In an industry that has seen its share of interesting changes and merger dramas over the past year, television’s most blatant parody of the media landscape, “Succession” — the HBO chronicle of the high-stakes story of an American global media family — won the Drama Award at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards. On Monday, it beat out an eclectic mix of competitors that ranged from the worldwide bloody thriller “The Squid Game” and Gen-Z thriller “Euphoria” to the water-cooling social media “Yellowjackets” and recently concluded critically-favorite “Better Call Saul.” .
“Succession” headed to this year’s Emmy Award as the most-nominated show with 25 nods, including writing and directing. After sitting out last year’s party due to pandemic delays, the third season of the HBO series, as widely expected, wasted little time in reclaiming the drama throne from The Crown. (“Caliphate” won the same award for its second season in 2020.)
Upon accepting the Drama Award, creator Jesse Armstrong began with a satirical introduction that “it’s been a big week for the succession,” referring to King Charles III.
“Obviously the vote is a bit more in our win than Prince Charles,” Armstrong said, with star Brian Cox, who plays Patriarch Logan Roy in the drama, “Keep it royally.”
“I’m not saying we’re more legitimate in our stance than he is,” Armstrong continued. “We will leave it to other people. But we are very grateful to have this. It is a great honor. This group is extraordinary. It is a team effort.”
HBO stars and creators paved the way to the stage, winning eleven televised awards. Combined with the Emmys for Creative Arts presented last week, HBO and HBO Max totaled 38 Emmys, topping the 26 that Netflix has received this year. HBO and Netflix have vied for the top Emmys winner in recent years, with Netflix taking the top spot last year.
Broadcasting live on NBC from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles — and streaming for the first time on sister platform Peacock — the in-person ceremony has largely felt less constrained by the backdrop of the pandemic than in the past two years. However, a reminder of her continued presence came from Bill Hader, who was nominated for his titular role in “Barry” on HBO and wore a mask throughout the ceremony.
AppleTV+’s “Ted Lasso” show about a highly optimistic American coach helping a beleaguered British soccer team, continues his streak as a darling Emmy, winning the comedy series for the second year in a row.
Former “Saturday Night Live” star Jason Sudeikis who played the title character won his second Emmy for Best Actor in a Comedy Motion Picture, and co-star Brett Goldstein won in the Supporting Actors category.
“Lotus” at the top
Meanwhile, HBO’s six-episode series The White Lotus grapples with wealth inequality issues, meeting expectations as the night’s biggest winner. In addition to winning a limited series, co-stars Jennifer Coolidge and Murray Bartlett also won for their performances. Creator Mike White won for directing and writing. It was the most honored program of the year with 10 wins between the televised concert and previous creative arts ceremonies.
In his acceptance letter to write, White referred to his time competing for the CBS reality series “Survivor” on the show’s 37th season in 2018.
“I was in ‘Survivor’ and the way to stay in the game is to lower your threat level. Now I feel like I raised my threat level. I just want to stay in the game, the trophies are great. I love writing, I love doing what I do. Don’t come for me, no” Vote for me off the island, please.”
But on a night that seemed so predictable, there were still some surprises.
One of the most exciting moments came when Sheryl Lee Ralph won for supporting actress in a comedy for her role as veteran kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard on ABC’s Abbott Elementary series. This was her first ever nomination and a career win – and she made history as the second black winner in the history of a supporting actress in the Comedy Series category. (He became Jackie Harry’s first in 1987 for “227.”)
Ralph with apparent shock stepped onto the stage and dazzled the room as she sang the lyrics of Diane Reeves’ song “Endangered Species”: “I’m an endangered species/But I don’t sing a victim’s song/I’m a woman I’m an artist/I know where my voice belongs.”
“To anyone who has ever had a dream and thought your dream was not, and will not, come true, and I am here to tell you that this is what faith is like, this is what pursuit looks like,” Ralph said as candidates like Natasha Rothwell and Hannah Waddingham rose from their seats.
But things turned awkward with another celebratory win for the sitcom, which earned seven nominations this year. To deliver the best writing in a comedy series, Will Arnett drags Kimmel who appears to have passed out on stage, joking that the late-night host had too few skinny margaritas after another Emmys loss. When the winner of this category was announced, Quinta Brunson, creator and star of the show, Kimmel kept going. Bronson had to skip it to deliver her acceptance speech, which many social media users found disrespectful.
“I know Jimmy Kimmel and … I felt like the thing didn’t bother me too much,” Bronson told reporters backstage. “I don’t know what the internet thinks! Honestly Jimmy gave me my first late night spot and he was one of the first people to see Abbott and he texted me on Instagram that he watched this comedy and thought it was one of the greatest comedies in All time….At that moment, I was really glad Jimmy was there!…I’ll be on his show on Wednesday, so I might punch him in the face. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”
“Squid Game,” the South Korean horror movie produced by Netflix that was a worldwide hit, has also won several awards. Actor Lee Jung-jae defeated “Succession” Jeremy Strong and Cox, “Better Call Saul’s” Bob Odenkirk, “Ozark’s” Jason Bateman, and “Severance’s” Adam Scott as the lead actor in the Drama category. The win made him the first actor from a foreign language program to win the award.
Lee praised the show, which features a killer game show for kids for a cash prize, and its creators for bringing “a real-life problem we all face to creative on screen.” Hwang Dong-hyuk received an Emmy Award for directing drama for the series.
The only reality-TV-related category of the night (the other category was distributed at Creative Arts Emmys earlier this month) saw the Emmy winner streak for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” via “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” in the competition show Category . The Amazon Prime Video series followed a group of dancers who auditioned to work with the pop star.
“When I was a little girl, all I wanted to see was me in the media – someone fat like me, black like me, beautiful like me,” Lizzo said while accepting the award.
“Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson hosted tonight’s festivities and gave the party some rhythm to the opening moments with a different kind of song and dance. Dressed in a tuxedo and top hat, Thompson may not have sung, but he and dozens of dancers interspersed in a sequence honoring some of television’s most memorable music with a mix of club-ready remixes of opening tunes from “Friends,” “Law & Order” and The Brady Bunch” and “Game of Thrones”.
Thompson’s jokes were mostly free of controversy. There was an early reference to NBC’s new platform Peacock, which served as the streaming home for the party: “Now, if you’re over 50, Peacock is NBC’s streaming service,” he said. And if you’re under 20, NBC is a network that used to feature ‘The Office.’ He went on to mock ‘Succession”s lack of overall acting and the dating life of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Thompson briefly alluded to the drama at this year’s Academy Awards with a shout-out to Regina Hall, who co-hosted that party and performed at the Emmy Awards.
“I’m surprised she’s attending yet another awards show. Girl, you’re brave—beautiful, all the way in the back, I love him,” he said.
Similar to last year, the nominees sat at tables, Golden Globes style, rather than typical theater style, making some interesting seating arrangements – Issa Rae next to Billy Crudup, Cox next to Sudeikis.
It has not been the ceremony of downsizing and scale in recent years, that has been affected by the global pandemic and the resulting production delays. After last year’s drop in the number of submissions for major races, this year’s total number of entries has gone up across most categories.
Among the other major winners of the night, Michael Keaton and Amanda Seyfried received Limited Series Performance Awards for Hulu dramas “Dopesick” and “The Dropout.” “Hacks” star Jan Smart won the award for comedian for the second time in a row, and “Ozark” star Julia Garner won her third Emmy for her Netflix series, this time for the final season.
NBC made sure to capitalize on the event’s promotional platform, with a host of networked talents appearing throughout the show, including Law & Order’s Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, and La Brea’s music star Natalie Zea- become daytime host Kelly Clarkson. “The White Lotus” star Jake Lacey gave an extended trailer for the upcoming real-life crime thriller Peacock, Family Friend.
Times team authors Stephen Battaglio and Ashley Lee contributed to this report.
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