The 74th Emmy Awards got underway on NBC, with host Kenan Thompson celebrating the concept of television. “If it weren’t for TV, what would we do with our time?” he asked. “Read books?”
The program then went on to a celebration of show theme songs, featuring both song and dance, including Friends and The Brady Bunch, with the Brady cast introduced.
The songs from Law & Order and Game of Thrones followed, before Thompson, in a blond Daenerys wig, introduced “the queen of all thrones, Oprah Winfrey!”
“Tonight is a par-tay!” said Winfrey, before giving out the best lead actor in a limited series trophy to Michael Keaton of Hulu’s Dopesick.
“My face hurts so much from all the fake smiling I’ve been doing,” he said.
Keaton acknowledged that he’s “had some doubters. Ya know what? We’re cool.”
He then saluted his “true believers.”
Best supporting actor in a limited series went to Murray Bartlett of The White Lotus on HBO.
Bartlett saluted creator Mike White. “Thank you for giving me one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I adore you and I admire you.”
Thompson delivered some more TV-related quips, including this about a certain HBO smash. “Succession is the only show that has three brothers…and no brothers,” he said.
He saluted the producers of Abbott Elementary for donating their Emmys marketing money to Philadelphia schools, and said he was doing something similar with his host pay–donating it to another needy cause in Netflix.
Sofia Vergara of America’s Got Talent gave out the prize for outstanding supporting actor in a drama, which went to Matthew Macfadyen of Succession. He said it was “a pleasure to play this bonkers gift of a role," and saluted creator Jesse Armstrong and the show’s writers. “They are truly amazing, they just are,” said Macfadyen.
Given out by Kerry Washington and Gael García Bernal, best supporting actress in a drama went to Julia Garner of Ozark. She said to the writers, “Thank you for writing Ruth. She’s changed my life.”
Garner thanked Jason Bateman “for taking a chance on me” and Laura Linney. “You’ve been such a guiding light,” she said.
A Simpsons clip followed, Homer slumped over the bar when Moe throws an Emmy at him.
Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers were out next to salute best supporting actress in a comedy.
Sheryl Lee Ralph of Abbott Elementary of ABC won. An emotional Ralph sang a verse from “Endangered Species.”
“I am a woman, I am an artist,” she sang. “And I know where my voice belongs.”
Finishing the verse, she spoke to the crowd. “This is what believing looks like. This is what striving looks like,” Ralph said. “And don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”
Many in the room rose to their feet.
Lizzo then came onstage with Thompson. She gave out the supporting actor in a comedy trophy, to Brett Goldstein of Apple TV Plus’s Ted Lasso.
“I’m really going to try not to swear,” he said.
Goldstein thanked the producers “for creating this magical thing and letting me be a part of it.”
He then addressed his family in the U.K., sharing how his cursing the previous time up on the Emmys stage meant he was bleeped out and they didn’t get to hear him. This time, he was bleeped out again.
Lee Jung-jae and Jung Ho-yeon of Squid Game presented the best variety sketch series prize, which NBC’s Saturday Night Live won. Lorne Michaels spoke about how Covid impacted the show, and its cast members, the past two years. “Lots of people who could’ve left didn’t,” he said, adding, “I want to thank them all for showing up.”
Selena Gomez, Steve Martin and Martin Short from Only Murders in the Building were out next for best variety talk series. “Ya know what I love about working with these guys?” quipped Gomez. “No paparazzi ever.”
HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver won.
“It is a thrill to be here. It is a thrill to meet Steve Martin and Martin Short–,” said Oliver before being bleeped out.
He added, “We know how lucky we are to make the exact show we want.”
Next onstage was Bowen Yang with some quips about Yellowjackets and President Trump.
Chandra Wilson and Freddie Highmore came out next. Both playing doctors on TV (Wilson on Grey’s Anatomy, Highmore on The Good Doctor), they saluted medical professionals, then awarded best supporting actress in a limited series. Jennifer Coolidge of The White Lotus won.
“To my fellow nominees, just to be in your company is incredible,” she said, then added how a lavender bath made her swell up and made it hard to speak.
Lead actress in a limited series went to Amanda Seyfried from The Dropout on Hulu. “It was the best time of my life,” she said.
Outstanding achievement in a competition program went to Lizzo’s Watch Out For the Big Grrrls on Prime Video.
“I need my big girls to come to the stage right now!” said Lizzo. “Right now!”
She broke out in tears while talking about the stories shared by those on the show.
“When I was a little girl, all I wanted to see was someone like me in the media,” she shared.
Sarah Paulson and Shonda Rhimes gave out the governor’s award. Saluting Geena Davis, Paulson said Davis made it easier for women to bring smarts to the roles they play. “She was a complete person, bringing her whole self to the party,” said Paulson.
Davis’s roles include Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own and Commander in Chief. She also launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
Davis and Madeline DiNonno, CEO of the institute, stepped onstage.
“This recognition of our achievements means so much to Madeline and I,” said Davis. Echoing Lizzo, she added, “Television can directly impact how people see themselves and judge their value in the world.”
Diego Luna and Rosario Dawson came out to present the award for outstanding directing in a limited series. Mike White won it for The White Lotus. He saluted his parents. “My mom let me be the weird kid I wanted to be,” said White. “And my dad who’s struggling right now–”
White then broke down in tears.
“I love everybody here tonight,” he added. “I want to party with you later. Let’s party.”
The Emmy for writing for a limited series was given out by B.J. Novak and Mindy Kaling. Mike White won that one too.
He spoke about his time on Survivor. He said the way to stay in the game was to lower your threat level. “Now I feel like I raised my threat level,” he said. “I want to stay in the game…don’t vote me off the island please!”
The Emmy for writing in a variety special went to Jerrod Carmichael for Rothaniel on HBO.
“I made something that was of great personal consequence to me,” he said. “This definitely contributes to the meaning of it.”
Anthony Anderson was out next to give tribute to the Hollywood icons who died, including Betty White, Peter Scolari, Bob Saget, Vin Scully, James Caan, Anne Heche, Ray Liotta and Jak Knight. John Legend sang.
Law & Order stars Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay were up next, giving out the trophy for lead actor in a comedy. Jason Sudeikis of Ted Lasso won.
Sudeikis mentioned the “amazing group that I was nominated with.” He said he was not prepared to make a speech, but “I did take classes in the Second City” and could probably wing it.
“It’s a joy to get to work with these guys,” he said of the cast, then concluded, “I’m truly, truly surprised and flattered.”
Will Arnett and Jimmy Kimmel gave out the Emmy for writing for a comedy series. Quinta Brunson of Abbott Elementary won. She singled out co-showrunners Justin Halperin and Patrick Schumacker “for believing in this story from four years ago and thinking it would make a good television show.”
Ayo Edebiri and Jeremy Allen White from The Bear gave out the directing in a drama series prize. It went to Hwang Dong-hyuk of Squid Game. He thanked Ted Sarandos of Netflix, and he thanked viewers. “It was you who opened up the door for Squid Game,” he said. “We all made history together.”
Kelly Clarkson came out to award the outstanding lead actress in a drama. It went to Zendaya of HBO’s Euphoria. She credited the producers for providing “a safe space to make this very difficult show.”
Zendaya added, “My greatest wish for Euphoria is that it would help heal people.”
Regina Hall awarded the lead actress in a comedy. Jean Smart of HBO Max’s Hacks won.
“I’m so blown away by our writers, who not only matched season one but surpassed it…this has just been such a thrill,” she said.
“I didn’t realize the breadth of the appeal of our show,” she added, mentioning being spotted as her Deborah character by boys in a shopping mall.
Molly Shannon and Vanessa Bayer toasted the directing for a comedy series winner. M.J. Delaney of Ted Lasso got the trophy. She said to the producers, “Thank you for creating this thing that people love, and letting me be a part of it.”
Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser gave out the award for writing in a drama series. Jesse Armstrong of Succession won.
“It didn’t feel always necessarily good when I was writing it,” he said of the episode that won. He encouraged the writers who are “blind to all the merits and you can only see the faults” to keep at it.
Ariana DeBose and Angela Bassett awarded the lead actor in a drama, which went to Lee Jung-jae of Squid Game. He thanked the Television Academy and Netflix, and credited the producers for making a “realistic problem we all face come to life.”
Juliette Lewis and RuPaul saluted the outstanding limited series. The winner was The White Lotus. Mike White made his way to the stage yet again.
“I forgot to thank HBO in my previous speeches,” he said, and proceeded to do so.
Pete Davidson came out next to announce the outstanding comedy. Before doing so, Davidson gave a shout-out to host Kenan Thompson, calling him “an absolute treasure and I’m honored to call him a friend.”
Ted Lasso won best comedy. Jason Sudeikis thanked the show’s Covid squad, noting how the production had no pandemic shutdowns in season two.
“The show is about good and evil, about truth and lies,” said Sudeikis. “It’s about all that stuff but mostly about our response to those things. Your response to our show has been amazing.”
Then it came down to outstanding drama. Selma Blair was there to open the envelope. Succession won.
“We are incredibly grateful to have this, it’s a wonderful honor,” said Jesse Armstrong.
He called the show “a team effort, starting with the engine room, the writers room.” He went on to credit the producers, directors and crew, and finally HBO, “who protect and support us.” ▪️
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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.