A sweep for ‘Schitt’s Creek,’ ‘Succession’ tops Emmy Awards

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Photo credit In this video grab captured on Sept. 20, 2020, courtesy of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and ABC Entertainment, Catherine O'Hara accepts the award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for "Schitt's Creek" during the 72nd Emmy Awards broadcast. (The Television Academy and ABC Entertainment via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Schitt's Creek,” the little Canadian show about a fish-out-of-water family, made history at Sunday's Emmy Awards with a comedy awards sweep, something even TV greats including “Frasier” and “Modern Family” failed to achieve.

Zendaya, 24, became the youngest lead drama actress winner for her role as a troubled teenager in “Euphoria." She's only the second Black actress to win the award, following Viola Davis' groundbreaking 2015 win for “How to Get Away With Murder.”

“I know this seems like a really weird time to be celebrating,” Zendaya said. “But I just want to say there is hope in the young people out there. I know our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that," but young people are out there “doing the work.”

“Succession,” a family power struggle over a media empire, was honored as best drama series, and creator Jesse Armstrong used the opportunity to offer “un-thank-yous,” including to President Donald Trump for what Armstrong called his “crummy and uncoordinated” response to the pandemic.

“Succession” star Jeremy Strong won the drama actor trophy for his role as a potential heir to the throne.

The virtual ceremony, with a hard-working Jimmy Kimmel as host, went smoothly despite producers' concerns that the plan to link 100-plus nominees remotely could result in glitches.

Although the rise of streaming services including Disney+ and Apple TV+ dominates the TV landscape, it was Emmy stalwart HBO that stole the show, with winners including “Succession” and “Watchmen” making up for its now-departed awards giant “Game of Thrones.” ViacomCBS-owned Pop TV and its quirky comedy also proved unbeatable.

The awards for Pop TV's “Schitt's Creek” included best comedy series and trophies for its stars, including Catherine O'Hara and father-son Eugene and Daniel Levy.

“It is absolutely incredible. I think my dad said it best earlier this evening: it’s a dream you don’t want to wake up from, to be honest. What an absolutely unbelievable way to end our series,” Daniel Levy said backstage.

His character's comfortable pansexuality led to story lines that Levy called personally “cathartic."

In his acceptance speech, he said the sitcom was about "the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and this is something we need more now than ever before,” encouraging people to register and vote to achieve that goal.

Other winners, including “Watchmen” star Regina King, made a point that the Nov. 3 general election was near.

All the winners accepted their awards virtually in the pandemic-safe ceremony, including O'Hara, but she wasn't alone.

“Though these are the strangest of days, may you have as much joy being holed up in a room or two with your family as I had with my dear Roses,” O'Hara said from Canada, surrounded in a decorated room by mask-wearing co-stars who play the Rose family members.

Levy called it “ironical that the straightest role I ever played lands me an Emmy for a comedy performance. I have to seriously question what I've been doing” for the past 50 years.

Moments later, his son won the award for comedy writing for “Schitt's Creek” episode, then shared a directing award and captured the supporting actor comedy trophy. The supporting actress trophy went to his co-star Annie Murphy.

Daniel Levy thanked his father and O'Hara for an extended “master class” in comedy. The show's sweep came for its much-acclaimed final season.

References to coronavirus were an ongoing part of the ceremony, with essential workers — including a teacher and a UPS deliveryman — presenting awards and Jason Sudeikis ostensibly getting a COVID-19 test onstage.

In a year with a record number of Black nominees, 35, there was a notable lack of diversity in the show’s early going. As “Schitt’s Creek” gobbled up comedy awards, that left acclaimed “Insecure” and its creator Issa Rae empty-handed.

That was also true of Ramy Youssef, creator-star of the semi-autobiographical comedy “Ramy,” about a young Muslim American’s love and religious life. Youssef tweeted a video of a haz-mat suit-wearing person clutching an Emmy and waving goodbye after Youssef lost the lost the comedy actor category.

There were signs of change with the drama awards, which came in the latter part of the ceremony, and Black actors ultimately won a record nine trophies. But there was a familiar pattern, with actors of color doing exceptional work in limited series but not finding as much opportunity in ongoing shows, with Zendaya this year's exception.

“Watchmen” is a case in point. The graphic novel-adaptation, steeped in racial pain, was voted best limited series and King won lead actress for her work. She was