"Schitt's Creek," the late bloomer that was largely ignored by most viewers and the Emmys until last year, finally bloomed Sunday, sweeping all seven awards in the comedy category.
"Creek," which ended its six-season run this spring, won outstanding comedy at the 72nd Primetime Emmys and also scored Emmy wins for best actress (Catherine O'Hara) and actor (Eugene Levy).
Meanwhile, "Succession" — the brilliant HBO family business drama with a passing resemblance to one family business in particular (the Murdochs) — won for outstanding drama. Jeremy Strong of "Succession" won the best actor award and shared his win with co-lead Brian Cox, who had been expected to land this one.
Meanwhile, Zendaya — born Zendaya Coleman, the former Disney Channel star — also won best actress for the HBO drama "Euphoria." She became the youngest person to win that category.
But the night belonged to the little comedy with a big heart. The Canadian import also won major directing and writing awards early in the evening, both harbingers for best comedy, followed by more harbingers still: Daniel Levy — who won the writing award and shared the directing one — also won best supporting actor in a comedy. Annie Murphy won best supporting actress.
Meanwhile, the night almost belonged to host Jimmy Kimmel, too. He kicked off the quirkiest Primetime Emmys ceremony with an act of TV legerdemain that might end up winning its own Emmy one of these days. At the broadcast's outset, he beckoned to a packed audience before him, then proceeded to tell his monologue, with references to nominated luminaries in the audience, including Norman Lear.
It looked real. They looked real. Was it real?
Nah. Just a little bit of that ol' TV magic (footage of from previous award shows). Kimmel then admitted there was no audience at all, and suddenly, the cameras panned across the dark emptiness of the Staples Center.
"I'm here all alone," he said. "Just like prom night. Of course we don't have an audience. This isn't a MAGA rally."
Even without a pandemic, these awards promised to be complicated enough — battling anemic ratings, a threadworm structure, and an explosion in TV content that has flattened viewer interest in Emmy accolades instead of piquing them. There was recognition that they had to change anyway, if not exactly this kind of change.
To compensate for the lack of an audience at the Staples Center, Kimmel explained that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences had shipped kits to 200 nominees around the world, with instructions on how to set up their own makeshift studios. Employing that equipment, winners were able to remotely accept their statuettes (often handed to them by from people in hazmat suits).
But the biggest challenge before the Emmys was diversity, while this year, members of the Academy nominated a record number of Black performers (35) among a total of 102 nominations in various categories, and bestowed the Governor's Award on Tyler Perry.
As widely expected, "Watchmen" — the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons/John Higgins comic series re-imagined by Damon Lindelof as the 1921 Tulsa "Black Wall Street" massacre — won for limited series, while star Regina King won for best actress in a limited series.
But otherwise, the Emmys' embrace of diversity — at least for winners — was mixed. In introducing the limited series category, another nominee Anthony Anderson ("Black-ish") joked that the Emmys "couldn't handle how Black" the awards were going to be this year, but instead, "Here I am alone in a sterilized green room trying not to sneeze on a llama," referring to one of the night's more unusual presenters. He then led Kimmel on a chant of "Black Lives Matter."