42nd Primetime Emmy Awards
  • September 16, 1990
  • September 15, 1990
    (Creative Arts Awards)
LocationPasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, California
Presented byAcademy of Television Arts and Sciences
Hosted byCandice Bergen
Jay Leno
Jane Pauley
Most awardsL.A. Law (3)
Most nominationsL.A. Law (11)
Outstanding Comedy SeriesMurphy Brown
Outstanding Drama SeriesL.A. Law
Outstanding MiniseriesDrug Wars: The Camarena Story
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy SeriesIn Living Color
Television/radio coverage
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The 42nd Primetime Emmy Awards were held on Sunday, September 16, 1990. The ceremony was broadcast on Fox from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. Two networks, The Family Channel and The Disney Channel, received their first major nominations.

For its second season, Murphy Brown won Outstanding Comedy Series and one other major award. Defending champion Cheers received the most major nominations for a comedy series with 9 and Newhart finished its series run with 21 major nominations, but not a single win. On the drama side, L.A. Law won Outstanding Drama Series for the third time in four years and also won three major awards, receiving the most major nominations for a drama series with 11. This became the first year that every cast member of The Golden Girls wasn't nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.

This ceremony was remembered for the circumstance that three major categories resulted in ties, the most ever for one ceremony.

A clip of The Simpsons presenting the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series can be seen on the DVD boxset of the second season as a special feature.

Winners and nominees





Lead performances


Supporting performances

  • Alex Rocco as Al Floss in The Famous Teddy Z (CBS) (Episodes: "Pilot" + "Teddy Sells His House" + "Agent of the Year")
    • Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane in Cheers (NBC) (Episodes: "The Stork Brings a Crane" + "Severe Crane Damage" + "The Ghost and Mrs. Lebec")
    • Woody Harrelson as Woody Boyd in Cheers (NBC) (Episodes: "Woody or Won't He" + "50–50 Carla" + "Loverboyd")
    • Charles Kimbrough as Jim Dial in Murphy Brown (CBS) (Episodes: "Anchors Away" + "Roasted" + "On the Road Again")
    • Jerry Van Dyke as Luther Van Dam in Coach (ABC) (Episodes: "If a Coach Falls in the Woods" + "Coaches Conference" + "Homewreckers")
  • Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith Crane in Cheers (NBC) (Episodes: "The Stork Brings a Crane" + "Severe Crane Damage" + "The Ghost and Mrs. Lebec")
    • Julia Duffy as Stephanie Vanderkellen in Newhart (CBS) (Episodes: "Cupcake in a Cage" + "Lights, Camera, Contractions!" + "Seein' Double")
    • Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood in Murphy Brown (CBS) (Episodes: "And the Whiner Is..." + "Bad Girls" + "Going to the Chapel")
    • Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo in The Golden Girls (NBC) (Episodes: "Sick and Tired" + "Not Another Monday" + "Clinton Avenue Memoirs")
    • Rhea Perlman as Carla Tortelli in Cheers (NBC) (Episodes: "Death Takes a Holiday on Ice" + "50–50 Carla" + "The Ghost and Mrs. Lebec")
  • Marg Helgenberger as KC Kolowski in China Beach (ABC) (Episodes: "The Unquiet Earth" + "Skin Deep" + "Nightfall")
    • Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks (ABC) (Episodes: "Pilot" + "Episode 2" + "Episode 6")
    • Melanie Mayron as Melissa Steadman in Thirtysomething (ABC) (Episodes: "Mr. Right" + "Strangers" + "Good Sex, Bad Sex, What Sex, No Sex")
    • Diana Muldaur as Rosalind Shays in L.A. Law (NBC) (Episodes: "The Pay's Lousy, But the Tips Are Great" + "Whatever Happened to Hannah?" + "Watts a Matter?")
    • Susan Ruttan as Roxanne Melman in L.A. Law (NBC) (Episodes: "The Good Human Bar" + "Bang... Zoom... Zap" + "Forgive Me Father, For I Have Sued")

Individual performances




  • Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to Moscow (HBO)
  • The Tracey Ullman Show (Fox): "I Hate Paris"
    • In Living Color (Fox): "Pilot"
    • Late Night with David Letterman: "8th Anniversary Special" (NBC)
    • Saturday Night Live (NBC)

Most major nominations

Networks with multiple major nominations[note 1]
Network Number of
NBC 47
CBS 35
HBO 11
Programs with multiple major nominations
Program Category Network Number of
L.A. Law Drama NBC 11
Cheers Comedy 9
Twin Peaks Drama ABC 7
Murphy Brown Comedy CBS 6
Thirtysomething Drama ABC
Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to Moscow Variety HBO 4
The Golden Girls Comedy NBC
The Kennedys of Massachusetts Miniseries ABC
A Killing in a Small Town Special CBS
The Wonder Years Comedy ABC
Caroline? Special CBS 3
China Beach Drama ABC
Designing Women Comedy CBS
The Famous Teddy Z
The Final Days Special ABC
Quantum Leap Drama NBC
Saturday Night Live Variety
The Tracey Ullman Show Fox
The 43rd Annual Tony Awards CBS 2
The 62nd Academy Awards ABC
Age-Old Friends Special HBO
The Best of 'The Tracey Ullman Show' Variety Fox
Coach Comedy ABC
Family of Spies Miniseries CBS
The Image Special HBO
In Living Color Variety Fox
The Incident Special CBS
Murder in Mississippi NBC
Newhart Comedy CBS
Sammy Davis, Jr. 60th Anniversary Celebration Variety ABC
Small Sacrifices Miniseries

Most major awards

Networks with multiple major awards[note 1]
Network Number of
ABC 10
Fox 2
Programs with multiple major awards
Program Category Network Number of
L.A. Law Drama NBC 3
Age-Old Friends Special HBO 2
Caroline? CBS
Cheers Comedy NBC
Murphy Brown CBS
Thirtysomething Drama ABC
The Wonder Years Comedy
  1. ^ a b "Major" constitutes the categories listed above: Program, Acting, Directing, and Writing. Does not include the technical categories.