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RuPaul’s Drag Race dominated at the Emmys, and so did a comedy inspired by reality TV

RuPaul’s Drag Race dominated at the Emmys, and so did a comedy inspired by reality TV
RuPaul receives the Emmy for RuPaul's Drag Race from a fake hand that extended from a box that'd been delivered to him. (Image from the Emmys via ABC)

RuPaul’s Drag Race won its third consecutive Emmy at the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards, and RuPaul won his fourth consecutive Emmy for hosting the show. Altogether, Drag Race won six of the 10 Emmys it was nominated for—the fifth most-decorated show of this year’s awards.

That’s not quite the sweep that a show inspired by reality TV had: The entire first hour of awards—every single comedy Emmy, a record—went to Schitt’s Creek, including individual awards to all four central cast members: Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, and Annie Murphy. At one point, accepting yet another award, Dan Levy joked, “The Internet’s about to turn on me. I am so sorry.”

Dan’s dad, Eugene, who co-created the show with him, said Dan “took our fish out of water story about the rRose family and transformed it into a celebration of inclusivity, a castigation of homophobia, and a declaration of the power of love.”

Schitt’s Creek is an absolutely terrific show and aired its final season this year. If you haven’t seen it, the first five seasons are on Netflix or free to watch on CW Seed.

Drag Race’s six Emmy wins

Announcing the reality competition award, host Jimmy Kimmel said, “Past losers of this category have gone on to become President of the United States.” That wasn’t a joke: The Apprentice, and Donald Trump as its producer, were nominated in 2004 and 2005, and lost both years to The Amazing Race, which may be the only redeeming thing about TAR’s ludicrous streak.

RuPaul received the Emmy via a box that opened by remote control, and looked like he was backstage at RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, which is now filming.

In his brief acceptance, Ru said, “We love making television; it is an honor to make television, and all the kids get to tell their stories on our show, and it’s beautiful.” Then he addressed kids watching from home: “Kiddo, I know how you feel right now: just know that you are loved. Don’t give up on love. Believe in love and the power of love.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race’s other four Emmys were for:

  1. the relatively new reality TV casting Emmy, breaking Queer Eye’s two-year streak
  2. the Emmy for editing for a structured reality show, for the episode “I’m That Bitch”
  3. the Emmy for the non-prosthetic contemporary makeup, also for “I’m that Bitch.” One of the named nominees, David Petruschin, competed on the show as Raven, and now does RuPaul’s makeup.
  4. the Emmy for contemporary hair styling, also for “I’m That Bitch,” the season 12 premiere.

Drag Race’s six awards tied it with Saturday Night Live for overall wins at this year’s Emmys; only Watchmen (11), Schitt’s Creek (9), Succession (7), and The Mandalorian (7) took home more Emmys.

Survivor was featured during one of many Emmy ceremonies

Jennifer Aniston and Jimmy Kimmel moments before she put out a fire, again, during the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards
Jennifer Aniston and Jimmy Kimmel moments before she put out a fire, again, during the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards (Photo by Image Group LA/ABC)

Sunday’s show on ABC reserved just one unscripted award: competition reality show. I wish the Emmy producers would move the reality TV hosting Emmy back to the prime-time show, and maybe even the Emmys for structured and unstructured reality competition; how great would it have been to see the casts of Cheer and Queer Eye winning this year?

Altogether, I thought the mostly-remotely-filmed Emmys were a vast improvement over previous years’ telecasts; while winners were deprived of standing on a stage, we were spared the long walks to the stage. Having D-Nice DJing instead of an orchestra worked extremely well. And most of the acceptances felt more intimate and real, with winners just sitting in their homes, or gathered together with their friends and family (usually masked, sometimes not).

Most of the bits went on about 20 times too long, including an annoying Kia commercial, though I’d have watched Jennifer Aniston putting out literal fires all night. After Jimmy Kimmel sanitized an award envelope by spraying it with Lysol and then actually setting it on fire, she used a fire extinguisher to put it out. But when Kimmel went to retrieve it from the trash can, there was still a flame that quickly turned into a roaring fire, and Aniston grabbed the fire extinguisher again.

Most of the reality TV Emmys were presented during the Creative Arts Awards, which were hosted by Nailed It’s Nicole Byer and spread out over six nights of streaming presentations.

Some highlights:

  • Cheer won awards for editing and directing
  • Life Below Zero won another Emmy, this time for cinematography
  • Netflix’s Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer won for writing of a nonfiction program
  • Leah Remini won for host of of a nonfiction series for her show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

The first night focused on nonfiction and reality categories, and included a segment with Jeff Probst called “Survivor salutes the crew.” Probst said:

“…Survivor would not have lasted 20 years without the crew, the people who make the show. We number nearly 300 people, and behind every single moment, you see the work of that infrastructure—whether it’s a team in the jungle that’s covering a reality moment, or maybe it’s somebody out on a boat with a boom pole extended as far as it will go.”

Probst said the production—which may not resume filming until next year—is “one big family with so many departments,” and he rattled off a list including the Dream Team, the art department, audio, grips, aerial, medical, safety, catering, and accounting.

“I just want to celebrate you guys, so on behalf of myself and Mark Burnett, thank you to every person who’s ever played Survivor, and every person who’s ever been a member of our crew: you are part of this legacy. Congratulations for 20 years, and here’s to 20 more,” Probst said.

The segment is on YouTube, and includes lots of behind-the-scenes photos from Survivor, showing just how many crew members are often standing behind the camera lenses—never mind all those who are supporting the production but never in the same space as the contestants.

All of the Emmy nominees and winners are on the Television Academy’s site, but here are the nominees and winners in the big unscripted categories.

Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series

  • American Masters, PBS
  • Hillary, Hulu
  • Winner: The Last Dance, ESPN
  • McMillion$, HBO
  • Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness, Netflix

Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series Or Special

  • Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, Netflix
  • Winner: Leah Remini: Scientology And The Aftermath, A&E
  • Ugly Delicious, Netflix
  • Vice, Showtime
  • The World According To Jeff Goldblum, Disney+

Outstanding Casting For A Reality Program

  • Born This Way, A&E
  • Love Is Blind, Netflix
  • Queer Eye, Netflix
  • Winner: RuPaul’s Drag Race, VH1
  • The Voice, NBC

Outstanding Structured Reality Program

  • A Very Brady Renovation, HGTV
  • Antiques Roadshow, PBS
  • Love Is Blind, Netflix
  • Winner: Queer Eye, Netflix
  • Shark Tank, ABC

Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program

  • Amy Schumer Learns To Cook, Food Network
  • Winner: Cheer, Netflix
  • Kevin Hart: Don’t Fuck This Up, Netflix
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked, VH1
  • We’re Here, HBO

Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Competition Program

  • Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Making It
  • Nicole Byer, Nailed It!
  • Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye
  • Winner: RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race
  • Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O’Leary Shark Tank
  • Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Top Chef

Outstanding Competition Program

  • The Masked Singer, Fox
  • Nailed It!, Netflix
  • Winner: RuPaul’s Drag Race, VH1
  • Top Chef, Bravo
  • The Voice, NBC

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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