Emmys Analysis: HBO Rolls, Pop TV Makes Some Noise

Eugene Levy accepts his award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for 'Schitt's Creek'.
(Image credit: ABC)

Early on in the Emmys telecast, host Jimmy Kimmel noted how every mention of Pop TV comedy Schitt’s Creek would involve the show’s title appearing on screen in an effort to appease the profanity police. 

Schitt’s Creek would appear on screen quite a few times. So would Eugene Levy and Daniel Levy and Catherine O’Hara as they claimed various Emmy awards. 

Schitt’s Creek grabbed the first seven Emmy trophies: lead actress in a comedy, lead actor in a comedy, writing for a comedy, directing for a comedy, supporting actor in a comedy, supporting actress in a comedy and, finally, outstanding comedy. 

Eugene Levy credited son Daniel, “who took our fish-out-of-water story and transformed it into a celebration of inclusivity, a castigation of homophobia and a declaration of the power of love.”

No other show was honored in the Emmys’ first hour. 

The 2020 Emmys was unlike the 71 Emmys before it, Jimmy Kimmel hosting in an empty room, for the most part, and no one having audible laughs after their quips. But the telecast moved relatively quickly, remote laughs hit home and the big-winner shows all felt timely. The serious challenge of having over a hundred cameras at nominees' remote locations worked as well as one might have hoped for. 

On the drama side, HBO’s superhero drama Watchmen had a terrific night, racking up outstanding limited series, along with outstanding writing for a limited series and supporting actor in a limited series. 

But HBO drama Succession, about the battles within a family of media moguls, burned even brighter, its honors including lead actor in a drama, outstanding writing, outstanding directing and, ultimately, outstanding drama. 

Creator Jesse Armstrong called it “such a very nice moment” for all involved, and lamented the group not being together to share it. Armstrong gave out a series of “un-thank you’s” to Covid, President Trump, Boris Johnson, nationalist governments that get in the way of combating the virus, and “the media moguls who keep them in power,” said Armstrong--not unlike the moguls portrayed on the series. 

Netflix came in with 160 nominations, while HBO had 107. Netflix got wins with Unorthodox and Ozark, and gets an assist as the streaming platform for Schitt’s Creek. 

HBO has felt the pressure from Netflix at awards time in recent years, but had the upper hand in 2020. HBO picked up 11 Emmys Sunday. Besides the big nights for Succession and Watchmen, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, I Know This Much is True and Euphoria also brought home trophies. 

Pop TV won 7 for Schitt's Creek and Netflix won 2. VH1, FX and Apple TV+ each got one. 

When Watchmen was named outstanding limited series, creator Damon Lindelof thanked HBO, and Warner Bros., “for their unblinking support” of a daring show. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.