LOS ANGELES — “Schitt’s Creek,” the little Canadian show about a fish-out-of-water family, made history at Sunday’s Emmy Awards with a comedy awards sweep, something even TV greats including “Frasier” and “Modern Family” failed to achieve.
The Pop TV show’s awards included best comedy series and awards for its stars, including Catherine O’Hara, and father-son Eugene and Daniel Levy.
“Our show at its core is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and this is something we need more now than ever before,” said co-creator and star Daniel Levy, who encouraged people to register and vote to achieve that goal.
O’Hara accepted the award virtually in the pandemic-safe ceremony, which included a number of winners who made a point that the Nov. 3 general election was near.
“Though these are the strangest of days, may you have as much joy being holed up in a room or two with your family as I had with my dear Roses,” O’Hara said, surrounded in a decorated room in Toronto by mask-wearing co-stars who play the Rose family members.
Levy called it “ironical that the straightest role I ever played lands me an Emmy for a comedy performance. I have to seriously question what I’ve been doing” for the past 50 years.
Moments later, Levy’s son Daniel won the award for comedy writing for an episode of “Schitt’s Creek,” then shared a directing award and captured the supporting actor comedy trophy. The supporting actress trophy went to his co-star Annie Murphy.
Daniel Levy thanked his father and O’Hara for teaching an extended “master class” in comedy. The show’s sweep came for its much-acclaimed final season.
References to coronavirus were an ongoing part of the ceremony, with essential workers — including a teacher and a UPS deliveryman — presenting awards and Jason Sudeikis ostensibly getting a COVID-19 test onstage.
In a year with a record number of Black nominees, 35, there was a notable lack of diversity in the show’s early going. With “Schitt’s Creek” gobbling up comedy awards, that left “Insecure” and creator Issa Rae empty-handed Sunday.
That was also true of Ramy Youssef, creator-star of the semi-autobiographical comedy “Ramy,” about a young Muslim American’s love and religious life. Yousef tweeted a video of a hazmat suit-wearing person clutching an Emmy and waving goodbye after he lost the lost the comedy actor category.
There was a sign of change with the drama awards, which came in the latter part of the ceremony.
The powerful series “Watchmen,” a graphic novel-adaptation steeped in racial pain, was voted best limited series and star Regina King won lead actress for her work on the HBO show. She was showered by confetti as she accepted in an armchair, wearing a T-shirt that honoured police shooting victim Breonna Taylor.
“This is so freaky and weird,” said King, who regained her composure and called on viewers to vote.
Her co-star, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, won the Emmy for best supporting actor in a limited series. Uzo Aduba won the counterpart actress award for her portrayal of Shirley Chisholm in “Mrs. America.”
Anthony Anderson, a nominee for “black-ish,” came on stage to make his disappointment vigorously known, saying the awards should have been “Howard University homecoming Black.”
“This isn’t what it should have been. … But Black stories, Black performances and Black Lives Matter,” he said, urging host Jimmy Kimmel to shout with him.
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” was again honoured as best variety-talk series, with David Letterman announcing the award after being abandoned roadside by an annoyed ride-share driver.
Oliver joined the ranks of winners calling for Americans to vote, as did Mark Ruffalo, who won the limited series acting trophy for “I Know This Much is True”
Kimmel opened the show with a monologue that appeared to be defiantly delivered in front of a packed, cheering theatre — until it was revealed they were clips from past Emmy shows.
“Of course I’m here all alone. Of course, we don’t have an audience,” he said. “This isn’t a MAGA rally. It’s the Emmys.”
With more than 100 long-distance video feeds with nominees ahead, “what could possibly go right?”
A minor gaffe marred Saturday’s virtual Emmys for technical and other honours, when Jason Bateman’s name was announced for a guest acting award that belonged to Ron Cephas Jones of “This Is Us.” Other guest acting honours went to Eddie Murphy and Maya Rudolph for “Saturday Night Live” and Cherry Jones for “Succession.”
Bateman was one of the few people on hand at the Staples Center for Sunday’s show, sitting in the audience during Kimmel’s opening monologue. Bateman sat stone faced amid a collection of cardboard cutouts, trading jokes with Kimmel after the host pointed out he was there.
“Euphoria” star Zendaya could become the youngest winner in the drama actress category at age 24 (topping Jodie Comer, who was 26 when she won last year for “Killing Eve”).
The producers of Sunday’s broadcast have said gaffes could occur. Kimmel is on stage at downtown LA’s Staples Center, central command for camera feeds relayed from 130 nominees socially distanced at home or elsewhere in 10 countries and 20 cities.
Other recent awards shows, including the BET Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards, bowed to the coronavirus with a mix of pre-taped and live segments. How the Emmys fare may influence Hollywood’s awards season.
The creative Emmys that were handed over five days, culminating Saturday, underscore the point: awards have been collected by 29 outlets representing cable channels, streaming services and broadcast networks. So far, longtime leader HBO and rising Netflix are tied with 19 awards each, followed by Disney+ and NBC with eight honours apiece.
“The Mandalorian,” home of the character dubbed “baby Yoda” by fans, earned the bulk of the Disney service’s honours, seven to date. “Watchmen” has a matching number, with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” led among comedies with four awards going into Sunday’s ceremony.
Lynn Elber, The Associated Press