There’s a strong possibility you didn’t realize the Emmy Awards were airing on Monday, as the NBC televised award show moved from the typical Sunday night airtime so as not to interfere with the return of Sunday Night Football (not a joke). While large portions of the awards were pretty chalky (Ted Lasso and Succession taking home the top prizes), the Emmys managed to sneak in a few surprises. Here are a few moments—good or bad—worth noting from the telecast.
A Rough Start
Despite calling television the “most successful broadcast medium in the world,” the opening for the 2022 Emmy Awards turned into a dancing affair, scored by the opening themes to some of television’s most memorable shows, including Friends, The Brady Bunch, Law and Order, Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones, complete with host Kenan Thompson in a Targaryen wig. But, overall, the opening felt out of place and, worse, endless, lasting somewhere north of five whole minutes.
Despite that attempted throughline, the show opted for more party-focused vibes as it continued, including songs from DJ Zedd and hit-or-miss intros and outros from comedian Sam Jay. In fact, the Emmys felt closer in tone to the typically looser and nuttier Golden Globes than stodgy Emmys broadcasts of yore.
And speaking of bits that didn’t work, Jimmy Kimmel continuing to lie down and take up space on stage while Quinta Brunson accepted her first ever Emmy award probably wasn’t malicious (she stated backstage it didn’t bother her—but also reserved the right to change her mind) but was a miscalculation nonetheless. Give the woman her space.
Kenan’s Stalwart Hosting Skills
Kenan Thompson is one of television’s most stalwart presences—having graced our screens for decades (shoutouts to All That and Kenan & Kel, the latter of whom showed up for a nice nostalgia hit), and tonight’s show allowed him to show off what makes him great. Funny, entertaining, sweet, and efficient, Kenan showed why he’s consistently reliable and well-suited to something as all-encompassing as hosting. Here’s to hoping this is the start of many more additional gigs. But the funniest bit of the night had to be the playing off of the accountants from Ernst & Young. Planned or unplanned, no one wants to hear from them, and good on Kenan for acknowledging it accordingly.
In what was not only the best speech of the evening but perhaps one of the best speeches in Emmy history, Abbott Elementary star Sheryl Lee Ralph accepted her award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series by passionately singing (she originated the role of Deena Jones during the inaugural Dreamgirls Broadway run) and then going on to talk about the support system in her life. Honestly, words don’t do it justice, so you’re better off experiencing (or re-experiencing) it.
Equally exciting was Jennifer Coolidge’s well-deserved win (shoutout lavender baths!) for The White Lotus, but as she went to wrap, a slightly overzealous music-cue-er tried to play off her to the tune of “Hit the Road Jack.” I get trying to shuttle someone off stage, but it takes a certain amount of disrespect to play that song.
Hate Jerrod Carmichael Now at your own risk.
While a posthumous award for the beloved Norm McDonald might have been nice, the Emmy award for Best Writing for a Variety Special was Jerrod Carmichael’s to lose, and he showed up accordingly in an incredible Puff Daddy “Hate Me Now” inspired fur coat fit. The incredible special, Rothaniel, was nothing short of masterful and, like past winners in this category (including Bo Burnham’s Inside—who directed the special—and Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette), redefined what a comedy hour could be. Carmichael acknowledged the special’s importance during his speech, saying, “I made something that’s of great personal consequence to me—this definitely contributes to the meaning of it.”
Zendaya Goes Back-to-Back
Euphoria season 2 was a mixed bag, but Zendaya’s performance was an undeniable highlight—especially in the show-stopping fifth episode, “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” where her character spends the majority of the run time on the run from her family, looking to score drugs. As such, Zendaya unsurprisingly earned her second Emmy award. The win for the young actress makes her the second Black woman to receive the Lead Actress in a Drama Series award, the only Black woman to win twice, and the youngest two-time winner ever. If Euphoria can continue to provide Zendaya with material like “Hummingbird,” she’ll easily make more history in the years to come.
Returning Favorites Win, But Not Without Some History-Making Competition
While Ted Lasso and Succession ended up taking the big prizes in their respective comedy and drama categories again this year, they didn’t end up with full sweeps across the board. Abbott Elementary took home the comedy writing award for their premiere episode, while Netflix’s Squid Game won best directing for the pilot, and series lead Lee Jung-jae won for Best Actor in a Drama Series—the first ever Asian actor to win the category.
In his speech for best directing, Squid Game creator/writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk thanked the Emmys for “opening the door” to a foreign language series before wishing aloud that the hit show wouldn’t be the last non-English series to compete at the Emmys. Squid Game made history this year as the first non-English series to garner a Best Drama nomination—and hopefully won’t be the last.