It’s easy to get drawn into hyperbole, but the 72nd Emmy Awards were actually unlike anything else in the long history of the Television Academy. This year’s virtual ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel at the Staples Center and requiring 130 cameras to operate across 20 cities from around the globe for the various nominees, was an impressive logistical feat in and of itself. But amid the unique Zoom festivities, we also got to see some of the best shows from the past year in television earn some much-deserved recognition. (Looking at you, Schitt’s Creek and Watchmen.) Below, we break down the biggest winners and losers from Sunday night.
Winner: Pandemic Bits
“You can’t have a virus without a host.”
Jimmy Kimmel wasted no time flexing his pandemic puns, as his Emmys opening monologue used audience shots from previous ceremonies to create a surreal atmosphere that was veering toward, essentially, a bargain-basement episode of Black Mirror. That feeling was only heightened when Kimmel moved to a large screen of various nominees Zooming in from their respective homes—and, in Issa Rae’s case, a football stadium. I’m pretty sure the Emmys stole that bit from The Dark Knight.
Anyway, given the circumstances, Kimmel crafted a memorable opening and had some helpful assists throughout the evening—shout-out to Randall Park and the alpaca gnawing on his suit jacket. That said, the night’s funniest moments were often the most spontaneous: When Kimmel and Jennifer Aniston needed multiple attempts to extinguish a flaming Emmys envelope, well, that’s live television baby.
Loser: The Dudes in Hazmat Suits Who Didn’t Get to Give Away Their Emmys
If there’s a national shortage of hazmat suits that double as tuxedos, blame the Television Academy!
Winner: Schitt’s Creek/Canadians/Pop TV
It took 72 minutes before the Emmys handed an award to a show not named Schitt’s Creek. For its sixth and final season, the Pop TV series won all seven comedy categories: a win in every acting category, writing, direction, and Outstanding Comedy Series. Considering the show was only previously nominated four times—all for its fifth season, without winning a single trophy—it’s an unprecedented turnaround. In fact, Schitt’s Creek is the first show, comedy or otherwise, to win all its Primetime Emmy categories. (This year’s Emmys don’t just have to be remembered for all the Zoom sessions.)
The Schitt’s sweep is also a huge win for Pop TV, a network whose meager output includes such luminaries as [checks notes] Celebrity Big Brother: After Dark. While networks like Hulu went home empty-handed tonight, the tiny network that purchased a series from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was responsible for one of the biggest Emmy nights ever. In truth, though, Schitt’s Creek is one of many shows that benefited from the well-established Netflix bump, which allowed a larger (voting) audience to find it.
After Fleabag dominated the Emmys in 2019—and then promptly vacated the space—the comedy categories were up for grabs. Now, the cycle repeats itself: With the end of Schitt’s Creek, literally every comedy category will be open to new winners next year. But for the time being, Schitt’s Creek can have its historic moment in the spotlight. Holy Schitt. (Sorry.)
With the Television Academy allowing more than five nominees in the Comedy and Drama categories, this year’s Emmys had the potential to spread the love to a versatile slate of shows and nominees. That … didn’t happen. While winners in the Limited Series and Drama categories were motlier than the Schitt’s Creek–dominated Comedy categories—Zendaya won Best Actress for Euphoria, Julia Garner won Best Supporting Actress for Ozark, and The Morning Show’s Billy Crudup beat three Succession actors for Best Supporting Actor—there were still a couple heavy hitters that rose above the rest, namely HBO’s Watchmen and Succession.
What the Emmys lacked in unpredictability, though, it made up for with authenticity. This is the same voting body that gave the final season of Game of Thrones a win for Outstanding Drama Series, despite, let’s face it, the show producing its worst season by far. If the winners were a little predictable this year, at least they felt highly deserved—though I’d understand if you got a little tired of hearing the Schitt’s Creek tuba horn after the seventh time.
Hollywood’s affinity for superheroes now extends to the small screen. HBO’s Watchmen was able to ride a wave of critical adoration and sociopolitical resonance to 11 Emmys, including Outstanding Limited Series and acting wins for stars Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. In adapting Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel and putting it in an alt-universe of our present day, Damon Lindelof compellingly tapped into America’s real and ongoing history of racial violence. The series’ influence extends beyond awards shows: Putting the spotlight on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street massacre of 1921 was, in fact, a catalyst for the event being added to history textbooks in Oklahoma.
Watchmen was also a series with an Emmy-winning score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, shocking twists (see: everything to do with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s character), and the infamous Lube Man. In its nine incredible episodes, Watchmen had a bit of everything. And now it has a bunch of well-deserved Emmys.
With the reign of Game of Thrones at the Emmys (mercifully) over, there was a major void in the Drama categories. And after tonight’s ceremony, it’s quite clear that the Television Academy would like to replace White Walkers and dragons with sleek boardrooms and slime puppies. For its second season, Succession snagged four Emmys on Sunday night—for its direction and writing, for Jeremy Strong Being Sad (also known as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series), and best of all, for Outstanding Drama Series.
Assuming they can air the third season before the next Emmys eligibility window closes, Succession looks poised to dominate at the ceremony. Everyone loves watching members of the Roy family backstab and connive their way up the corporate ladder—and given the fractured state of our world controlled and corroded by self-serving billionaires, I doubt that’ll change anytime soon.
Loser: The Streaming Newcomers
Even though Kimmel called Quibi the “dumbest thing to ever cost a billion dollars” (he has a point!), we have to give credit where it’s due: The streamer nobody actually uses was able to snag some Creative Arts Emmys. But while Quibi was relegated to punch line status for the Primetime Emmys, two other streaming newcomers in Disney+ and AppleTV+ had their own ambitions on Sunday night with The Mandalorian and The Morning Show, respectively.
However, matched up against the might of HBO—well, specifically Succession—the upstarts struggled to snag trophies. Disney was shut out on the night while Apple’s only win came via Billy Crudup’s supporting turn in The Morning Show. (Don’t feel too bad for Disney and Apple; I think they’ll cope.) Going forward, though, it’s clear that Disney and Apple’s streaming services—can I call them the Pluses?—will have some Emmys relevancy and will shake up the status quo, be it through Baby Yoda or A-list newscasters. This might not have been their year, but they’re headed in the right direction. Or, as Mando would say: This is the way.
Winner: Doctor Manhattan(s)
Remember, kids: If you want an Emmy, you simply have to get naked, cake yourself in blue paint, and become an omnipotent being who’s a huge buzzkill on dates.
Winner: The Number One Boy
How do I feel about Jeremy Strong being recognized by the Emmys for delivering a soul-crushing, insular performance unlike anything else on television in the past year? I really don’t know how to explain it—neither, it seems, does Jeremy Strong, who visibly fought back tears while appearing to confirm that his spirit color is a muted brown.
The Number One Boy has an Emmy, one that he rather poetically won while going up against his on-screen dad, Brian Cox. (Does this officially make him a Number One Man?) It’s the Season 2 finale all over again.