Even if you didn’t watch The Emmy’s this week, you probably heard about the winners and the losers, and not just the fashion. About now you’re probably reconsidering the programs you’ve yet to check out, right? We all do it and there’s no shame in giving acclaimed and awarded stuff a second chance. Here, we survey this year’s winners and feature thoughts from our writers’ past reviews for context. Whether or not these programs were the best this year is subjective, but everything that won is worth your time, if not a shiny gold statue. Many are worth both.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Winner: Outstanding Variety Talk Series
Winner: Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
“Fucking brilliant.” Oliver’s use of expletives alone makes him more authentic than most TV hosts, but it’s the topical content that consistently kills here. As our TV critic Erin Maxwell wrote of the show last year, “John Oliver is no longer hosting a comedy show. He is saving the world, one sarcastic remark at a time. A sane voice that counters the insane situations we’re all living through, Oliver offers acumen through the lens of laughter in a time where few things are funny. His reactions to the lunacy of the current news cycle mixed with British sensibility is the exact amount of snark we need to carry us through the tough times. But what makes him stand out from his fellow late-night funny folks is that he isn’t merely reporting the absurd, he’s along for the ride. He is just as angry and scared as we are, and it’s a comfort to know we are not alone in our exasperation.”
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Winner: Outstanding Competition Program
The most awarded Black person in Emmy “herstory” is also a drag queen and that’s something to celebrate for more reasons than one! We’ve been a champion of Ru since the very first season of Drag Race and seeing how far he/she has come almost feels like a family pride thing. The queen of TV lives in L.A. most of the time, and some of the show’s most memorable contestants are from there. Most importantly, the ones who aren’t tend to stay here to pursue their Hollywood dreams, arguably making our city the queen capital of the country and maybe the world. Drag Race is one of the most important television shows of all time and we think the world would be a better place if everyone watched it, so please do if somehow you’ve resisted til now. Read some of our Ru-portage over the years by clicking here.
Winner: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series- Jean Smart
Winner: Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Winner: Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
“Jean Smart’s turn as the tenacious [Debra] Vance is particularly brilliant and worthy of her recent Emmy nomination. Hacks is a terrific comedy about two forces of nature who are fighting on the same side, even if they don’t quite realize it yet. But beyond the battles behind the stage, at its core the show is about friendship and trust, two rare gifts in showbiz,” Erin Maxwell said of the show in her July review.
Winner: Outstanding Comedy Series
Winner: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Jason Sudeikis
Winner: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series- Brett Goldstein
Winner: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series- Hannah Waddingham
Like most who don’t have AppleTV+ we’d been curious about this one for some time now, mostly due to the glowing reviews. What makes it special beyond Sudeikis’ ‘stache? Well we got a code and finally decided to dive in. The show is a refreshing, honest and smart spin on the fish out of water yarn (Lasso, a small-time football coach, is hired to head a professional soccer team in England). The show has appeal for sports fans, romantic comedy lovers and satire biters; cool accents and sharp dialog too. Is it the best comedy series out there right now? Debatable. But it makes you feel good while watching it and that might be more important than laugh quotas right now.
Winner: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or a Movie- Ewan McGregor
Ewan McGregor revisited the flamboyance and ghastly attitude he displayed as the villain in Birds of Prey, the last Harley Quinn movie, for this un-likeable but nonetheless captivating take on Roy Halston, the American designer who basically defined chic in the ‘70s. Pretentious, at times nasty and impulsive to the point of seeming adolescent, Halston had the talent to make up for it all. Many who knew him said McGregor got him all wrong, but this Netflix series – executive produced and co-written by Ryan Murphy – is so dazzling and unflinching in its portrayal of a flawed but utterly fabulous figure, that it doesn’t really matter. The performance, however inaccurate, provides a substantive character study even when it’s a cartoon-like portrait. Halston may have sold his soul to JC Penney (and his name is slapped on any number of subpar products to this day), but as this series reminds us, personal brands are more fluid than any one product or label, and time has a way of leveling out a legacy.
The Queen’s Gambit
Winner: Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series
Winner: Outstanding Directing for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie- Scott Frank
“The Queen‘s Gambit manages to side-step all of the tropes we have come to expect from stories featuring orphans and child prodigies, the kind usually found in the pages of VC Andrews books, grammar school novels, or kiddie flicks aimed at little girls,” Erin Maxwell wrote when the series debuted. “Every scene is eye-pleasing, a feast of color and pattern, fashion and scenery. There’s not a hair out of place or unpleasant plaid styling to be seen here. Every sitting room, every hotel lobby, every sad single bed in the orphanage makes for thoughtful detail, enhancing the story and the viewer’s experience, giving Netflix one of its most notable checkmates to date.”
Mare of Easttown
Winner: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or a Movie- Kate Winslet
Winner: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie- Evan Peters
Winner: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie: Julianne Nicholson
Another one of those shows you might have skipped due the drabness of its promos, HBO’s Mare of Easttown is sure to get its share of lookieloo-come-lately’s thanks to its trio of wins this past weekend. So yeah, we finally dove in this week, and so far, so HBO-level good. It follows the murder of a young woman and the police detective (Kate Winslet) trying to solve the case. Set in a small gloomy Pennsylvania town, the show’s melancholy vibes are contrasted with its family drama feels. Created and written by Brad Ingelsby (Our Friend, The Way Back), the seven-episode show melds crime drama and small-town character study. Winslet is as good as she’s ever been (and considering we all know how English she is, that’s a feat in this gritty American woman role and accompanying accent). She brings an immersive realness to every scene. Was she better than Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You, Cynthia Erivo in Genius: Aretha, Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision or Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen’s Gambit? It’s just an opinion of course, but the answer is a big no. Watch it, but don’t compare it to those shows (or do much googling, which might spoil the twist ending) as we did; you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Winner: Outstanding Drama Series
Winner: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series- Olivia Colman
Winner: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series- Josh O’Connor
Winner: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series- Tobias Menzies
Winner: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series- Gillian Anderson
Winner: Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series- Jessica Hobbs
Winner: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series- Peter Morgan
“Ever since it debuted in 2016, Netflix’s The Crown has set itself as the gold standard of streaming service original content, pushing out award-worthy performances, riveting storylines, and impeccable writing with each season. In its fourth turn, the twisted true tales of the Royal Family delves tiara-head first into the ’80s, where audiences are introduced to an Iron Lady and a People’s Princess, as well as a focus on the diminishing faith in government and the toxicity of a family who was born to serve.” –Erin Maxwell’s LA Weekly review in Nov. 2020
Saturday Night Live
Winner: Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
What we wrote in our Emmy’s cover story last year is still true: “In a world where current events have taken on a skit-like absurdism, SNL not only maintained its rep as the definitive showcase for comedy reflecting and dissecting culture, it rose to the moment, making us laugh, even when the news cycle made us want to do anything but.”
Winner: Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)
As our writer Danielle Broadway wrote when Disney+ debuted the film version of Hamilton, it “illustrates a country that’s made up of immigrants, Black people, people of color and musical forms that dare to color outside the lines. The show’s mostly POC cast perform rap numbers and use slang to add some seasoning and freshness to a very bland and stale soup that, frankly, most people are tired of being fed. The dominant rhetoric tells marginalized communities that we can only be typecasted in certain stories and can never be anything other than slaves or the help, particularly in productions dated around 1776. Miranda dodges this so-called rule by showing that we can play any roles we want and can do them with a multitude of talent that the theater stage seldom gets to see all at once.”
I May Destroy You
Winner: Written by Michaela Coel
One of the most powerful and uniquely artful shows we’ve seen in a long time, Michaela Coel’s vibrant and troubling drama I May Destroy You – which explores the life of a young woman navigating sexual assault, creative challenges, bad romantic choices and most significantly, the nuances of friendship, family and support systems in general, is a total must-binge. You can’t take your eyes off of her or the show, and though she probably should’ve won more this weekend, this writing award was meaningful because it was about daring to tell stories that aren’t easy. We’ll let Coal’s speech (above) say the rest.