Jimmy Kimmel kicked off the 72nd Emmys at an empty Staples Center, and acknowledged the elephant in the room, or at least the elephant watching from home. “Right now we need fun. My god, do we need fun,” he said of these COVID times. “This has been a miserable year.”
Kimmel spoke of the importance of television in the pandemic era, calling it “a friend who’s there for us 24 hours a day.”
Kimmel saluted Emmy winner Norman Lear, calling him a “miracle.”
“The only thing I’ll be producing when I’m 98 is phlegm,” said Kimmel.
Kimmel also praised Pop TV comedy Schitt’s Creek, and spoke about how network mandates said ABC has to put the show name on the screen whenever it’s mentioned, to avoid penalties for profanity. “Just in case you were wondering why network television is almost dead,” Kimmel quipped.
Jennifer Aniston gave out the outstanding lead actress in a comedy trophy. Catherine O’Hara of Schitt’s Creek won.
“I will forever be grateful to Eugene and Daniel Levy,” she said, for giving her a character who gets to play “her ridiculous self.”
Netflix came in with 160 nominations, while HBO had 107. NBC had 47, ABC had 36, Fox had 33, Amazon had 30, Hulu had 26 and CBS had 23.
Outstanding lead actor in a comedy went to Eugene Levy of Schitt’s Creek. “You see, I told you I was good,” he said.
Levy thanked his wife and the cast, including O’Hara, who “evidently can make anyone she works with look good.”
He saluted his children Daniel and Sarah, with Daniel taking “our show that we came up with and brilliantly guiding it to this little Emmy party tonight.”
Tracee Ellis Ross gave out the prize for outstanding writing for a comedy series. Daniel Levy of Schitt’s Creek got the honors.
He thanked his father for “giving me the reins to this show...I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.”
Levy thanked the writers for sharing their personal and often embarrassing stories, “so that the Rose family could be who they are.”
Next up was outstanding directing for a comedy series. Andrew Cividino and Daniel Levy of Schitt’s Creek got the win. Cividono saluted Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, saying “their grace, their genius and their generosity bubbles through the entire set.”
Levy added that the show’s “incredible cast made it so, so easy to direct.”
Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy saw Daniel Levy once again claim the prize. “The internet’s about to turn on me,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”
He called Schitt’s Creek a “six-year master class” taught by “two brilliant comedic minds--my dad, Eugene Levy, and the magnificent Catherine O’Hara.”
Levy spoke about the show giving the cast the “safety and security to do what we wanted.”
Playing David Rose has been “the greatest experience of my life,” Levy added.
Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy went to Annie Murphy of, yes, Schitt’s Creek. “The six years that I have spent working on this show have been the best six years of my life,” she said.
Murphy said she’s “so proud to be part of a show that stands for love and kindness and inclusivity and acceptance.”
Jason Sudeikis honored the outstanding comedy series, which had HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Insecure, Dead to Me and The Kominsky Method on Netflix, The Good Place on NBC, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon, Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek and What We Do in the Shadows on FX.
Schitt’s Creek won. Daniel Levy said the show is about “the transformational effects of love and acceptance,” and how that’s something we desperately need today. He urged people to vote and apologized for getting political.
Eugene Levy thanked Pop TV and Netflix, and his 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.”
When Kimmel came back on, he noted how “The Canadians have won all the Emmys tonight,” and added how America still has the Stanley Cup.
Outstanding variety talk series was given out by David Letterman. Waiting for the “virtual applause to die down,” Letterman shared some jokes from hosting in 1986 that he said he found in the pocket of his tux. The Emmy went to HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Oliver thanked producers Tim Carvell and Liz Stanton and said he was happy to be working these days. “We’ve all been very fortunate to be able to do our shows and not have to stop during the pandemic,” said Oliver.
He thanked HBO and his wife and his staff. “I miss you so much and I honestly cannot wait until we’re in the same space together,” Oliver said of the Last Week Tonight staff.
Outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie went to Regina King of HBO’s Watchmen. “This is so freakin’ weird,” she started.
“It’s an honor to be in this category with you,” she said of her fellow nominees. “I truly love being a thespian.”
“Have a voting plan,” King added, urging viewers to “be a good human.”
Lead actor in a limited series or movie was given to Mark Ruffalo of HBO’s I Know This Much Is True. Ruffalo thanked director Derek Cianfrance for “a great collaboration” and his fellow cast for bringing out the best in each other with their “career-defining performances.”
“I can’t be up here right now without you being there,” he added.
Ruffalo credited the show’s crew for their “grit, determination, dignity and class.”
He said the show is about family. “We are stronger together when we love each other and respect each other’s dignity,” he said, urging viewers to “vote for love and compassion and kindness.”
Outstanding writing for a limited series or movie was given out by Randall Park. Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson won for their work on Watchmen.
Jefferson singled out his therapist. “I am a different man than I was two years ago,” he said.
Jefferson also mentioned the African-American men and women who died in the Tulsa massacre of 1921. “I think we should never forget them,” he said.
Outstanding directing for a limited series or movie was claimed by Maria Schrader of Netflix’s Unorthodox. “Being nominated for the Emmys already felt like a coronation,” she said. “I’m speechless.”
She credited Netflix and its execs for “accompanying it with so much knowledge and support.”
She described Unorthodox as “adventurous and powerful and at the same time a delicate story.”
Outstanding supporting actor in a limited series went to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II of Watchmen. He thanked HBO and Damon Lindelof “for your words, for your creativity.”
Watchmen is “a story about trauma, about the lasting scars of white domestic terrorism and police corruption,” he said, “and a guy who came down to Earth to reciprocate to a black woman all the love she deserved.”
“I’m so proud that i was able to walk into those shoes,” Abdul-Mateen added.
Outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie was given to Uzo Aduba of FX on Hulu’s Mrs. America. “I love you, ladies, you are all exceptional,” she said of her castmates.
She offered a “tremendous thank you to FX,” to former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who she plays in the series, and “everyone who came together to tell this brilliant story.”
“Thank you beyond words,” Aduba added.
Anthony Anderson gave out the Emmy for outstanding limited series. HBO’s Watchmen got the prize. Damon Lindelof thanked HBO and Warner Bros. “for their unblinking support.”
He also thanked “every single person who invested nine hours of their life into Watchmen.”
Lindelof singled out the “victims and survivors in Tulsa in 1921.”
Kimmel noted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death, calling her a “tireless champion of equality and justice.” H.E.R. sang “Nothing Compares 2 U” as the tribute to Hollywood’s deceased rolled.
Several times throughout the night, essential workers, not Hollywood stars, announced Emmy nominees. Those included a nurse, a UPS driver and a teacher.
Next was outstanding competition program. RuPaul’s Drag Race on VH1 won.
“We love making television,” said RuPaul. “It is an honor to make television. All the kids get to tell their stories on our show and it’s beautiful.”
Tyler Perry got the Governor’s Award from the Television Academy board. Chris Rock and Oprah Winfrey spoke on behalf of Perry. “It takes extraordinary grit and determination to navigate the rough terrain that often life can give you,” said Winfrey. “My friend Tyler Perry has done that against all odds.”
Rock spoke about Perry living in his car before he made it. “And of course Hollywood welcomed an independent black man with open arms,” said Rock. “Wait. I misread that.”
Winfrey called Perry a maverick and an innovator.
Perry spoke about a quilt his grandmother gave him when he was a teen. He didn’t like it much and used it for odd jobs, such as drying off a wet dog. Years later, he saw a similar quilt in an antique shop. The shopkeeper explained how it was made of patches representing stages of the maker’s life. “I didn’t even recognize the value in my grandmother’s quilt,” said Perry.
Perry said, “We all sew our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experience and our memories.”
Speaking of his studio headquarters in Atlanta, Perry said, “We’re all coming together to add patches to a quilt as diverse as it can be.”
Outstanding lead actor in a drama went to Jeremy Strong of HBO’s Succession. Strong, who plays Kendall, singled out the people who have “been there for me and believed in me when something like this felt basically impossible,” including family.
He mentioned a Stephen Dunn poem about a book so good the reader finishes it for the rest of their life. “This job is that for me,” he said.
Outstanding lead actress in a drama went to Zendaya of HBO’s Euphoria. “This is pretty crazy,” she said.
Of the show’s cast and crew, Zendaya said, “I’m so lucky to go to work with you every day and so inspired by what you do.”
Amid these tough times, Zendaya said “there is hope in the young people.”
Kimmel quipped, “She’s younger than Baby Yoda.”
Outstanding writing for a drama went to Jesse Armstrong of Succession.
“I love writing for this show so very much, and for this amazing cast and crew,” he said from London.
Outstanding directing for a drama went to Andrij Parekh of Succession. “The show’s been such a professional dream,” he said.
Parekh dedicated his Emmy to “all the kids whose names, like mine, are difficult to pronounce.”
Outstanding supporting actor in a drama was claimed by Billy Crudup of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. He thanked “everybody at Apple for the wonderful opportunity.”
“I’m glad to have delivered something for you,” he said.
Outstanding supporting actress in a drama went to Julia Garner of Netflix’s Ozark.
“I’m shocked, to be honest,” she said.
Garner made a point of showing “gratitude to all the women in this category. You are the reason why I’m acting in the first place.”
Finally, outstanding drama was given out by Sterling K. Brown. It was between Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, AMC’s Better Call Saul, Netflix’s The Crown, Stranger Things and Ozark, BBC America’s Killing Eve, Disney+’s The Mandalorian and HBO’s Succession.
Succession got the honors.
“This is such a very nice moment,” said Armstrong, who lamented not being able to share it with his cast and crew and fellow writers and producers. “This is a wonderful achievement for the whole group.”
Armstrong gave out a series of “un-thank you’s” to COVID, President Trump for his “crummy and uncoordinated response” to COVID, Boris Johnson for the same, “nationalist and quasi-nationalist governments” for getting in the way of combating the virus, and “the media moguls who keep them in power,” said Armstrong.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.