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By Jacqueline Jedrych 

The Emmys have long been one of the most prestigious awards for television, but this year’s ceremony was different than previous years. Host Jimmy Kimmel began with a typical opening monologue, including cuts to the audience, laughs, and applause. 

“You can’t have a virus without a host,” Kimmel said. 

After a few minutes of routine jokes, the cameras turned to reveal an empty crowd at the Staples Center, except for a couple life size cutouts of stars in the front row. The cuts to the audience and applause were edited from previous years.

“Of course we don’t have an audience,” he said. “This isn’t a MAGA rally.” 

This year, nominees stayed home and gave their speeches on webcams. Leading the pack in nominations was Watchmen with 11, followed by Succession with 10, and Ozark with nine.

However, it was Canadian comedy sitcom Schitt’s Creek that earned the most awards of the night, winning all of the four main acting categories as well as all the major comedy awards. They won seven in total, making them the first comedy series to win all of the four main acting categories in a single year and the first comedy or drama series to win all seven major awards in a single year. Creator and actor, Daniel Levy, also became the first person to win an award in all four major disciplines in a single year.

“This has been the greatest experience of my life,” Levy said. “This is completely overwhelming.” 

Upon accepting her first Emmy for Lead Actress in a Comedy for her performance as Moira Rose, Catherine O’Hara thanked the Levys for creating the show.  

“I will forever be grateful to Eugene and Daniel Levy for the opportunity to play a woman of a certain age — my age — who gets to fully be her ridiculous self,” said O’Hara. 

Another first in the 2020 show was Zendaya’s win for Lead Actress in a Drama, the youngest ever recipient of this award at just 24. Her role in the show Euphoria is an unflinching, gritty portrayal of a high schooler trying to overcome drug addiction. This came as a huge surprise, leading predictions being Olivia Colman for The Crown and Jennifer Aniston for The Morning Show, and other formidable nominees including Laura Linney, Sandra Oh, and Jodie Comer. 

Zendaya’s acceptance speech thanked Euphoria creator Sam Levison for trusting her with his story; Euphoria is based off of Levison’s personal struggle with addiction. She also thanked her peers for their activism. 

“I know this feels like a really weird time to be celebrating but I just want to say that there is hope in the young people out there,” Zendaya said. “I know that our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that, but there is hope in the young people. And I just want to say to all my peers out there doing the work in the streets: I see you, I admire you, I thank you.”

There are many other acknowledgements of the current political system. This year’s Emmys rules were changed in an attempt to be more racially and gender inclusive. Watchmen stars Regina King, Damon Lindelof, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II received awards while spreading awareness for social justice issues. King wore a shirt with a picture of Breonna Taylor, a young EMT murdered in her home by police. Mark Ruffalo called for equality and justice in his speech. In his winning speech for Best Drama Series, Succession producer Jesse Armstrong delivered some politically-charged “un-thank you”s. 

“Un-thank you to the virus for keeping us all apart this year,” Armstrong said. “Un-thank you to President Trump for his crummy and uncoordinated response. Un-thank you to Boris Johnson and his government for doing the same in my country. Un-thank you to all the nationalist and sort of quasi-nationalist governments in the world who are exactly the opposite of what we need right now. And un-thank you to the media moguls who do so much to keep them in power.” 

Although this year’s Emmy awards felt different, the recipients were equally enthused, and delivered as much talent as every year before it. 

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