1. Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue and a brief fire
Kimmel set the tone for the “Pandemmys” right up front: This is all super weird. “The big question I guess we should answer is, why would you have an award show in the middle of a pandemic?” he asked. “No seriously, I’m asking: Why would you have an award show in the middle of a pandemic?!”
However, he noted that even though the show is “frivolous and unnecessary” in a year of misery (“division, injustice, disease, Zoom school, disaster and death”), it might be fun to have a distraction. Kimmel briefly tried to trick the viewers into thinking there were hundreds of celebrities in the crowd before quickly showing that producers were just splicing in past scenes of award shows. He reassured everyone that the virtual show was completely safe: “This isn’t a MAGA rally, it’s the Emmys.”
During one bit that truly summed up the chaos of 2020 in general, he brought out his pal Jennifer Aniston to help sanitize the envelope that held the winner’s name. Except when they set it on fire, the fire refused to go out, and a slightly panicked Aniston had to hose it down multiple times with an extinguisher.
2. Zendaya’s big surprise
At just 24, Zendaya became the youngest woman to win lead actress in a drama for her role in HBO’s “Euphoria.” The former Disney Channel star got the news while surrounded by family and friends who could not contain their excitement when her name was called, providing one of the brightest and most surprising moments during the three-hour-long telecast. Squeals and genuine, unadulterated joy filled the room as Zendaya gathered herself to speak.
“I know this feels like a really weird time to be celebrating,” the actress said while clinging onto her statue. “But I just want to say that there is hope in the young people out there.”
3. The “Schitt’s Creek” sweep
In an unprecedented sweep, “Schitt’s Creek” — a basically unknown Canadian sitcom until it landed on Netflix and blew up into the show that everyone tells you that you have to watch — won seven awards for its sixth and final season, and made Emmys history as the most-awarded comedy in a year. It earned prizes for best comedy, writing and directing, as well as all four acting awards for stars Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy, all of whom wore masks and were gathered at an outdoor setting in Canada.
“Our show at its core is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and that is something we need more now than we’ve needed ever before,” said co-creator Daniel Levy, who appeared to be in shock.
His father, Eugene Levy, praised his son for turning the show about a wealthy family forced to relocate to a middle-of-nowhere town “into a celebration of inclusivity, castigation of homophobia and a declaration of the power of love.”
4. “Watchmen” wins big and remembers its history
“Watchmen,” HBO’s bold series about racism and trauma, won four awards on Sunday night as its cast and crew continually reminded the Emmys audience of the series’ powerful message.
Regina King slipped out of her gown from earlier in the evening and accepted her award for best lead actress while wearing a T-shirt bearing the face of Breonna Taylor. And series creator Damon Lindelof, who picked up awards for writing as well as best limited series, accepted his statues while standing in front of a framed American flag with a group of fellow crew members.
But it was Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, during his speech for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series, who drove the show’s powerful and pioneering message home.
“ ‘Watchmen,’ ” said Abdul-Mateen, who played the super powerful Doctor Manhattan, “was also the story of a god who came down to Earth to reciprocate to a Black woman all the love she deserves.”
5. Ramy Youssef’s behind-the-scenes look at losing an Emmy
Ramy Youssef, who was nominated in the best actor and directing categories for his Hulu comedy “Ramy,” lost both races and tweeted a video of someone outside the window wearing a hazmat suit, holding an Emmy statuette and waving goodbye. He captioned the tweet, “when you lose the emmy.” So that’s how they did it.
6. Tributes to Breonna Taylor
Multiple nominees paid homage to Taylor, the 26-year-old ER technician who was shot several times and killed by Louisville police executing a “no-knock” search warrant in March.
In addition to King, who accepted her award for “Watchmen” — a series that deals heavily with race and police misconduct — while wearing a T-shirt with Taylor’s face and the words “say her name,” Uzo Aduba, who won outstanding supporting actress for playing Shirley Chisholm in the limited series “Mrs. America,” also wore a T-shirt with Taylor’s name on it.
7. Issa Rae, Lena Waithe and America Ferrera confront the industry’s race problems
Three actresses of color looked back on their start (and stops) in Hollywood during the telecast. In separate sit-down confessionals, Issa Rae (“Insecure”), Lena Waithe (“The Chi”) and America Ferrera (“Superstore”) recalled a few of the “aha!” moments in their careers, including the time Ferrara, who is Latina, was told by a casting director to read a line more like a Latina.
For Rae, it was a non-Black TV executive who tried to school her on what appealed to Black audiences. “For me,” said Rae, “that moment was the motivation I needed to keep doing what I was doing. To kind of bet on myself. And that fueled me. Like, ‘Oh, okay. I’ll show you.’ And, you know, one of us got fired after that.”
Waithe, who called television her third parent, said that she reserved “the right” to tell stories in her own way.
8. A strong showing for “Succession”
While the critically adored HBO series didn’t sweep the drama categories a la “Schitt’s Creek” — Billy Crudup beat supporting actor nominees Matthew Macfadyen, Kieran Culkin and Nicholas Braun to land the night’s only “Morning Show” win — “Succession” snagged several major awards. In addition to outstanding drama series, creator Jesse Armstrong accepted the award for writing; lead actor Jeremy Strong triumphed over on-screen dad Brian Cox; and Andrij Parekh accepted the Emmy for directing.
While accepting the award for outstanding drama, Armstrong offered “un-thank yous” to President Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, “nationalist and quasi-nationalist governments in the world” and, in a clear nod to the series’ central Roy family, “the media moguls who do so much for keeping them in power.”
9. Celebrities urged people to vote
While there was only one actual mention of Trump (as Armstrong slammed his “crummy and uncoordinated” response to the coronavirus pandemic), plenty of celebrities had a very pointed message to viewers: Make a plan to vote. “It is very important, be a good human,” said “Watchmen’s” King during her acceptance speech, adding, “Rest in power, RBG,” referring to the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Are we going to be a country of division, hatred and a country only for certain people?” Mark Ruffalo asked as he accepted the trophy for lead actor in a limited series for HBO’s “I Know This Much is True.” “Or are we going to be one of love and strength and fighting for … all of us to have the American Dream?”
10. Tyler Perry’s career honor
The Governors Award honors extraordinary contributions made to the television industry, and this year’s was given to multihyphenate Tyler Perry (and his foundation). Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock introduced Perry in a video montage ahead of his acceptance speech, pointing out the racial and financial obstacles he overcame to achieve success.
“When he did a film, we did a film,” Winfrey said, “because Tyler ensured Black people would be represented in front of and behind the camera.”
Perry’s speech focused on honoring his heritage. He told a story about his grandmother giving him a quilt crafted in the same style of one he encountered later on that had been made by a formerly enslaved woman. Each patch represented a different part of the woman’s life.
“In my grandmother’s quilt, there were no patches that represented Black people on television,” Perry said. “But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy.”
11. Essential workers step into the spotlight
Celebrities? Aren’t there enough of those at the Emmys? The 72nd annual telecast made a little room for the little guy during Sunday night’s broadcast, swapping out a few of its go-to A-listers for essential workers. U.S. history teacher Cindy Marcellin, UPS worker Tim Lloyd, “lady trucker” Jacinda Duran and doctors Kevin Tsai, Karen Tsai and Katie Duke stepped into the spotlight to present awards and get a little well-deserved shine themselves.
12. An unexpected “Friends” reunion
Kimmel video-chatted with best drama actress nominee Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”) during the telecast to make sure she had made it home from the Staples Center before her category was announced. Aniston appeared on-screen in a robe and was soon joined by her “roommates,” former “Friends” co-stars Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow.
“We’ve been roommates since 1994, Jimmy,” Aniston told the baffled host.
An official “Friends” reunion special, for which the six actors will reportedly be paid in the millions, has been delayed multiple times at HBO Max. “Hollywood Reporter” critic Daniel Fienberg joked on Twitter, “HBO Max executives are going to commit some act of ritual violence if one more ‘Friends’ star shows up in Jennifer Aniston’s house.”
13. A surprisingly moving “In Memoriam”
The “In Memoriam” segment usually exists for two reasons: for people to get angry over who is left off the list and for viewers to get up and take a break from the TV for a few minutes. But this year, those who used this time to get a snack missed an unusually moving segment. Soundtracked by H.E.R. singing Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the tribute started with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday; included stars from Regis Philbin to Naya Rivera to Kirk Douglas to Diahann Carroll; and ended with Chadwick Boseman delivering his commencement speech at Howard University in 2018: “Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”
14) An alpaca
Of course, there was an alpaca with a tuxedo. Randall Park seemed equally confused.