Closing out the 2020 Emmys Schitt’s Creek, Watchmen, and Succession became the top series of the year in a groundbreaking year of representation both in front of and behind the camera.
With the world seemingly falling apart, a lot of us found it hard to focus on the Emmy race (and for good reason). On top of that, no one knew how to make heads or tails of a virtual ceremony with everyone accepting awards from their own homes. That’s why it came as a surprise to everyone when the 2020 Emmys quickly became one of the most exciting and emotionally fulfilling ceremonies in recent memory.
After championing Schitt’s Creek from the beginning, we at Awards Daily were emotional over the Rose family’s historic night. In the most wide-open drama race in years, Succession proved to be the top winner as we all become desperate for a third season. Watchmen, the ground breaking limited series that used the comic book genre to explore race relations in the United States, became the most accoladed limited series of the past decade. Then there was the huge upset in the lead actress race where Zendaya won over Emmy voters in a lineup of legendary names.
It was a lineup of winners without a single dud, and it couldn’t have come at a better moment.
All year long, we have questioned if the pandemic would have any major impact on the Emmy conversation. When the nominations came out in July, it seemed like everything was business as usual, at least for the most part. But tonight it’s clear that this year, more than any other year in the past, voters actually took the time to watch the nominees. After nearly shutting out I Know This Much Is True, enough voters caught up with it to award Mark Ruffalo. Even a show like Euphoria that might have been a harder sell to some voters in years past pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the night for Zendaya.
After tonight, it has become clear that the 2020 Emmys marks a shift in the Television Academy. Whether it be a fish out of water comedy on a network the average person has never heard of or a controversial teen drama or a comic book adaptation, Emmy voters have proven that they are ready to dismiss old habits and award shows and performances they would have unfairly dismissed just a couple of years ago. It’s more representative of television at large and proof that the Television Academy knows how to adapt in an ever-changing TV landscape.
So what sparked the change? Over the past couple of years, the Television Academy has gone from a mostly insular group to inviting thousands of new members to join. Their membership has become more diverse, they’ve become younger, and now they’re members come from all over whether it be LA, New York, or London.
Schitt’s Creek Makes History
In what might have been the single most exciting hour in Emmy history, Schitt’s Creek made history by becoming the first comedy to sweep all seven awards. One by one Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, and Annie Murphy won long overdue awards for their final season.
It was a jaw-dropping start to a night filled with worthy and exciting winners. We all had a feeling that this was finally the year of Schitt’s Creek, but no one anticipated Emmy voters going all out for the show in a record-breaking year. Sitting at home, we were all Karen Robinson jumping in the air, and it’s a night we’ll be gushing over for years to come.
Overall, the final season went home with nine Emmys, making history as the biggest comedy winner in a single year. That’s a huge accomplishment for a smaller modern comedy especially when you realize it won more awards than a tech/craft heavy show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Netflix might not have won very many awards last night, but their influence is stronger than ever. One of the reasons Schitt’s Creek has been able to reach such a massive audience is the fact it is available through streaming syndication on Netflix. The same model also helped The Good Place reach a wider audience as well. With no less than five streaming giants exciting Emmy voters, it will be interesting to see if streaming syndication plays a larger role in the Emmy conversation over the next couple of years.
For the second year in a row, we’ve seen Emmy voters surprise everyone by going all-in on smaller shows that years prior didn’t even factor into the Emmy conversation. It’s clear now that this is a new Televsion Academy that isn’t afraid to embrace different types of comedy, especially shows with a more distinctive voice. Last year they fell in love with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s perspective and this year Dan Levy got the same treatment. So who could get the same treatment next year? Could it be someone like Ramy Youssef, Bill Hader, or Donald Glover? Or could Pen15 factor into the conversation?
Succession Wins Big While Zendaya Surprises
Surprising no one, Succession won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series as well as awards for writing, directing, and the lead actor prize for Jeremy Strong. The second season was able to capitalize off of its unlikely pop culture status to become the top drama of the year. Wins for series, writing, and directing came as a surprise to no one, but we were all waiting to see how the cast would do after being shut out the year before.
In the end, Jeremy Strong earned that kiss from daddy and was the only member of the Roy family to do so. Fans have long rallied behind Strong’s performance, even if the Globes favored Brian Cox. Strong also benefited from that fact that all of the show’s biggest viral moments came from him whether it be Kendall’s rap or his shocking speech in the season’s final moments.
Billy Crudup won the supporting actor award, marking the first major award of his career. His win is also the first Emmy win for Apple TV+. It has been an interesting year for the fledgling streaming service and their flagship show, and after Crudup’s win, it will be fascinating to see if the show becomes a bigger contender.
By far one of the most exciting wins of the night came when Zendaya won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series beating a category packed with Emmy darlings and Oscar nominees. In the past, Emmy voters might have penalized her for being a former Disney star, but now it seems like (and deservedly so) it only added to her narrative as one of the more interesting actors of her generation. At 24, she also became the youngest winner in the history of the category beating out last year’s winner, Jodie Comer, who won at the age of 26. Her win really is extraordinary and marks a stark change in the Television Academy – one that is more open to exploring new genres and sensibilities while putting outside politics aside in favor of the actual performance.
Coming out of the ceremony, one of the biggest questions was what exactly happened to Ozark? Fresh off its two wins last year, the Netflix drama entered the race as one of the most nominated shows of the year with 18 nominations. In fact, there was even a possibility that Ozark could be the show that finally brings Netflix a top series prize. Instead, it lost every category besides supporting actress where Julia Garner repeated. Is it just a matter of voters knowing they’ll have more opportunities to reward it in the future? Or is there something more going on and are voters resistant to go all in on Netflix?
Watchmen and the Limited Series Races
As expected, Watchmen took home the Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series as well as a writing award and two acting prizes for Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Overall, the groundbreaking limited series ended its run with 11 Emmys – the biggest haul for a limited series in over a decade.
One of the few categories Watchmen lost was the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie. Yet again, Jean Smart entered the ceremony as the frontrunner only to go home empty handed. That shouldn’t take away from the winner though as Uzo Aduba won her third Emmy in less than a decade, becoming one of the few actors to win an award for all three genres.
This year also cemented Regina King and Uzo Aduba as two of the most beloved actors working in television today. This is Regina King’s fourth Emmy in five years, all for different distinct roles. This is also Uzo Aduba’s third Emmy in six years making her one of the few actors to win an Emmy across all three genres. They are two of the best actors working today, and it’s great to see the Television Academy acknowledging that.
One of the most shocking wins of the night came when Mark Ruffalo won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie for his duel performance in I Know This Much to Be True. Most of us dismissed his chances after he became the show’s only nomination with the fear that the dark subject matter might scare voters away. In the end, those that did catch up with the limited series were passionate about Ruffalo’s performance.
Maybe the biggest surprise came when Maria Schrader won for directing the Netflix limited series Unorthodox. A lot of us expected the race to come down to one of the three Watchmen episodes and posthumous support for Little Fires Everywhere‘s Lynn Shelton. Instead, Unorthodox won the award after critics and fans of the show rallied behind the underdog. Now it’s clear that directors prefer to reward directors who are nominated for the entire series as opposed to a single episode. Five of the past six winners won for their entire projects including Susanne Bier (The Night Manager), Jean-Marc Vallee (Big Little Lies), and Johan Renck (Chernobyl).
Tallying The Primetime Ceremony Winners
7 – Schitt’s Creek
4 – Succession, Watchmen
1 – Euphoria, I Know This Much is True, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Mrs. America, Ozark, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Unorthodox
Readers, what did you think of this year’s Emmys? Were you happy with this year’s winners? How do you feel the virtual format worked? Sound off in the comments below!