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Co-Star Wars: 15 Legendary Emmy Rivalries

Before ‘True Detective”s leads compete for the Best Actor award, check out the Emmys’ biggest intershow face-offs


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The 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards, airing Aug. 25, will pitt a slew of co-stars against each other: Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell bumps heads with Jesse Tyler Ferguson for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy; Downton Abbey‘s Joanne Froggatt challenges Maggie Smith for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama; and Fargo‘s Martin Freeman hopes to take down Billy Bob Thornton when it comes to Lead Actor in a Miniseries. And then there’s the highest-profile face-off of them all: True Detective‘s Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, both competing for the Best Actor in a Drama category.

This is far from the first time, however, that all eyes have been on two co-stars colliding in a category. And while you might think two actors from the same show would automatically split the vote and let someone else walk straight to victory, it’s almost equally as likely for one to come out on top as for both to walk away empty-handed. Here’s 15 examples of actors from the same show going head to head for the gold.

bill cosby

Bill Cosby vs Robert Culp

Show: I Spy
Rivalry Years: 1966-1968
Who won: Cosby, 3
As partners, Cosby and Culp chased bad guys on the groundbreaking secret-agent show, which aired for three seasons from 1965-1968. But the stars were pitted against each other in the Best Actor in a Dramatic Series category for three straight years — and Cosby won each time they faced off, making him not only the first African-American to have a lead role in a dramatic series, but also the first to win the high-profile award.

bewitched Elizabeth Montgomery Dick York

Elizabeth Montgomery vs Agnes Moorehead

Series: Bewitched
Rivalry year: 1967
Who won: Neither
The spellbinding onscreen mother-daughter duo went head-to-head in the Best Actress in a Comedy Series category only once, in 1967 — both losing to The Lucy Show's Lucille Ball. The rivalry only happened once: Moorehead, who played matriarch Endora to Montgomery's Samantha, had previously been up for an Emmy appeared in the Supporting Actress category; she return as a nominee in that category the following year. While they were each nominated numerous times, neither woman ever won for her role on the show, which ran from 1964-1972.


Jack Klugman vs Tony Randall

Show: The Odd Couple
Rivalry years: 1971-1975
Who won: Klugman, 2; Randall, 1
The legendary stars went up against each other for the Best Actor in a Comedy Series all five years the show was on the air (1970-1975). Klugman won twice for his role of Oscar Madison — in 1971 and 1973 — while Randall (as Felix Unger) walked away with the award once, for the series' final season in 1975. They both lost twice: in 1972 to All in the Family's Carroll O'Connor and in 1974 to M*A*S*H's Alan Alda.


Tyne Daly vs Sharon Gless

Show: Cagney & Lacey
Rivalry years: 1983-1988
Who won: Daly, 4; Gless, 2
Born of the feminist movement (and a made-for-TV movie originally starring Loretta Swit opposite Daly), Cagney & Lacey made TV history as the first female-centric police-duo procedural — and for its leading ladies collectively winning six consecutive Best Actress in a Dramatic Series trophies, a still-unmatched feat. Running from 1982-1988, the co-stars were both nominated each season the show aired, with Daly winning four and Gless scoring two.

Susan Saint James Jane Curtin Kate & Allie

Jane Curtin vs Susan Saint James

Show: Kate & Allie
Rivalry years: 1984-1985
Who won: Curtin, 2
Saturday Night Live alum Curtin bested Saint James both times they wound up in the same category for Best Actress in a Comedy Series during the show's six-season run, from 1984-1989. (Curtin's wins came in 1984 and 1985 for playing Allie.) And perhaps Saint James took it personally, as she all but retired from acting when the show ended, appearing only sporadically in a handful of one-off roles in the years since.


Bea Arthur vs Rue McClanahan vs Betty White

Show: The Golden Girls
Rivalry years: 1986-1989
Who won: Arthur, 1; McClanahan, 1; White, 1
Talk about a three-way! The iconic series' leading ladies competed for the Best Actress in a Comedy Series prize during the show's first four seasons (it ran for from 1985-1992). Each woman won once: White (Rose Nyland) in 1986, McClanahan (Blanche Devereaux) in 1987 and Arthur (Dorothy Zbornak) in 1988. The fourth time, Candice Bergen beat them all for her role in Murphy Brown. As for the other Golden Girl — Estelle Getty (Sophia Petrillo) — she also won an Emmy for her time on the show, for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1988. That's one way of keeping everyone happy.


Jason Alexander vs Michael Richards

Show: Seinfeld
Rivalry years: 1992-1997
Who won: Richards, 3
Amazingly, neither Jerry Seinfeld (playing himself) nor Alexander (George Costanza) ever won an Emmy for their roles on the iconic sitcom, which ran from 1989-1998 and has reached greatest-sitcom-ever status over the years. But Richards pocketed three statuettes for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for bringing Kramer to life during that time — triumphing over Alexander in 1993, 1994 and 1997 (they were both defeated in 1995 by Frasier's David Hyde Pierce and 1996 by The Larry Sanders Show's Rip Torn). Speaking of Seinfeld wins: Julia Louis-Dreyfus also won for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1996 for her turn as Elaine Benes.


Dennis Franz vs Jimmy Smits

Show: NYPD Blue
Rivalry years: 1995-1999
Who won: Franz, 3
As detective Andy Sipowicz, Franz currently holds the record for the most wins in the Best Actor in a Dramatic series category, with four Emmys statuettes to his name. (Though Bryan Cranston could tie him if he wins this year for Breaking Bad.) Three of those meant that Smits (Bobby Simone) left empty-handed, in 1996, 1997 and 1999. Two other times, both men lost (in 1995, when Mandy Patinkin triumphed for Chicago Hope, and in 1998, when Andre Braugher won for Homicide: Life on the Street). Franz's first win, in 1994, came at the expense of NYPD Blue co-star David Caruso (John Kelly). Franz was the only actor who starred on the revolving-door series for its entirety, from 1993-2005.


George Clooney vs Anthony Edwards

Show: E.R.
Rivalry years: 1995-1996
Who won: Neither
Remember when Clooney was a small-screen star? After bit parts on shows such as The Facts of Life and Roseanne, he caught his big break on this popular medical melodrama, on which he appeared from 1994-1999 (the show continued without his character, Dr. Doug Ross, until 2009). For two years, he was up for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series against co-star Edwards (Dr. Mark Greene), but they both lost both times — first to Chicago Hope's Mandy Patinkin in 1995, and then to NYPD Blues' Dennis Franz in 1996. In 2010, Clooney finally got an Emmy, in the form of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.


Lorraine Bracco vs Edie Falco

Show: The Sopranos
Rivalry years: 1999-2001
Who won: Falco, 2
As Tony Soprano's psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Bracco couldn't compete against James Gandolfini's onscreen wife. Falco, who played Carmela Soprano, trumped Bracco two out of the three times they were nominated in the Best Actress in a Dramatic Series category, in 1999 and 2001. (They both lost to Once and Again's Sela Ward in 2000.) Bracco eventually stepped down to the Supporting Actress section, but still couldn't win. Meanwhile, Falco picked up another Best Actress trophy once the coast was clear in 2003.


Jerry Orbach vs Sam Waterston

Show: Law & Order
Rivalry year: 2000
Who won: Neither
Ironically, the one year they both appeared in the Best Actor in a Drama Series category (2000), Orbach and Waterston were trounced by James Gandolfini, who played mobster Tony Soprano on The Sopranos. It was the only time Orbach was nominated for his role in the long-running, revolving-door series (1990-2010), and it was the third and last nomination for Waterston, who never won.

Martin Sheen Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe vs Martin Sheen

Show: The West Wing
Rivalry year: 2001
Who won: Neither
In 2001, James Gandolfini crushed another pair of co-stars, when Sheen and Lowe fell victim to The Sopranos mafioso in the Best Actor in a Drama category. It stands as Lowe's lone Emmy nod, while Sheen would earn a total of six nominations for the show, which ran from 1999-2006, but always left disappointed. (He did win once, in 1994, for a guest-starring role on Murphy Brown.)


Matt LeBlanc vs Matthew Perry

Show: Friends
Rivalry year: 2002
Who won: Neither
For how popular the show was, it's hard to believe that Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow are the only members of the Friends cast to win Emmys. In 2002, LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani) and Perry (Chandler Bing) may have canceled each other out when they wound up in the same category, allowing Everybody Loves Raymond's Ray Romano to pick up the trophy for best actor in a comedy. But, hey, at least they got nominated (as did David Schwimmer in 1995) — because Courteney Cox holds the distinction of being the only Central Perker to never get a nod during the show's 10-year run (1994-2004). Could that be any more surprising?


Amy Poehler vs Kristen Wiig

Show: Saturday Night Live
Rivalry years: 2009
Who won: Neither
As if acknowledging the passing of the torch, the 2009 Emmys pitted Poehler against Wiig in the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy category. It was Poehler's second and final nod for her time on SNL (she left the show in 2008), and the first for Wiig, who would be nominated two more times before leaving in 2012. Neither would win, falling victim to Kristen Chenoweth in the short-lived Pushing Daisies. (And, so far, both funny ladies' mantels remain head-scratchingly bare.)


Johnny Galecki vs Jim Parsons

Show: The Big Bang Theory
Rivalry year: 2011
Who won: Parsons, 1
Galecki may be earning $1 million per episode now for his take on supergeek Dr. Leonard Hofstadter, but one thing he still doesn't have is an Emmy. That distinction goes to co-star Parsons (Dr. Sheldon Cooper), who has picked up three so far for Best Actor in a Comedy since the show premiered in 2007 — including his second consecutive victory in 2011, when he steamrolled over Galecki (his next came in 2013). So far, it's the only time Galecki has been nominated, but Parsons may well be on his way to a record-tying fourth win in 2014.

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