Host Nicole Byer

Jeff Bridges

Ernst and Young Accountants

Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne

Laverne Cox

Fill 1
Fill 1
October 29, 2020

Party of Five

With five nights of socially distanced shows, the Creative Arts Emmys made the best of a very different year.

Liane Starr

When host Nicole Byer (Netflix's Nailed It ) kicked off the Creative Arts Emmys, she wasn't shy about calling out the strange circumstances.

"Ordinarily, we'd be having this show in a packed theater somewhere in Los Angeles, but as we know, there's nothing ordinary about 2020," she said in a segment taped in front of the Television Academy headquarters in North Hollywood, California. "It's wild!"

And markedly different.

Divided into five programs, the Creative Arts streamed on on four consecutive evenings — Monday, September 14, through Thursday the 17th — with the fifth show airing Saturday the 19th on FXX.

It was a fashion free-for-all, with winners and presenters dressed in everything from T-shirts to tuxedos. Even a pair of accountants from Ernst & Young donned yellow hazmat suits (with a third wearing a tux inside a bubble) to poke gentle fun at the show's social distancing requirements.

Some acceptances were pre-recorded and some segments, such as the In Memoriam, were encored each night. But for executive producer Bob Bain, the revised format required by the pandemic was ultimately a blessing in disguise.

"By splitting it into all these nights, it's giving the creative community an opportunity to share in the bounty of these victories," he said in a pre-show interview. "It's not like the old days, when we did the whole thing on one night, in four-and-a-half hours, and risked putting everybody to sleep. This is better programming, because they get to see everything."

Seeing everything had its advantages. Viewers tuning in for the Thursday and Saturday shows witnessed Emmy history when Jasmine Cephas Jones (Quibi's #FreeRayShawn) and her father, Ron Cephas Jones (NBC's This Is Us), both won Emmys (Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series) to become the first dad and daughter to win in the same year.

In the virtual press room, Ron Cephas Jones was more excited about his daughter's win than his own (it was, after all, his second Emmy). "As a parent, that's the most fulfilled that I could ever feel," he said.

HBO and Netflix had the most Creative Arts wins, with 19 each, though newcomer Quibi logged its first two Emmy wins with #FreeRayShawn. EPIX also won its first Emmy, for main title design (Godfather of Harlem). Disney+ had Baby Yoda to thank for an impressive first appearance at the Emmys: its freshman series The Mandalorian snagged seven of the streamer's eight awards, a showing that was the third- highest among networks and streamers.

The most awards for a broadcast network went to NBC, which won eight Emmys, five of those for Saturday Night Live.

Other top performers included HBO's Watchmen, which captured six awards, and the Netflix comedy special Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones, which won three, including Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded).

The Pop TV series Schitt's Creek (which would score a comedy sweep the next night, on the ABC telecast) took home two Emmys, for costuming and casting, while Netflix scored three wins for the heart-tugging reality program Cheer, including Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program.

In a moment that wouldn't happen any other year, Dan MacKenzie, a character animator for Nat Geo's Cosmos: Possible Worlds, accepted his award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation while holding his baby daughter, Eleanor, whose outfit was accessorized with golden Emmy wings.

Others making clever use of their taped acceptance speeches included Roxanne Paredes and Jeff McKibben, winners of the Outstanding Interactive Extension of a Linear Program award for USA Network's Mr. Robot. Borrowing from the show, an unidentified person donned the show's infamous Guy Fawkes mask and delivered an acceptance in a digitally altered voice.

Though most winners recorded speeches, a few didn't — including SNL star Maya Rudolph, who became not only a first-time winner but a two-time winner, for Outstanding Character Voiceover Performance (Netflix's Big Mouth) and Guest Actress in a Comedy for her turn as Senator Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live (fellow SNL alum Eddie Murphy also won his first Emmy this year, for hosting the show).

During a post-show appearance in the virtual media center, Rudolph explained her reasoning for not pre-recording an acceptance. "That feels a little presumptuous," she said. "And if I'm going to experience defeat, I'd rather not have gone through all the hair and makeup."

Not surprisingly, a nominee who put on all the makeup, and also a wig and fabulous dress, was RuPaul Charles, who won his fifth consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program for VH1's RuPaul's Drag Race.

Charles, whose win broke the previous record held by Jeff Probst for CBS's Survivor, wore drag with purpose, saying in his speech, "Every time I bat my false eyelashes, I'm making a political statement.

"Tonight, the only political statement I want to make is this: love. Love for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, love for Black queens and brown queens and love for the United States of America, where a little gay boy with nothing more than a pussycat wig and a dream can build an international platform that celebrates sweet, sensitive souls everywhere."

In all, a happy mash-up of the unexpected and the familiar, the socially distanced, pre-recorded five-night Creative Arts Emmys united an industry audience thirsty for connection.

Take host Byer's sign-off on the first night, perfect for a population wearing the same pair of sweatpants throughout the pandemic. "See you tomorrow," she trilled before happily adding, "I'll be in the same dress!"

For more great photos from the Creative Arts Emmys, pick up a copy of emmy magazine HERE

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