The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards were presented by ABC on Sunday night. Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the ceremony was mostly virtual, with a few presenters joining Kimmel onstage and the winning nominees receiving their awards and delivering acceptance speeches live from their homes. Despite a few segments that missed the mark, the broadcast was an all-around success: a laudable feat considering the producers were managing livestreams from hundreds of nominees across several countries.
The night’s biggest winner was Canadian sitcom “Schitt’s Creek,” which made history by being the first show to win all seven major categories within its genre in the same year. Other genre categories awarded a wider variety of programs, but “Watchmen” walked away with four wins in the limited series group and “Succession” with four awards in drama, both the top winners of their respective categories. HBO was the most successful network of the night, winning 11 awards.
In the first two categories of the ceremony, outstanding lead actress and actor in a comedy series, on-screen couple Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy were both awarded much-deserved trophies for their portrayals of Moira and Johnny Rose on “Schitt’s Creek.”
Levy reserved the end of his speech to praise his son, Dan Levy, who is his co-star and a co-creator on “Schitt’s Creek.” Shortly afterward, Dan Levy was given the opportunity to return the favor three times over after winning outstanding writing for a comedy series, outstanding directing for a comedy series (along with his co-director Andrew Cividino) and outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series.
Annie Murphy surprised with a win for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her performance in “Schitt’s Creek,” cementing the show’s sweep in the acting categories — a first-ever achievement.
After winning six awards in six categories, it was all but inevitable that “Schitt’s Creek” would win outstanding comedy series. In their joint speech, Dan and Eugene Levy spoke on the power of inclusivity, diversity and love — all values that their show celebrates.
The limited series categories began with an expected but much-deserved win. Regina King won in the outstanding lead actress in a limited series category for her searing performance as Angela Abar in HBO’s “Watchmen.”
Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson earned a second trophy for “Watchmen” in the outstanding writing for a limited series category, in which they were nominated for their episode “This Extraordinary Being.” The episode was one of the year’s best, and its writers’ innovation and subversiveness was duly recognized.
The director of “This Extraordinary Being,” Stephen Williams, was expected to follow Lindelof and Jefferson with a win of his own in the directing category, but in one of the night’s bigger surprises, Maria Schrader won for her work directing Netflix’s “Unorthodox.”
The award for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie went to UC Berkeley alumnus Yahya Abdul-Mateen II for his work as Cal Abar in “Watchmen,” giving the series its third win of the night. The outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie category had no clear front-runner this year, but Uzo Aduba, who played Shirley Chisholm on “Mrs. America,” broke through the competition and earned the award.
“Watchmen” satisfied expectations by winning for outstanding limited series. In his acceptance speech, Lindelof seized the opportunity to call for deeper exploration and understanding of the more painful components of American history, such as the 1921 Tulsa race massacre that serves as the focal point for much of Lindelof’s show.
“Succession” took the first win of the drama categories with Jeremy Strong’s trophy for outstanding lead actor in a drama series, a tough competition that included powerhouse performers Jason Bateman, Billy Porter and Strong’s co-star Brian Cox.
In by far the most surprising upset of the night, Zendaya beat out Laura Linney and Jodie Comer for her role as Rue Bennett in HBO’s “Euphoria,” a show that received critical acclaim but little recognition by Emmys voters. At 24 years old, Zendaya is the youngest to win outstanding lead actress in a drama series and the second Black woman to do so.
In both the outstanding directing and outstanding writing for a drama series categories, “Succession” was again rewarded. Jesse Armstrong won for writing the season’s final episode, and Andrij Parekh for directing “Hunting,” the episode that shocked a nation with the sadistic game “boar on the floor.”
The supporting acting categories were a mixed bag: Billy Crudup of “The Morning Show” surprised by triumphing over all three “Succession” nominees in his category, but Julia Garner won her expected second award for “Ozark.”
“Succession” finished out a generally predictable ceremony with its predictable win for outstanding drama series. Armstrong used his speech to deliver the only explicitly political polemic of the night, offering “un-thank you” wishes to President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson for mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic.
Though every comedy series other than “Schitt’s Creek” went home empty-handed, the night was an overall improvement over recent ceremonies that tended to award endurance over quality. With “Schitt’s Creek” no longer on air, “Succession” is the reigning champion and the stiffest competition for the 2021 competitors.
Matthew DuMont covers television. Contact him at [email protected].