The show must go on – even if we can't really have a show. That was the case at the Emmy's last night, honoring the best of TV from a safe distance the best way we know how: with Zoom calls. It was strange, surreal, totally different ... and kind of a blast (except for anyone who was up against "Schitt's Creek").
On that note, the Canadian cult comedy pulled seven awards over the northern border and owned the first hour of the show while "Succession" and "Watchmen" spilt most of the major awards on the dramatic side. But who really won the night? And who really lost? And who really wants to explain to me what Jeremy Strong's wearing here?
Is it an ascot? A neck scarf? A regular tie just gone wrong? Help me, I am a confused man with no fashion sense.
Anyways, here are the real winners and losers from Sunday night's one-of-a-kind ceremony.
Winner: A social distanced ceremony
As anyone who's had a work meeting over the past several months can attest, the idea of turning an awards show into a Zoom call sounds like a nightmare. People not hitting their mute buttons. People dropping in and out of connection. Family pets rubbing themselves against the camera and barking at the mailman in the middle of a conversation. It's a mess – and plus, as the main means of communication these days, I have zero percent interest in seeing a video call screen beyond when I have to. In a just world, Zoom would still just be an old children's television variety show I used to watch as a kid, not a last healthy link to society.
But like the NFL Draft, what seemed to be a forced limitation ended up granting the show freedom. No longer confined to a single stage, a presenter could be a prerecorded essential worker or David Letterman hitchhiking in the middle of a dirt road or a Emmy worker in a hazmat suit and tie. Instead of being stuck in their chairs, losers could give a glamourous lounging cheers like a champ.
Instead of wearing fancy clothes, they could choose no clothes like Jeff Garlin from "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
And best of all, the usual staid awards show traditions felt infinitely more authentic and sincere. The usual grandstanding speeches and congratulations felt real coming from people's casual living rooms, talking to a crowd of their loved ones and smiling at the awkwardness and the appreciativeness of it all – even when their seating arrangement looked like a blood sacrifice was about to break out after the show.
As stiff as that arrangement above may look, Jesse Armstrong of "Succession" not only gave a funny and unique "un-thank you" speech that didn't feel preachy, but a phone call interrupted his evening's celebrations for a moment as one person had to quick pop out of frame to turn off the ringer. Just like us on our Zoom calls! Forget having celebs toss out movie candy at a screening or take a selfie; this was truly the "Stars: They're Just Like Us" awards show – complete with Helena Bonham Carter making her dog wave at the screen.
Loser: Jimmy Kimmel
I've actually liked Jimmy Kimmel's run as the go-to big awards show host of late. In the past, he's balanced the tone right, playing convivial master of ceremonies while also letting enough air out of the balloon so we all remember it's just a silly night of celebs playing dress up and hoisting shiny paperweights. This is the guy who managed to handle the greatest mess-up in awards show history with his dignity intact.
The new atmosphere for Sunday's proceedings, however, left Jimmy Kimmel on a bit of island. Yes, literally, hosting mostly isolated from The Architect's room from "The Matrix Reloaded" save for a few guests and a DJ pumping the jams for an audience of air molecules. But even more so tonally. With the broadcast coming from people's living rooms, attendees dressed for a night in surrounded by a few loving friends and family, and essential workers often playing the part of presenters, the show had a sweet, sincere and truly celebratory vibe that Kimmel kept puncturing with political jabs and snarky commentary that didn't hit the mark enough to make up for harshing the room's buzz – pretty impressive considering it was a room of just him.
Normally, Kimmel's there to knock the pretensions down – but what pretensions are there to kill when it's a glorified Zoom meeting with people making their pets wave at the camera and crafting their own awards out of Reynolds Wrap?
Winner: New ads for new entertainment
This is going to sound so silly and minor, but there was something weirdly comforting about seeing big exciting advertisements on TV for new shows. With movie theaters still closed in major markets and moviegoing a major question mark in terms of financial and public health, there haven't been any new films coming out – and therefore there haven't been any exciting ads to brighten up commercial breaks and tease exciting footage. But last night, all of the major networks and streaming services put their best feet forward, buying ad time for sizzle reels of nominated shows, plugging popular programs and debuting new footage from some of the year's most anticipated television – particularly Disney+, which busted out trailers for both the Marvel show "WandaVision" and the "Right Stuff" TV remake (which wasn't new but never got a rollout like this before).
Maybe I'm the only one who cared or felt anything – I mean, come on, Matt; they're literally just advertisements – but seeing these ads and getting excited about seeing new footage almost made things feel normal. Or at least reminded me that the future exists – and can even feel exciting!
Loser: Comedy bits
The reconfigured, Bubble Boy-ed version of the Emmys offered a new sense of freedom and authenticity this year, but unfortunately there was no escape from that annual awards season menace: forced comedy bits. Whether it was awkward scripted banter between the few presenters allowed into Kimmel's Emmys HQ or the Kia sponsored content segments (because nothing screams glamour like Kia!), all of these bits – played to a silent audience of cameramen and producers – ended up more awkward and clunky than the buffering Skype calls from people's living rooms.
Worst of all, while there was time for these clumsy comedy routines, as the show went along, the clips of nominated performers and shows seemed to disappear in the name of ending close to on time. Why do awards shows seem so reluctant to showcase the stuff they're here to honor? Awards shows are literally glorified advertisements anyways – so why not advertise and promote these programs with clips that entice viewers? This is an evergreen awards season complaint – but with everything changed and altered this year, there's never been more reason to change and tinker with old formulas. Especially if it means no more clanking comedy segments about Jimmy Kimmel feeling awkwardly pressured into saying, "Black Lives Matter."
Winner: "Schitt's Creek"
If Moira Rose loved awards season before, she must be even more enamored now after "Schitt's Creek" dominated the comedy categories and the entire first hour of the Emmy's on Sunday night. The fish-out-of-water favorite won every single major comedy award, delivering the first ever seven-award sweep and the first ever comedy acting sweep. And since all the comedy awards came first in the evening, it felt less like the Emmys and more like the "Schitt's Creek" Appreciation Hour. By the time we reached a non-Canadian winner, I'd memorized their entire banquet hall set-up, fully analyzed everyone's wardrobe choices – including the random family members at the party – and even began recognizing the faces of wait staff making the rounds.
It should've been boring television – the same few winners in the same venue, making similar speeches thanking the same general people, back to back to back – but instead it was charming and strangely unpredictable in its predictability. The power of Canadian politeness, I guess! Plus, it was history – courtesy of Pop TV of all places! And really, who's going to complain about giving Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy a night of well-earned bows?
Loser: Whoever spent the last several weeks setting up other comedy nominees webcams
You know some poor tech guy had to communicate and coordinate and troubleshoot with famous people's assistants for the past several weeks, organizing this high-tech and multi-national show ... only for all of that work to be rendered useless because the only feed necessary for the first hour was the one from the fancy "Schitt's Creek" banquet hall in Canada. At least that tech guy now knows how to Zoom call Hugh Jackman if he ever wants to talk about "The Greatest Showman" or something.
The world of entertainment may be changing rapidly, but one thing hasn't changed: It still isn't TV; it's HBO.
The famed cable game-changer held the streamers back for another year, coming up big in all of the non-"Schitt's Creek" categories. "Watchmen" and "Succession" tied for the most awards of the night (behind "Schitt's Creek," of course) with four each, including big acting awards for Regina King, Jeremy Strong and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as well as the ballyhooed final award of the night going to HBO's popular rich-family-behaving-badly dramedy. And outside of thosee two big performers, HBO racked up other starry wins with Zendaya becoming the Emmy's youngest Best Actress in a Drama winner thanks to her leading turn in "Euphoria," Mark Ruffalo getting an award for his double duty work in the grim drama "I Know This Much Is True" and John Oliver breaking "Schitt's Creek" run of consecutive wins with his victory in Outstanding Variety Talk Series.
HBO may be considered by some to be the past of prestige television and Peak TV, especially with so many of its biggest names ("Game of Thrones," "Veep") now kaput. But it sure looked like the present and future on Sunday night.
Netflix may be winning the pandemic by giving us all a lifeline for entertainment escape when we can't go to the movies or concerts or sporting events or ... just about anywhere, but the Big Red Streaming Monolith couldn't win over the Emmys this year. Despite having the most major nominations at the start of the night (37), Netflix only managed two wins in primetime: a directing award for the Orthodox Jewish coming-of-age drama "Unorthodox" and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for Julia Garner in "Ozark." In the end, the Great Streaming Revolution was beaten by HBO and Pop TV, which most people hadn't even heard of until they heard the Rose clan keep thanking them. (Ironically, most people watch "Schitt's Creek" on Netflix, who saw the show beat its ACTUAL originals Sunday night.)
Some hypothesize that Netflix just isn't a very good awards season campaigner, that the company gets a ton of nominations but struggles to focus in on pushing select shows and performances. Plus, HBO is legendary at campaigning, and Pop TV (again ... what is this?) had an exciting hit with industry-favorite names playing beloved characters, all taking their final bows.
But one wonders if this points to the greater problem with Netflix – namely it's binge focus. While it may be great for consumers to gorge on a show they love and good for Netflix's numbers, when it comes to sticking around in the cultural conversation, Netflix shows are starting to struggle. Take a look at last summer: "Stranger Things" may have been a monster hit for a week or two, but HBO's "Succession" felt like the bigger cultural touchstone because, for two to three months, the world was abuzz about the show every Sunday night. So when it came for voting, what did people remember: the flash in the pan or the three-month obsession? Bingeing may be fun, but when it comes to building hype, building excitement, building a satisfying story or building an awards resume, maybe television had it right the old-fashioned way.
Winner: Ramy Youssef
We all figured losing at an awards show sucks, but thanks to "Ramy" star and creator Ramy Youssef, we know EXACTLY how painfully awkward, weird and hilarious losing can be.
I say bring back the hazmat awards presenters every year. They can't do any worse than Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway!
The much-maligned "quick bites" streaming service – perfect for watching something short while commuting to work (nevermind that it debuted while nobody was commuting to work), ideal for people who like watching movies but without that pesky "watching" part – actually won two Emmys this weekend: two performance awards for Lawrence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones on "#FreeRayshawn." However, since the short form awards aren't broadcast, nobody watched or cared – much like everything involving Quibi.
Winner: People who need that "Friends" reunion
Are you one of those people sad that the HBO Max "Friends" reunion has been postponed? Are you somehow upset by the lack of "Friends" content in the world? Are you confused, like me, because the cast of "Friends" seems to reunite all the time but people still lose their minds when even just a few of the key cast members get together? Well, do I have a Emmys segment for you!
It wasn't even a full reunion! And for some odd reason, Jason Bateman was there! Bateman, you may be an award winner for "Ozark" and have a quality career as both a comedic and serious performer, BUT YOU NEVER PLAYED ROSS, JOEY, CHANDLER OR EVEN GUNTHER! No one asked for a "The Switch" reunion!
Loser: Red carpet shows
The fashion experts and red carpet shows were already going to struggle this year due to, you know, the lack of an actual red carpet this year. Sure, they could grade people through social media feeds and Zoom footage, but you're not exactly getting the best angles and looks while celebs sit in overlit living rooms, occasionally glitching and buffering.
But in case things couldn't get any worse ...
A sincere best wishes to both of them for a speedy and safe recovery. As much as we poke fun at these kind of hosts pestering people about whose clothes they were wearing and asking questions that awkwardly proved they hadn't watched any of the nominated shows, it truly won't feel like normal without them.
Winner: Sarah Snook
The "Succession" star may not have won an Emmy last night, but she won something even better: a tin foil Emmy. And also America's hearts.
See, nobody's having this kind of adorable, self-depreciating fun at a normal awards show!
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.