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Emmys Analysis: A Loving And Nostalgic Night Of Television Triumphs Even As Only A Handful Of Shows Hogged All The Gold

The Fox Network broadcast itself was simply great (more on that below), but I have a severe case of déjà vu after attending Monday night’s 75th Primetime Emmy Awards. It is as if in this vast TV universe of networks, streamers, cable, YouTube and more content that a human being could ever consume, the people who vote for awards have only seen three shows. Am I wrong? Every time I put on my tux and go to an awards show in 2024, meaning the past eight nights, it is always the exact same results for Limited, Comedy and Drama Series. At the Golden Globes it was Beef, The Bear, Succession. At Sunday night’s Critics Choice Awards it was Beef, The Bear, Succession. At the Emmys it was – you guessed it – Beef, The Bear, Succession.

Steven Yeun, Ali Wong, Jeremy Allen White, Ayo Edebiri and Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook for those respective three shows also won at all three ceremonies (as did each show sweeping their respective writing and directing categories too). And guess what? They are all nominated at February’s SAG Awards, and what do you want to bet they all win there too? At this point I could get up and give their acceptance speeches.

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Whatever happened to spreading the wealth at these things?

That said, the Emmys, which were delayed four months due to the writers and actors strikes actually were the first group of TV voters to weigh in since completed ballots have been in hand at accountants Ernst & Young since we voted in August (yes, I am a member of the Television Academy). As he was happily entering the Governors Ball following the Netflix sweep of Beef in the top five Limited Series categories, Ted Sarandos told me it was particularly interesting since these winner names have been in the envelopes waiting to be opened longer than any of the other key awards handing out statuettes in the early part of this year. Here we had the weird confluence of the big TV awards, with the guilds still to come as well, and often they just tend to copy each other for better or worse. Let’s face it. These three programs have hit the zeitgeist and are truly the consensus choice in a very pure way, even as I would love to see more love for the rest of the nominees than the same scenario played out over and over.

Certainly they were all deserving winners, no question about that, but it is frustrating that increasingly we have the haves and the have nots. How else can you explain a brilliant series like Better Call Saul with 53 Emmy nominations over six seasons not winning a single one?

Even worse than that is the case of the FX series, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which, at 15 seasons and counting, is the longest running sitcom in TV history, yet they have never even got a single nomination. That’s right, zippo, as hilariously pointed out when the terrifically talented cast including Danny De Vito, Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson appeared as Emmy presenters and noted they had never even been in the room before, wondering if this “Emmy thing” happens every year.

Getty Images
Getty Images

The irony is the leading show at the 75th Emmy Awards was none other than another FX series, The Bear, which took 10 Emmy wins including Best Comedy Series ostensibly for its first season, even though its second season had premiered and was running just as we were casting our ballots, a quirky advantage that could have had an outsized influence on voters. Top of mind always helps. But don’t get me started on the issue of if this half-hour series is a “comedy” at all since it is also highly dramatic. But maybe that is an advantage with voters in some ways, possibly giving it more gravitas.

If you ask me Beef, The Bear, Succession are interchangeable in that respect, each blending cutting edge comedy with drama. So maybe there should be a Dramedy category?

Succession
Jesse Armstrong and his ‘Succession’ team onstage Monday

In his acceptance speech, Succession creator Jesse Armstrong leaned heavily into the satirical nature of his Drama Series winner describing it this way: “When partisan politics and partisan news coverage gets intertwined with divisive, right-wing politics,” and wryly adding, “after four seasons of satire, as I understand it, that’s a problem we have now fixed. So we can now depart the stage.” This on a night that competing cable networks to Fox (get the irony) were geeking out on primary results and Trump’s commanding win there, setting him off on the course to another go at the White House despite 91 criminal indictments. You can’t make this stuff up, even for Jesse Armstrong.

Speaking of HBO’s fourth and final season of Succession it came into the night with zero wins from the previous weekend’s two Creative Arts ceremonies despite a leading 27 nominations, while HBO’s first season sensation The Last of Us had already racked up eight wins before setting foot Monday at the Peacock Theatre. Their fates were intriguingly reversed as Last of Us had, it turned out, already seen the last of their Emmys this year, while Succession would dominate the Drama categories with six.

A grand night for drag queens at the 75th Emmys
A grand night for drag queens at the 75th Emmys

Other big winners Monday night were RuPaul’s Drag Race making it five in a row for Reality series, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver taking two more for his never ending streak now adding another four wins and making it an even 30, even as the Academy switched his Sunday night show to Scripted Variety in order to give the daily talk shows, with which he had been competing, a better chance to succeed. The result? Oliver beat perennial winner there, Saturday Night Live, and took the Variety Writing Emmy yet again against the late-night talkers. Anyone heard of term limits? Remember when Oprah kept winning so much she backed off to let someone else have the glory?

Among the new winners it was nice to see The Daily Show with Trevor Noah win in that new Oliver-less Variety Talk Series category, the first non-Oliver winner there since, well, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart which won for a solid decade. It is awfully tough for Emmy voters to change their habits, but I was happy for Noah as I told him when I caught up with him at the Governors Ball where he was one of the key winners who made more than a quick entrance and exit. He was thrilled to get the Emmy after his show had never won despite 20 nominations overall, and he agreed it was a great way to exit. He had nothing but praise for Stewart (who was competing in the same category with his now defunct Apple TV+ series) for handing him the baton, and laughed when I asked if he was happy Oliver had moved on to greener pastures Emmy-wise. Noah said he is up for new challenges and is especially proud of his podcast now.

Pete Hammond and Trevor Noah at the 2023 Emmys
Pete Hammond and Trevor Noah at the 2023 Emmys

As I was waiting to talk to him a guy came up and tried to push his way in front of me.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I work for Deadline”, I replied.

“What’s Deadline?

“It’s a major industry website and publication” I explained.

“Oh really? Do you know if Trevor won? Is that his Emmy? My girlfriend wants a selfie with Trevor. She knows him. Actually can you take it?”

“No. Mine are always out of focus. Sorry.”

“Are you going to Netflix? We’re going to Netflix.”

So, watching poor Trevor politely comply with this guy I actually started to think maybe winning an Emmy isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

Congratulations, Trevor. Well deserved. Mind If I get a picture with you?

Pete and Paul Walter Hauser at the 2023 Emmys
Pete and Paul Walter Hauser at the 2023 Emmys

I also was so happy for Paul Walter Hauser, so great in Black Bird, and who was in an ebullient mood at the Govs Ball holding his new Emmy close. He told me the interviews we had done for the 2019 Clint Eastwood movie, Richard Jewell, really meant a lot to him. Nice guy. And he definitely knew what Deadline was. I was starting to get insecure.

As for the Emmy show itself I have to say it was easily one of the best I have ever been to, with the exception of trying to find the self-parking garage when all the streets are closed and no one gives you a straight answer. Someone with the same experience told me even Motion Picture Academy President Janet Yang had the same trouble. Navigating traffic to the Oscars is a dream compared to this obstacle course. As I was leaving I ran into a seemingly lost Glenn Howerton who, with Charlie Day, was wandering through the garage under the convention center trying to find the limo pick-up place.

A worker adds engravings to the 2023 Emmy statuettes.
A worker adds engravings to the 2023 Emmy statuettes.

Still it was all worth it, a wonderful and beautifully produced anniversary celebration. Anthony Anderson was a great host, perfectly used for comedic effect throughout the show which was laden with cast reunions and pure television nostalgia for the entire three hours. Even during the commercial breaks, themes from iconic shows like Bonanza, I Dream Of Jeannie and countless others were played for the audience. The cast bits bringing everyone from Dynasty’s Dame Joan Collins (looking at 90 like time stopped 20 years earlier) paired with Cookie herself, Taraji P. Henson, to Carol Burnett and Marla Gibbs to the casts of Cheers, Martin, Ally McBeal and so many more. Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers remembered Norman Lear, Jason Bateman and Jodie Foster recalled working as kids on Little House on the Prairie and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Tracee Ellis Ross and Natasha Lyonne pricelessly recreated the I Love Lucy chocolate factory line bit in glorious black & white, and so much more.

The pace was perfect, and the ever-changing production design moving those iconic and legendary TV sets in and out would win an Emmy itself if the Emmys were actually eligible (they aren’t). It was especially fun to see my old boss, Arsenio Hall, back in front of the recreated backdrop for his groundbreaking talk show where I spent much of the 90s. The TV business has changed drastically but it was so nice to go back in time, see old friends we grew up with, and realize what this remarkable medium has meant to the days of our lives, if only for one night. Well done.

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