The Succession creator, Jesse Armstrong, used his Emmy acceptance speech to attack Boris Johnson and Donald Trump for their “crummy” response to coronavirus, and also the media moguls who do so much to keep them in power.
Armstrong’s HBO show, telling the story of a billionaire media tycoon and his dysfunctional, warring family, was one of the big winners at the ceremony on Sunday. It won seven awards, including outstanding drama, which Armstrong accepted from a hotel room in London.
He said it was sad not to be able to share the success with colleagues in the US. “Being robbed of the opportunity to spend time with our peers, maybe I’d like to do a couple of un-thankyous,” he said.
“Un-thankyou to the virus, for keeping us all apart this year. Un-thankyou to President Trump for his crummy and uncoordinated response. Un-thankyou to Boris Johnson and his government for doing the same in my country.
“Un-thankyou to all the nationalist and quasi-nationalist governments in the world who are exactly the opposite of what we need right now. And un-thankyou to the media moguls who do so much to keep them in power. So un-thankyou!”
Armstrong is one of Britain’s most celebrated comedy writers, having co-created Peep Show and Fresh Meat in the UK as well as having been on the writing team for The Thick of It.
Succession’s seven wins came from 18 nominations and included the best actor award for Jeremy Strong, who plays the eldest son, Kendall Roy. His success meant that Brian Cox, who plays the patriarch and was nominated in the same category, missed out on a prize that bookmakers had made him odds-on to win.
Cox was one of many British and Irish actors to miss out. Olivia Colman (The Crown) and Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) were thwarted in their category when Zendaya made history by becoming the youngest person to win in the best actress drama lead category for Euphoria.
Also missing out were Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown), Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve), Matthew Macfadyen (Succession), Harriet Walter (Succession), Jeremy Irons (Watchmen), Paul Mescal (Normal People), Andrew Scott (Black Mirror), Dev Patel (Modern Love) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge for her guest appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Aside from Succession the big winners were HBO’s Watchmen, shown in the UK on Sky Atlantic, and the Canadian sitcom Schitt’s Creek, which, since it went on Netflix, has steadily and quietly become a huge feelgood hit. The sixth and final season of the show swept the board in the comedy categories, a feat not even achieved by shows such as Frasier and Modern Family.
It won seven Emmys with acting wins for the show’s stars Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy. Appearing in the ceremony’s virtual backstage area Dan Levy, its co-creator and showrunner, discussed the possibility of Schitt’s Creek returning as a movie.
“Here’s the thing – some people have been asking that,” he said. “If there is an idea that pops into my head and worthy of these wonderful people, it has to be really freaking good at this point.”
Other winners included Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the Birmingham-born writer and comedian who started out on the UK standup circuit before achieving success in the US.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has spawned a Bafta-nominated British version on the BBC, won the reality competition award.
The virtual awards ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel – “welcome to the Pandemmys” – will go down as one of the oddest in the Emmys’ 72-year history with prizes delivered to winners, often in their homes, by people in hazmat tuxedos.
Related: Emmy winners 2020: the full list
The dress code was “come as you are”, with the suggested option of designer pyjamas. Hardly any of the stars went down that route, although Jane Lynch, in a very smart top, revealed she was also wearing sweatpants.
A number of actors used the event to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement, including Regina King, who won the limited series lead actress award for Watchmen. She wore a T-shirt that honoured the police shooting victim Breonna Taylor and used her speech to remind people of the importance of voting.
Later she explained why wearing the T-shirt was important. “The cops still haven’t been held accountable,” she said.
“She represents just decades, hundreds of years of violence against Black bodies. Wearing Breonna’s likeness and representing her and her family and the stories that we were exploring, presenting and holding a mirror up to on Watchmen, it felt appropriate to represent with Breonna Taylor.”