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Watch some of this year's best Emmy acceptance speeches
01:51 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Emmy Awards went on as scheduled Sunday, with Jimmy Kimmel noting at the outset that while an awards show might “seem frivolous and unnecessary” in the middle of a pandemic, “Right now, we need fun.”

The winners, however, offered what came across as a collective message – preaching unity while urging viewers to vote in the upcoming election, a point echoed by Regina King (a winner for “Watchmen’), Mark Ruffalo (“I Know This Much is True”) and others. The show also repeatedly cited the need for togetherness and inclusion, showcasing the industry’s diversity as well as the breadth of offerings available, at a time when TV has become a lifeline to viewers spending more time at home.

“The world may be terrible, but TV has never been better,” said Kimmel, who opened the show with scenes of a packed, appreciative audience, before he revealed that he was actually performing in a near-empty auditorium.

“Of course we don’t have an audience. This isn’t a MAGA rally. It’s the Emmys,” the ABC latenight host said – the first of several jokes at President Trump’s expense – later referring to the show as “The No People’s Choice Awards.”

The awards themselves were a story of sweeps and near-sweeps. HBO’s “Succession” snagged four of the seven drama prizes, “Watchmen” dominated the limited-series voting – amassing 11 awards overall, including seven claimed during earlier ceremonies in technical areas – and the final season of “Schitt’s Creek” swept the comedy categories.

Regina King accepts the award for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie for "Watchmen"

That included Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy both winning, the first Emmys for the two comedy veterans since receiving awards for writing “SCTV” in the early 1980s. They were joined by Annie Murphy and Levy’s son, Daniel Levy, who was recognized for writing, directing and co-starring in the Pop TV show. Including earlier technical awards, the show garnered nine Emmys overall.

“Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong, meanwhile, offered what might be the first “un-thank you” speech, singling out the leaders of the US and the U.K. as well as the media tycoons that enable them. The series, notably, is a tart look at a fictional family that bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Rupert Murdoch’s media dynasty.

Zendaya set the Internet ablaze by winning for the dark HBO teen drama “Euphoria,” joining King and her “Watchmen” co-star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Uzo Aduba (“Mrs. America”) among the people of color honored.

“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” also won its fifth consecutive Emmy for variety talk series. Oliver noted how lucky those programs were to be able to stay in production during the pandemic, which has shut down so many scripted programs. “I will be reporting him to ICE tomorrow,” Kimmel, a fellow nominee, quipped afterward about the British host.

The 72nd annual Emmys mark the most significant award show to go on since the coronavirus pandemic ruled out the traditional everyone-together/black-tie events. Most of the other upcoming major awards, following the lead of the Oscars, have postponed their dates further into 2021.

The producers of this year’s Emmy telecast came into the ceremony with a plan to go “live, live, live,” recognizing that there would be potential logistical problems – although there were few serious hiccups – and hoping for the best. That included dispatching 130 cameras to catch the reactions of nominees and winners scattered across the globe.

Annie Murphy, from left, Catherine O'Hara, Noah Reid, Sarah Levy, Karen Robinson, Eugene Levy and Daniel Levy accept the award for outstanding comedy series for "Schitt's Creek" during the 72nd Emmy Awards broadcast. (The Television Academy and ABC Entertainment via AP)

The ceremony also sought to recognize frontline workers – with several invited to introduce categories – and announced that a donation would be made to the charity Nokidhungry.org for every Emmy victory.

Through the Creative Arts Ceremony, devoted to technical areas and programs in dozens of categories not included in the main telecast, HBO and Netflix were tied with 19 awards each.

Yet HBO asserted its dominance during the primary telecast with 11 of the 23 trophies presented, despite Netflix’s record 160 nominations, thanks in part to the volume of programming the streaming service pumps out.

Netflix settled for a pair of wins, for “Ozark’s” Julia Garner and directing on the limited series “Unorthodox.”

The competition this year, notably, included several new streaming services, including Disney+, which garnered seven Creative Arts awards for”The Mandalorian.” Another fledgling streamer, Apple TV+, also scored Sunday for supporting actor Bill Crudup in “The Morning Show,” while the broadcast networks – which carry the Emmy telecast on a rotating basis – were shut out.

Neither of 2019’s big series winners, “Game of Thrones” and “Fleabag,” were in contention for this year’s honors, opening the door for new blood.

It will be interesting to see if the unusual format engenders enough curiosity to prompt more people to tune in, especially with “Thrones,” a huge popular hit, no longer in the mix. Presented by the Television Academy, the Emmys experienced a sharp ratings decline last year to record-low numbers airing on Fox.