumulo.   If “Saturday Night Live” scores any wins from this year’s list of 15 nods, the series tie with “Frasier” will be broken and SNL will take the lead as the biggest Emmy winning primetime series.

Frasier

fraiser 2 Primetime Emmy Award Winners: Top TV Shows Of All Time

Photo Credit KIM KULISH/AFP/Getty Images

“Frasier” currently holds the record for the sitcom with the most Emmy wins at 37, and is tied with “Saturday Night Live” for the most Primetime Emmy wins overall. “Frasier” also received the most consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series wins (5) from 1994-1998. Stars Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce have each won four Emmys for their unforgettable roles as the psychoanalytic polar opposite Crane brothers. John Mahoney received numerous Emmy nods for his role as Crane patriarch, Martin, as did Jane Leeves for her portrayal of Niles’ unrequited crush turned wife, Daphne Moon, but she never won. After the series’ 11 year run, the stars all split in different directions, with Grammer’s most notable post-Frazier role being Mayor Tom Kane on the Starz drama, “Boss.” Hyde went on to theater and Moon joined TV Land’s huge hit, “Hot in Cleveland.”

Mary Tyler Moore Show

mary tyler moore show photo by academy of television arts   sciences Primetime Emmy Award Winners: Top TV Shows Of All Time

Photo by Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

This highly decorated 70s sitcom ran from 1970-1977 on CBS and featured Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, the first single career woman on television (not divorced or widowed). The series won a total of 29 Emmys over the course of seven seasons, including Outstanding Comedy Series three times in a row, from 1975-1977. The camaraderie between Mary, her friends, and her male newsroom counterparts was funny and engaging and earned a bevy of Emmys across the acting board, including two Outstanding Lead Actress Emmys for Mary Tyler Moore herself, three Outstanding Supporting Actor awards for Ed Asner (Lou Grant) and two for Ted Knight (Ted Baxter). The six Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmys were split between Valerie Harper (3), Cloris Leachman (1) and the incomparable Betty White (2).

Cheers

che showpage Primetime Emmy Award Winners: Top TV Shows Of All Time

Photo Credit CBS TV Distribution

NBC’s smash sitcom with the unforgettable theme song ran for an impressive 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993 and hits fourth place on the list with 28 Primetime Emmy wins. The romantic frustrations and dramedy in the lives of the people who pulled up a stool in front of Sam (Ted Danson) kept the audience coming back for more. The show snagged the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy four times and the stellar cast raked in 12 acting Emmys, with Ted Danson earning two Outstanding Lead Actor Emmys and his on-screen love interest, Shelley Long, winning Outstanding Lead Actress for her role as intellectual yet insecure Diane in 1983. It’s a neat coincidence “Cheers” spun off the number two show in the list, “Frasier,” which also enjoyed an 11 year run.

The West Wing

west wing Primetime Emmy Award Winners: Top TV Shows Of All Time

Photo Credit LEE CELANO/AFP/Getty Images

Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin’s political drama, “The West Wing,” rounds out the top five Emmy winning shows list, with 27 wins. The show ran on NBC for seven seasons from 1999 to 2006 and followed the fictional presidency of Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his staff, which included series leads Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney and Rob Lowe. The series ties “Hill Street Blues” for the most overall drama series wins at 26. But it holds the record for the most Emmys won in its first season (9), and most Emmys won by a single show in one night, also nine.  It splits a four-way tie for most wins for Outstanding Drama series, which is four, along with “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” and “Mad Men.” Sheen received multiple Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy nods for his riveting role as President Bartlet, but never won.  Allison Janney snagged four Emmys for her career-defining role as White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg.

Lori Melton is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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