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6 takeaways from the return of the Emmys

<em>The Bear</em> won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series on Monday night. Ebon Moss-Bachrach, left, and Ayo Edebiri won Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. And Jeremy Allen White won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.
Jordan Strauss
The Bear won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series on Monday night. Ebon Moss-Bachrach, left, and Ayo Edebiri won Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. And Jeremy Allen White won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

The 75th Emmy Awards offered up nothing in the way of real surprise; practically every prize went to the frontrunner. Perhaps the closest the night came to a moment worth an eyebrow-raise was the In Memoriam segment that included a mournful rendition of the Friends theme song. Obviously, a very well-meaning attempt to recognize Matthew Perry, but that is not a song that translates into tears. The delay of this ceremony from September to now also meant that a lot of these frontrunners are fresh off Golden Globe and Critics' Choice awards, making their wins seem even a little more obvious.

Still, like every Emmy night, there were some notable developments.

1. Three big shows dominated the major categories given out Monday night: Succession in drama, The Bear in comedy, and Beef in limited series. All three won the big prize in their category as best series. All three won both directing and writing awards. All three won multiple acting awards — two for Beef (its two leads), three for The Bear (its three principals), and three for Succession (three members of its gazillion-person cast). Only four wins out of the 21 handed out in these three categories went to any other shows: Jennifer Coolidge for The White Lotus, Paul Walter Hauser for Black Bird, Quinta Brunson for Abbott Elementary and Niecy Nash-Betts for Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. It seemed like maybe Ted Lasso might be in the race for its (likely) final season, or The Last Of Us might make a strong showing for its adaptation of a stunning video game. But it was not to be. This was a night for the favorites to fully dominate.

2. Coolidge's win for her supporting work in The White Lotus wasn't unexpected, given that she won last year, but along with the rest of the night, it did come as a real blow to Better Call Saul fans, myself included. Many people who hoped against hope that Rhea Seehorn would win the trophy in her last shot for the work she did as Kim Wexler. In fact, Saul — a show a lot of its admirers think is better than Breaking Bad, from which it was spun off — won no Emmys at all. It ends an acclaimed six-season run with 53 nominations and no awards. Perhaps that's only fitting for a show that's about a bottom-feeder and repeat loser like Jimmy McGill, but those who know, know. Especially about Rhea Seehorn.

3. In place of the orchestra playing people off to trim runaway speeches, they decided this year to have host Anthony Anderson's mother stand up in the audience and start yelling at them. The moment she did it to Jennifer Coolidge, it was more than clear that this was going to be terribly awkward. The producers didn't continue with it, fortunately. It's not clear whether they ever intended to. Perhaps they didn't, or perhaps they instantly realized it was not going to land the way they hoped. Seriously, just play the music.

4. It's often been the case that awards shows include a good number of Black actors as presenters, or as hosts like Anderson, but then don't actually reward their work. Not so with these Emmys. Three of the first four women to take the stage as winners — Ayo Edebiri, Quinta Brunson, and Niecy Nash-Betts — were Black, and the ceremony's look back at 75 years of Emmys included beloved icons like Arsenio Hall and Marla Gibbs as well as influential shows like Good Times and Martin. Anderson called it "like MLK Day and Juneteenth rolled into one."

5. Most coverage of the Emmys goes to a handful of major categories, but there's always plenty going on up and down the list. One story of note: With a win for his special Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium, Elton John reached a made-up status that it's hard not to admire anyway — the EGOT.

6. At the 75th Emmys, it made sense to do a lot of remembering of the TV of the past. Some of this worked really well, like getting to see old sets (or rough approximations of old sets) or reunions, like the one between Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers. Some of it was a little effortful, like Anderson doing a skit with Dylan McDermott about American Horror Story. But on a generous curve of how "and now, we salute television!" stuff usually goes, it gets a solid B-plus.
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Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.