The 72nd Annual Emmy Awards occurred on Sunday, September 20. The Emmy Awards is the largest and most prestigious television award show. Every year, thousands of actors, directors, writers, producers, and other members of the television industry congregate in Hollywood to celebrate the best recent television. Winning an Emmy award is seen as the highest possible achievement in the television industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Television Academy to make some changes to the format of the show. Instead of the large amphitheater where the show usually takes place, the 2020 Emmys took place in a small circular room, blanketed wall to wall with television feeds live-streaming from each of the nominee’s homes. Jimmy Kimmel, a perennial Emmy host, hosted with special live appearances from other celebrities. Another large change in the format of the show was the award presenters. Normally, celebrities would announce the winner for each category to their peers. However, this year the Academy decided to have essential workers present some of the more coveted awards, including farmers, doctors, UPS workers, truckers, and teachers who hosted pre-recorded segments.
The show began with the comedy genre. Nominated shows this year included The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, What We Do in the Shadows, and consistent contender Saturday Night Live. The heavyweight, however, was a humble sitcom filmed in Ontario: Schitt’s Creek. Viewers fell in love with the likeable cast, Canadian humor, and the central LBGTQ couple handled with elegance and heart. It was safe to say that “Schitt’s Creek” was the favorite, but nobody expected it to win. However, the show dominated the comedy category, winning all 7 Primetime Emmys and an additional 2 Creative Arts Emmys. It broke the record for most Emmys for a comedy series winning 9 of the coveted statues. Comedy legends Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy picked up their first wins. To cap off a legendary night, Schitt’s Creek took home the most important award of all: Outstanding Comedy Series.
The next segment of the Emmys gave awards shows in the reality genre. Winners included Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and RuPaul’s Drag Race. The following segment was the limited series genre. Unlike Comedy, there was no clear favorite, and the winners proved such.
Regina King, a recent Oscar winner, won Outstanding Lead Actress for her role in HBO’s Watchmen, an adaptation of the comic book with the same name. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II also won Outstanding Supporting Actor for his work in Watchmen. The show also won the award for Outstanding Writing and the Outstanding Limited Series. It was acclaimed for its superhuman fiction of the real-life 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which was organized by a white supremacist organization called the Seventh Cavalry. The show was applauded for its bold commentary on race in America, an ever-present issue.
Boston native Uzo Aduba picked up the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role in Mrs. America, a fictionalized depiction of the political movement leading to the Equal Rights Amendment and the ensuing backlash.
Before awards in the Drama category were handed out, the Academy chose to recognize a few members of the television industry who were not nominated, such as Tyler Perry, the historic producer who was honored with the illustrious Governor’s Award, for exemplifying the television industry.
The Drama category, championed by heavyweight Succession, was the last genre of the night. The show follows the lives of an elite New York family as they claw at each other for the rights to their dying billionaire father’s wealth. Sudbury native Jeremy Strong won his first Emmy for his role as the socialite’s second eldest. Succession went on to win awards in both directing and writing.
Another highlight of the evening was Zendaya’s Emmy win; she became the youngest person to win Best Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of a high-school drug addict in the colorful, raw world of HBO’s Euphoria. Social media erupted at the announcement of her victory, a child-star who had made it in the big league.
Criticism of the Emmys was inevitable. The Academy was rightfully criticized for their lack of transgender nominees, such as Hunter Schafer, and the many transgender stars of FX’s Pose. The Emmys also saw a record low number of nominations for Asian and Hispanic entertainers in many years.
Nevertheless, the message of the show was clear. A majority of the winner’s speeches had a similar message: Vote. Regina King, Mark Ruffalo, and even the Canadian winners encouraged us all to take a stand. Some of the most recognizable people in the world gathered at the show, telling their fans that their voices, no matter how small, can make a difference.