Emmys 2020: A Handful of Shows Dominate a Goofy Virtual Evening

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What helped the whole thing go down smoothly was Kimmel’s exceedingly dry take on the proceedings—never delivered without a smile, but still about as cynical as you can get on a network owned by the Walt Disney Corporation. “Why would you have an awards show in the middle of a pandemic?” he asked. “No, seriously, I’m asking: Why are we having an awards show in the middle of the pandemic?

“‘Why?’ is a question I’ve been asked a lot this week, and I get it,” he continued. “Yeah, it might seem frivolous and unnecessary to do this during a global pandemic. But you know what else seems frivolous and unnecessary? Doing it every other year.”

The words seemed a bit prophetic as the awards began to roll out. The Academy clumped the awards by category, chunking all the comedy awards in the first third, the drama awards in the last third, and all the other awards business—limited series, variety/talk, in memoriam, governor general’s award—in a shaggy middle section. The awards show staples felt, and indeed were, perfunctory. Maybe it’s an indication of how much a live glam audience adds to the evening, but this broadcast made all the industry hand-waving seem especially extraneous. The night was all about the winners. And it seemed to be an indication of just how little excites viewers these days that just a handful of shows dominated: Schitt’s Creek swept the comedy category in an unprecedented seven-award swoop that has never happened before. The Pop TV sitcom had set up a viewing party for the show, in a well-ventilated ballroom in Toronto, and to everyone’s surprise we returned to this room repeatedly to watch a beskirted Dan Levy breathlessly accept statuette after statuette, before declaring, “The internet’s about to turn on me.”

Was Schitt’s Creek’s final season really the one that merited all these awards? Er, probably not! The show’s not undeserving, of course, but something about the sweep in its final season suggested the Academy gave up trying to come up with other honorees, despite worthy contenders in Insecure, What We Do in the Shadows, and Ramy. A heartwarming comedy about rich people learning to be nice to poor people—ok, and each other—is exactly what a bunch of stressed-out Angelenos fretting about wildfires and the election while homeschooling their kids needed to marathon-watch this awards season. As Emmy-winner Catherine O’Hara’s Moira might say, timing is everything, bebé.

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Watchmen and Succession didn’t have quite the lock on their respective categories that Schitt’s did, but they still came away dominant. The resonance of Damon Lindelof’s race-conscious revision of the Watchmen comic books was not lost on the Academy; Watchmen won four Emmys, including outstanding limited series. In one particular category (direction, limited series) it was nominated three times, only to split the vote against itself—probably, anyway—to lose to Netflix’s Unorthodox. HBO’s other winning show, Succession, suffered from the same fate: Four major awards, including best drama, but a heartbreaker of a loss in supporting actor, drama, where heavyweights Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, and Nicholas Braun lost out to Morning Show’s Billy Crudup (who was also running against a castmate in Mark Duplass). And awards darling Uzo Aduba disrupted Watchmen’s Jean Smart to win Mrs. America’s only major award for her portrayal of legendary black feminist Shirley Chisholm.

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