Last night marked the 75th installment of the Emmy Awards, celebrating the best and brightest on television from both today and yesterday. The major anniversary brought plenty of cast reunions and nostalgia for fans of Grey’s Anatomy, The Sopranos, and Cheers, among others, as well as big hauls for some of the biggest hits currently on air. Below, Observer recaps the highs, lows and surprises (or lack thereof) of the ceremony.
High: honoring legendary TV
From Carol Burnett to Marla Gibbs, Arsenio Hall to Dame Joan Collins, the Emmys went all in on honoring television history. While some of the bits worked better than others, the awards show really paid attention to the details, recreating iconic sets like the bar from Cheers or the bathroom from Ally McBeal and even mimicking some of the camera work, turning the Martin reunion into a live multicam moment. A lot of love and appreciation was put into these moments, and that warmth could be felt through the screen.
Low: a confusing timeline
The Emmys are an odd one out in the awards timeline, normally taking place in September. This time around, the show was significantly delayed due to the SAG-Aftra and WGA strikes, leaving things even more out of joint. The ceremony honors shows that aired between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023, hence 2022 shows like The White Lotus, Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, and Black Bird were in contention. The awards required a fair amount of flashbacks and math for its viewers, who weren’t alone in being confused about just how long ago House of the Dragon came out. Notably, despite Season 2 of The Bear being one of the past year’s biggest cultural juggernauts, last night’s Emmys honored Season 1 of the series—fans will have to wait a few months to see if the Television Academy loved the second season as much as they did.
High: Anthony Anderson keeps things moving
In the wake of one of the more unfortunate hosting gigs in recent memory, Emmys host Anthony Anderson may well have felt some additional pressure. Luckily, the actor and comedian handled the ceremony well, with the show’s frequent references to older television giving him plenty to bounce off of throughout the night. He started off well, entering as Mister Rogers before launching into his own personal appreciation for some of TV’s greats. Later, he injected some bonafide weirdness into the proceedings by showing up and popping and locking in a shiny black morph suit in a segment shouting out American Horror Story.
The moment sparked an ad lib or two from his lovely co-host of sorts, Anderson’s mother Doris, who played a part in one of the night’s more original touches: rather than use play-off music for winners who spoke for too long, she would intervene. While this took the form of a slightly awkward interruption for Jennifer Coolidge, John Oliver took delight in the proceedings by listing off Liverpool players until he got Doris’d off. Seeing her hold up a sparkly sign saying wrap it up was far better than having winners’ speeches get drowned out by music, and she was more than game to be on camera throughout the show.
Low: no new names
A byproduct of the delayed Emmys means that the show happened right in the middle of awards season. Over the span of eight days there were three broadcasted awards shows (the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Emmys), and many of them had largely the same results: Succession, The Bear, and Beef won big, with the shows earning five to six Emmys each. Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook have completed a clean sweep for their work on the final season of Succession, while Steven Yeun and Ali Wong are the undisputed king and queen of limited TV. Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri won for The Bear at all three awards ceremonies as well (though, again, the Emmys were looking at Season 1). Even winners from older shows like Paul Walter Hauser of Black Bird and Niecy Nash-Betts of Dahmer had already won awards at last year’s Critics Choice and Golden Globe Awards, as did Jennifer Coolidge for The White Lotus.
It’s not that any of these Emmy winners are undeserving—their work has clearly made an impact, otherwise why would they be winning so much?—but in a weird year when we have such a glut of awards shows in a short amount of time, it can make the proceedings feel rote. Who wants an awards show with no surprises?
High: genuinely emotional moments
Some of the ceremony’s earliest moments were surprising tearjerkers, and that theme continued throughout the night. Christina Applegate, who was diagnosed with MS in 2021, received a standing ovation as she came out to present the first award of the night. The actress was clearly touched, getting choked up before delivering a few clever one liners. Soon after, Carol Burnett presented Quinta Brunson with the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. Brunson, who is the first Black woman to win the award in over 40 years, was in tears during her speech, understandably blaming her emotion on “the Carol Burnett of it all.”
Niecy Nash-Betts had the best speech of the night, declaring that she needed to thank herself, saying, “Go on girl with your bad self, you did that!” before shining a light on “every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard yet over-policed,” using the platform to name Glenda Cleveland, Sandra Bland, and Breonna Taylor. Given that the Emmys took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, her message was especially powerful and poignant. That’s the tone the show ended on too, featuring Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech as one of the Television Academy’s 75 most impactful moments on TV. It was a night that celebrated the wide-ranging impact of television, and the medium’s continued importance was on full display.