Succession secured its legacy with its third best drama series award, The Bear feasted as the night’s top comedy, and the two shows about squabbling families dominated the acting awards at Monday night’s Emmys.

Historic wins also came for Quinta Brunson of Abbot Elementary and Steven Yeun and Ali Wong of Beef at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony that was finally held four months late after a turbulent year of strikes in Hollywood.

Succession, the HBO saga of the dysfunctional generations of a maladjusted media empire, won the top prize for its fourth and final season. It also won best actress in a drama for Sarah Snook and best actor in a drama for Kieran Culkin.

“We all put our all into it and the bar was set so high,” Snook said.

The Bear, the FX dramedy about a contentious family and a struggling restaurant at the center of the life of a talented chef, won best comedy series for its first season. It also made a meal of its acting categories, with Jeremy Allen White winning best actor in a comedy, best supporting actress in a comedy for Ayo Edebiri winning best supporting actress, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach taking best supporting actor. 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 night at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles.

Instead of the usual producer speeches, Matty Matheson, a real-life elite chef who plays a kitchen newbie and repairman on The Bear, spoke for the show near the end of the Fox telecast.

“I just love restaurants so much, the good and the bad, we’re broken inside,” Matheson said before getting a long kiss on the mouth from Moss-Bachrach.

Brunson won best actress in a comedy for the show she created, ABC’s 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 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 six Emmys overall including best supporting actor in a drama for Matthew Macfadyen and best writing in a drama for show creator Jesse Armstrong. The only drama acting category it didn’t win was supporting actress, taken for the second time by Jennifer Coolidge of The White Lotus.

The Bear won in every category it was nominated , and along with the four it had won previously at the Creative Arts Emmys, took 10 overall, the most of any show.

Landmark wins on TV’s biggest night

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 behaviour go unheeded.

“I accept this award on behalf of every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard and over-policed,” she said.

“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!”

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.

Baby talk amid Succession wins

Culkin outshined the older brother and the father to win the final lead actor Emmy for Succession.

He 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 center 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.

He then shifted to his own family, getting big laughs during his speech when he told his wife Jazz Charton that their two young kids weren’t enough. “I want more,” he 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.

Many tears and one concerned mother

Emotions ran high from the start of the ceremony. Edebiri and Brunson were both quick to cry as they took the stage, and the first presenter, Christina Applegate, who said in 2021 that she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, got a standing ovation as she came out using a cane, helped by Anderson. She struggled to get through the nominees and winner with the tears in her eyes.

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.

Older shows return to the spotlight

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.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunited to present an award in the form of their 2001-2005 Weekend Update team-up from Saturday Night Live.

“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.”

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