An Emmys Unlike Any Other…
And Let’s Hope, Like Never Again
When it came to this years actual Emmys broadcast this year, I was inclined to quote Roger Ebert, my north star. In this case, he was quoting Samuel Johnson when he saw a dog walking on its hind legs: “While one finds it being done poorly, it is remarkable to see it done at all.” And while Jimmy Kimmel may not know that quote, one can certainly understand the sentiment given the circumstances.
I’ll admit, I spent most of the last few months unsure the Emmys, given the world we live in, was going to happen. And when it was done in an empty auditorium, with all the awards being giving virtually and all the speeches being done via Facetime, there were so many possible ways for it to go wrong that the fact that nothing did is an achievement in itself. We heard everybody’s speeches fine, the presentations at the Staples Center and through other presenters were done well, and the show only finished two minutes over its allotted time. But by paring everything to the bone the way they did — there were few montage sequences, few joke sequences — it mostly allowed things to concentrate on the actual awards far better than they did last year when everything just meandered. That was an achievement, and its sad that it took a pandemic to do it.
As for the awards, they were dominated by two very different wealthy families. I expected Schitt’s Creek to do well; I didn’t expect it to make history. It won all seven of the Emmys it was up for: perhaps the first comedy to do so, and definitely the first series of any kind to do so since Angels in America in 2003. While it would’ve been nice for The Good Place to have won something on its final season, it’s hard to be upset that Schitt’s Creek did so well. Most of the actors are ones I have admired for decades, and I was over the moon to see Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara finally win prizes for their comic portrayals. And I was equally thrilled to see Dan Levy, a man who I have come to admire over the past few years do as well as Phoebe Waller-Bridge did last year. I’ll confess now that I’ve only see a few episodes of Schitt’s Creek in my life. Netflix, here I come.
The other wealthy family was the back-biting moguls in Succession. They also won eight Emmys this year, though most of them were in technical aspect as well as directing and writing. I was a little surprised to see Jeremy Strong triumph over Brian Cox, but in a way it was fitting. He managed to do that in Season 2 as well, and that’s a triumph.
My happiest moments were for the Limited Series awards. I don’t know how many awards Watchmen ended up taking overall — I think they topped out at 11. But I was overjoyed to see Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II triumph for their incredible performances. I was a little surprised to see that Jean Smart ended up losing to Uzo Aduba for Mrs. America — I really thought three great performances would cancel each other out — but it was a close call, and I think she earned it. And I was grateful to see Mark Ruffalo deservedly prevail — I thought the fact that I Know This Much Is True had no other nominations would hurt his chances, but clearly they did not.
There were justifiably a lot of new winners at this years Emmys — the only person who repeated from last year was Julia Garner for Ozark, which was a shock — I really thought Helena Bonham Carter or Meryl Streep would prevail. But mostly I was happy with the results — with one real exception. I just can’t justify Zendaya winning for Euphoria. I realize she is a stunning talent and she has her fans, but compared to all the other actresses in the category — hell, compared to some of the women in Big Little Lies or Westworld or any of the other shows that were snubbed — this is one of the greatest travesties I’ve seen in years, and yes, I’m counting all the wins Game of Thrones managed.
I’m not surprised in retrospect how well HBO did — again, but how poorly Netflix did. Garner was the only major winner Emmy night, and they got shut out for the lion’s share of the Creative Arts awards. In contrast, Disney+ won several prizes for The Mandalorian, AppleTV won a Supporting Actor prize for Billy Crudup, and POP, which was the broadcasters of Schitt’s Creek had a very good night.. This may not be the best sign for Netflix, which is under scrutiny for other issues.
Of course, I have no doubt certain people will be upset at the political nature of the acceptance speeches. To which I say: So what? Look where we are all these days. There are so many crisis going on its hard to keep track of them. Hell, it’s because of them were going to very lucky if we have a fall season at all. I’m frankly amazed that, given all the problems, our current president’s name was only mentioned once. Everybody’s angry. The Emmys happened this way is the smallest factor of all of this.
Hell, given everything going on in the world today, I was grateful for a few mere hours to have an escape from it. So I’ll end my piece with a bit of hope. I hope that things get better enough so we have a fall season, and that we never have an Emmys in this format again. We will have new nominees next year — hell, the comedies are losing two major series — and hopefully, the world will be calmer then.