The Bear and Succession racked up the acting awards at tonight’s Emmys, Quinta Brunson scored an emotional and historic win for Abbott Elementary and the Netflix series Beef made its own mark with five victories.
The Bear, the FX dramedy about a squabbling family and a struggling restaurant at the centre of the life of a talented chef, won best comedy series for its first season. The Emmys also heaped honours on its acting cast, naming Jeremy Allen White as best actor in a comedy, best supporting actress in a comedy for Ayo Edebiri and best supporting actor in a comedy for Ebon-Moss Bachrach. All three were first-time nominees.
“This is a show about family and found family and real family,” Edebiri said from the stage as she accepted the first trophy of the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Peacock Theatre in Los Angeles.
Brunson won best actress in a comedy at the Emmy Awards for the show she created, Abbott Elementary, becoming the first Black woman to win the award in more than 40 years and the first from a network show to win it in more than a decade.
“I love making Abbott Elementary so much and I am so happy to be able to live my dream and act out comedy,” Brunson said during her acceptance on the Fox telecast, fighting back tears. The writer-actor was among the stars with standout looks on the Emmys’ silver carpet.
Succession won five Emmys so far including best actor for Kieran Culkin, best actress for Sarah Snook and best supporting actor for Matthew Macfadyen.
Beef won best limited series, while Steven Yeun and Ali Wong became the first Asian Americans to win in their categories – Yeun for best actor in a limited series and Wong for best actress. Creator Lee Sung won Emmys for writing and directing. It had eight Emmys overall after three wins at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
Brunson had won a writing Emmy for Abbott Elementary, her mockumentary about a predominantly Black and chronically underfunded grade school in Philadelphia, but this is her first for acting. Isabel Sanford of The Jeffersons was the only previous Black woman to win the category in 1981.
The first hour of the show held on Martin Luther King Jr Day saw three Black women win major awards: Brunson, Edebiri and Niecy Nash-Betts, who won best supporting actress in a limited series for Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.
On the Netflix show, Nash-Betts played a neighbour of the serial killer whose complaints to authorities about his behavior go unheeded.
“I accept this award on behalf of every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard and over-policed,” she said.
The show was held on the holiday because of a four-month delay over Hollywood’s writers and actors strikes.
“Everybody having fun at the chocolate Emmys tonight?” host Anthony Anderson said during the show. “We are killing it tonight! … This is like MLK Day and Juneteenth all rolled up in one!”
Anderson, who was nominated for lead actor in a comedy seven times without a win for his show Black-ish, added, “If I was nominated this year, hell, I definitely would have won!”
The tweaked awards calendar made for some oddities. Edebiri and White won their Emmy for the show’s first season eight days after after winning Golden Globes for the second season.
Backstage, a staffer working the Emmys approached White as he was scrolled through congratulatory texts on his phone while waiting to speak in the press room. “I’m a cook myself so this means a lot to me,” he told White before grabbing a selfie with the star.
Culkin outshone the older brother and the father to win the final lead actor Emmy for Succession.
Culkin had twice been nominated for best supporting actor for Succession without a win. But in the final season, in which his character Roman Roy goes from sideline wisecracker to emotional disaster at the centre of the show’s drama, he was put in the lead category and won over castmates Brian Cox, who played his father, and Jeremy Strong, who played his older brother.
Culkin got big laughs during his speech when he told his wife that their two kids weren’t enough.
“I want more,” Culkin said. “You said if I won, we could talk about it.”
Snook took her first Emmy in three nominations for Succession and her fictional husband Macfadyen won the second Emmy of his career for playing Tom Wambsgans, the son-in-law that began the HBO series as a hanger-on and ended it as the closest thing it had to a victor on Succession.
Jennifer Coolidge, the only cast member among the cursed vacationers of HBO’s The White Lotus to return for season two, won her second Emmy for best supporting actress in a drama.
Coolidge and her character Tanya gained an even greater cult following for the second season’s Italian storyline as she did for its Hawaiian first. The role was nearly a lead this time, but all of the White Lotus cast members were nominated in supporting categories, including five of them in Coolidge’s category.
Emotions ran high from the start of the ceremony with first presenter, Christina Applegate, who said in 2021 that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, received a standing ovation as she came out using a cane to present the award, and was tearful as she announced the winners.
The Bear also won awards for comedy directing and writing, and along with the four it had won at the Creative Arts Emmys, had taken nine overall.
Anderson told the nominees at the beginning of the night that instead of having their speeches cut off by music, his mother, actor Doris Hancox, sitting in the audience, would tell them when it was time to move on. But she more often shouted down her son in the running gag.
“I’m the host!” he yelled back at her at one point.
Honouring TV history was the theme at the 75th Emmys. Anderson opened the show on a Mr Rogers set and performed TV theme songs including Good Times, and several cast reunions were spread throughout the show.
Cast members including Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell from Martin, Ted Danson and Rhea Perlman from Cheers, and Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers from All in The Family, performed short bits from recreations of their sitcom sets before presenting awards.
Arsenio Hall appeared on a rendition of his 1990s talk show set, while Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunited to present an award in the form of Weekend Update, which they teamed up for on Saturday Night Live from 2001 to 2005.
“We’ve reached the stage in life where we’ll only present awards sitting down,” Fey said.
One notable appearance came from Katherine Heigl, who joined Ellen Pompeo and other former Grey’s Anatomy cast mates on a hospital room set after leaving the show, now about to start its 20th season, on not the best terms in 2010.
“Yes, there have been changes over the years,” Heigl said with a wry smile, “But the one constant is the amazing fanbase.”