‘Succession’ Wins Best Drama at Emmys; ‘Schitt’s Creek’ Sweeps Comedy Awards

By John Jurgensen

HBO’s corporate dynasty story “Succession” won outstanding drama series at the 72nd Emmy Awards on Sunday, as the premium cable network fought off rivals like Netflix and Disney to keep its grip on the top honor after the exit of its reliable winner “Game of Thrones.”

The wins for “Succession” also included lead actor Jeremy Strong, writer Jesse Armstrong and director Andrij Parekh.

HBO’s “Watchmen” went into the night with more nominations than any series, and finished with the most wins, including outstanding limited series. “Watchmen” also earned wins for lead actress Regina King, supporting actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and writers Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson. The series, loosely based on the comic of the same name, made waves for the way it mixed history—the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, in particular—with science fiction and fantasy to tell a story about the Black experience and police.

HBO’s haul included a win for “Euphoria,” whose star Zendaya landed the award for lead actress in a drama, becoming the youngest person to do so at age 24.

With 30 Emmys, including awards handed out on previous nights, HBO beat out the 21 total wins of rival Netflix. The streamer had scored a record 160 nominations, but came up empty-handed in most major categories. Its crime family series “Ozark,” which had been considered a top contender for best drama, landed a win for supporting actress Julia Garner.

Apple, which launched its own streaming service less than a year ago, received its first primetime Emmy. It went to actor Billy Crudup for his supporting role in the drama series “The Morning Show.”

The comedy categories were completely dominated by “Schitt’s Creek,” a once-obscure sitcom that mushroomed in popularity and acclaim over six seasons. The show, about a rich family forced to start over with nothing in the eponymous backwater town, won for outstanding comedy series.

It also earned Emmys for its lead actors, the veteran sketch comedy performers Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, the first time Emmy awards for both actors. Mr. Levy co-created the Pop TV comedy with his son and co-star Daniel Levy, who won for supporting actor, and for writing and directing the show. A win for supporting actress Annie Murphy rounded out the “Schitt’s Creek” sweep.

Sunday night’s winners delivered their acceptance speeches from backyards, living rooms, and other remote settings that highlighted the unprecedented format of this year’s Emmys.

Pandemic forced the ceremony’s producers to reinvent the rituals that make all major award shows tick. They shipped some 130 camera kits to nominees, allowing them to appear live on screen from locations in 10 different countries.

The first major award show of the pandemic era started with a rerun of sorts—interspersing scenes of past Emmy audiences laughing and clapping along with host Jimmy Kimmel’s quips, like the one about the “Pand-Emmys”. (“You know what they say,” he joked, “you can’t have a virus without a host.”) The camera then cut to Mr. Kimmel inside the virtually empty Staples Center in Los Angeles, where various celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Tracee Ellis Ross joined him on stage to crack jokes and present awards.

Because Emmy rules prohibited producers from knowing results in advance, they invented ways to deliver awards to winners live, including a mechanized contraption that handed out trophies for best variety talk series (“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”) and competition program (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”).

The show tried to balance jokes about masks and social distancing with earnest tributes to essential workers, including a UPS driver, a truck driver and others who presented Emmy nominees in various categories.

“Watchmen” didn’t completely dominate the limited series races. Netflix scored a win via Maria Schrader’s directing award for “Unorthodox,” about a young woman from an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn who flees her marriage and starts a new life in Berlin. And Mark Ruffalo landed the lead actor award for his dual role as twins in HBO’s “I Know This Much Is True.”

As far as fashion, stars largely went super-glam or super-relaxed. The dress code was reportedly “come as you are, but make an effort.” Mr. Kimmel showed up in a full tuxedo. Live presenters including Ms. Aniston, Ms. Ellis Ross and Zendaya, each of whom were also up for awards, showed up in glamorous designer looks.

Ms. O’Hara, of “Schitt’s Creek,” wore a Valentino strapless double crepe wool dress with a sequined turtleneck top.

Rachel Brosnahan, a Best Actress, Comedy, nominee for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” wore what she called fashion pajamas during a video call in a red-carpet special as she conducted the interview from her living room. The colorful pajamas would be auctioned off later for a charity encouraging voting. Her dog wore a bow tie.


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