The 2020 Emmy Awards aired Sunday night, celebrating what has, to many, been a bright spot during a gloomy year: television. While the big winners offered few surprises— Succession and Watchmen were favorites entering the night—the broadcast delivered: The heartwarming father-son shots of the Levys winning award after award for their roles in the comedy Schitt’s Creek, the thrill of Zendaya’s bombshell win for Euphoria and all of it packaged in the first live award show put on during the pandemic that managed to run smoothly.
Emmy Awards 2020: The Winners List
Surprise: Schitt’s Creek’s sweep
While everyone expected Schitt’s Creek to take home a number of trophies, the Canadian series’ sweep of the seven top comedy awards was unprecedented in the Emmy’s 72-year history. The show took home all four comedy acting awards, Best Writing and Directing of a Comedy, and Best Comedy Series. The show also produced father-son wins for Eugene and Daniel Levy, who won for both writing, directing and acting. The unspoken winner behind it all? Pop TV: The cable network walked away with more Emmys than Netflix NFLX +3.7%.
Snub: Every other comedy
Sure, Schitt’s Creek was expected to take home comedy’s big wins, but a seven-for-seven streak was not—and it meant a number of shows and actors got completely locked out of the winners’ circle, including Ramy’s Ramy Youssef, Dead to Me’s Linda Cardellini and The Good Place’s D’Arcy Carden. What We Do in the Shadows, an underdog favorite for Best Comedy Series, also walked away empty handed.
Surprise: The 2020 Emmy Awards Broadcast
The 2020 Emmy Awards were a gamble. As the first awards show to go completely live during the coronavirus pandemic, they relied on flexibility, an unflappable host and reliable wifi. Insiders and outsiders raised their eyebrows in skepticism when the Television Academy announced its plan. But the night seemingly went off without a hitch. Despite the fact that the Emmys dispatched more than 100 cameras to nominees all over the country, there were no technical glitches to speak of, and host Jimmy Kimmel handled the delicate task of hosting the show during a global pandemic, raging wildfires and political division with grace, aided by quarantine-favorite DJ D-Nice.
Netflix may have had more nominations than any other network or streaming service with a record 160 nods, but still walked away from Sunday’s show nearly empty handed. The only awards the streamer won during the Primetime Emmy ceremony were for Best Supporting Actress, Drama (Julia Garner of Ozark) and Best Directing, Limited Series (Unorthodox). Including the creative arts Emmys, Netflix won a total of 21 awards. HBO took home 30 awards out of its 107 nominations, including 12 at the primetime ceremony with Succession and Watchmen scoring big wins in the Drama and Limited Series categories. Meanwhile Disney+, Amazon Prime AMZN +0.2% and Apple AAPL +3% TV+ are still far behind the big two; those streaming services took home eight, three and one awards, respectively, with Apple TV+ the only one to win a prize on Sunday night.
The Emmy Awards—like Hollywood itself—are notorious for their lack of diversity, but the issue took center stage on Sunday. Throughout the broadcast, the Emmys brought attention to the issue of the need for diversity in television with Insecure’s Issa Rae, Ugly Betty’s America Ferrara and The Chi’s Lena Waithe sharing their experiences as women of color in the industry. This year’s acting nominees, which were announced at the height of the protests for racial equality this summer, were notably diverse. A record 39 people of color were nominated out of the 102 acting nominations. It is rare that those nominations translate to wins; this year a total of seven acting awards went to Black performers, a new record. On Sunday’s ceremony Black actors took home four of 16 awards, with Regina King taking home her fourth Emmy—she now ties with Alfre Woodard for the most Emmy wins for a Black performer—and Zendaya became the second Black woman to ever take home the award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama. But there is work to be done. The winners, behind and in front of the camera, are still overwhelmingly white, and Latinx and disabled people were completely shut out of the nominations. “I love being a Black woman, I loved being a Black girl,” King said in the press room following her win.”I love being American, and it’s important that people see all of those things together.”
Snub: Jennifer Aniston
Going into the night, Jennifer Aniston was the favorite for Best Actress in a Drama Series. America’s sweetheart returned to television in a starring role for the first time since Friends wrapped in 2004. She never won an Emmy for her breakout role as Rachel, and her dramatic turn in Apple TV+’s Morning Show seemed like a natural winner. While critics unanimously praised Zendaya’s performance as a struggling teenage drug addict in HBO’s Euphoria, her win for Best Lead Actress in a Drama seemed to shock her as much as it did the viewers. The youngest woman to ever win the award at age 24, she spoke to her generation as she accepted the award.
“I just want to say to all our peers out there doing the work in the streets: I see you, I admire you, I thank you.”-Zendaya
By Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff