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Peter Graves: Winning an Emmy seemed like a mission impossible

March 15, 2010 |  5:23 pm

Back in the heyday of "Mission: Impossible," the TV spy series won lots of Emmys, but none for the actor who began each episode listening intently to secret instructions on a tape recorder: Peter Graves.

Peter graves mission impossible tv news

The Emmys, in fact, put "Mission: Impossible" on the map. In 1967, it was a lowly rated TV series that pulled off an amazing feat at TV's top awards. It beat "The Avengers," "I Spy," "Run for Your Life" and "Star Trek" for best drama series and Barbara Bain won lead actress over front-runner Barbara Stanwyck ("The Big Valley"). Soon it became a Nielsen hit, then "Mission: Impossible" won both awards again the next year. Neither time did Peter Graves score a bid. However, in Year 3, he was nominated for lead actor alongside costar Martin Landau. The show was up again for best series and actress. Graves and Landau lost to Carl Betz ("Judd for the Defense") and "Mission: Impossible" lost the trophy for best drama to "NET Playhouse."

However, for a third year in a row, Bain won lead actress in 1969, then she and Landau (husband and wife in real life) quit the hit TV series when CBS wouldn't cave to Landau's new contract demands. "Mission: Impossible" struggled through on the air for a few more years without them while Graves remained aboard, but the show lost much of its original pizazz.

Nonetheless, Peter Graves eventually won an Emmy Award before he died on Sunday of an apparent heart attack at age 83. In 1997, he claimed the trophy as best informational special for hosting "Biography" TV special "Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow" on A&E. It beat "Siskel & Ebert & the Movies" plus "Inside the Actors Studio."

At the Golden Globes, Graves was nominated three times, losing the first two times up – in 1969 and 1970 – then finally triumphing in 1971 over Burt Reynolds ("Dan August"), Mike Connors ("Mannix") Robert Young ("Marcus Welby, M.D.") and Chad Everett ("Medical Center"). "Mission: Impossible" never won best drama series at the Globes.

Photo: CBS

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