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'Watchmen,' 'Succession,' 'Ozark,' 'Schitt's Creek' Win Key Emmys


The 72nd Emmy Awards last night were virtual. Key prizes went to HBO's "Watchmen" and "Succession," and "Ozark" from Netflix - the big players. But a Canadian series from Pop TV literally made history - "Schitt's Creek." If you don't know the show, it's not a cuss word, it's a surname spelled S-C-H-I-T-T. Here's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Turns out, the Emmy Academy really loves "Schitt's Creek." The series won every comedy award handed out at Sunday's Emmys broadcast, becoming the first Canadian TV series to win an Emmy as best comedy. Because producers scheduled the comedy awards first, more than an hour passed before any other show won an Emmy as actors Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Annie Murphy and Dan Levy scooped up honors for lead and supporting actor and actress in comedy.

Dan Levy, who created the show with his father, Eugene, delivered a message about American politics while accepting the awards from a location in Canada.


DAN LEVY: Our show, at its core, is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and that is something that we need more of now than we've ever needed before. And I just wanted to say, for any of you who have not registered to vote, please do so. And then go out and vote because that is the only way that we are going to have some love and acceptance out there.

DEGGANS: Social distancing created a massive logistical challenge as producers deployed 150 cameras to distant locations so nominees and winners could be shown live. Host Jimmy Kimmel began his monologue backed with laughter and applause while joking on shows like HBO's "Watchmen"...


JIMMY KIMMEL: Isn't "Watchmen" also what Jerry Falwell Jr. was into?


DEGGANS: ...Before revealing that he was using taped audience footage and was actually in a nearly empty Staples Center.


KIMMEL: Of course I'm here all alone. Of course we don't have an audience. This isn't a MAGA rally. It's the Emmys.

DEGGANS: Kimmel was an unflappable host whose smart-alecky humor helped unify a ton of different comedy bits designed to keep the show from looking like a three-hour Zoom meeting. Winners had trophies delivered to their homes, with workers in hazmat suits driving Kia cars in a bizarre cross promotion. And sometimes winners were given boxes triggered by remote that would burst open with an Emmy, like with John Oliver whose show "Last Week Tonight" won as best variety talk series.


JOHN OLIVER: Thank you so much to the academy for sending what's technically a small bomb to my house.

DEGGANS: Besides "Schitt's Creek," HBO's drama "Succession" won several awards, including best drama series. The win inspired creator Jesse Armstrong to give a speech from Britain unthanking some people.


JESSE ARMSTRONG: Unthank you to the virus for keeping us all apart this year. Unthank you to President Trump for his crummy and uncoordinated response. Unthank you to Boris Johnson and his government for doing the same in my country. Unthank you to all the nationalist governments in the world who are exactly the opposite of what we need right now. And unthank you to the media moguls who do so much to keep them in power.

DEGGANS: With a record number of nonwhite nominees, the Emmy Awards showcased diversity and inclusion. Tyler Perry, recipient of the Governors Award, noted his mother couldn't imagine his success as a Black media mogul, building a giant studio complex in Georgia.


TYLER PERRY: She couldn't imagine me owning land that was once a Confederate army base, where Confederate soldiers plotted and planned on how to keep Blacks enslaved. And now on that very land, Black people, white people, gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, all coming together to add patches to a quilt that is as diverse as it can be.

DEGGANS: Several celebrities wore T-shirts commemorating Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed by police in her home, or the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cameras in homes and allowed for touching moments, as Zendaya's father couldn't hide his surprise when the 24-year-old star of HBO's "Euphoria" became the youngest person to win as best actress in a drama.

The socially distanced Emmys was impressively glitch-free. In fact, it was entertaining enough that the academy should try to recreate this show's atmosphere of surprise and unpredictability again, even after the pandemic passes.

I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.