Our 2022 Emmys Recap : Pop Culture Happy Hour At last night's Emmy Awards, The White Lotus, Ted Lasso, and Succession all picked up major awards. But there were also unexpected wins for Abbott Elementary and Squid Game. And several of those wins came with wildly charismatic acceptance speeches.

Our 2022 Emmys Recap

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GLEN WELDON, HOST:

If you went into last night's Emmy Awards telecast expecting that "The White Lotus," "Ted Lasso," and "Succession" would all have a good night, you weren't surprised.

LINDA HOLMES, HOST:

But there were plenty of unexpected wins, as well, with "Squid Game" and "Abbott Elementary" each taking home a few awards, and several of the wins came with wildly charismatic acceptance speeches. I'm Linda Holmes.

WELDON: And I'm Glen Weldon. It's 12:03 a.m., and we are recapping the 2022 Emmy Awards on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.

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WELDON: It's just the two of us today, so let's get started. Let's start, Linda, with the awards themselves. As we said, "Ted Lasso" and "Succession" had good nights. "Ted Lasso" won outstanding comedy series. Jason Sudeikis won for lead actor again. Brett Goldstein won for supporting actor again. And M.J. Delaney won for directing. Any thoughts on "Ted Lasso"?

HOLMES: Look, I still like "Ted Lasso." A lot of good comedies going around - still like it. But, you know...

WELDON: Sure.

HOLMES: ...It is what it is.

WELDON: "Succession" won in the drama categories. It won outstanding drama series. Matthew Macfadyen won for best supporting actor and Jesse Armstrong for writing.

HOLMES: I love "Succession." I also would have - you know, there are other shows in that category that I love, including "Severance." And, you know, look, I'm not going to argue with "Succession." I think it had a - what turned out to be a tremendous season. Love Matthew Macfadyen - got no complaints, got no complaints.

WELDON: Yeah. And if you're out there thinking "Better Call Saul" had its, really, first shot this year and it didn't get it, remember that they're going to have another shot next year because "Better Call Saul" did a very smart thing, where they divided their season up so that the first half of the season fell into this year's eligibility window, and then, the second part of the season fell when everybody was voting for this award. And - which means maybe they're not going to have as strong a chance next year 'cause they're not going to be, you know, top of mind.

HOLMES: Yeah.

WELDON: But we'll see.

HOLMES: They could still - they'll have another year of eligibility for the second half of the final season. And, you know, I'll be rooting for them. I'll certainly be rooting for Rhea Seehorn. I think a lot of other people will. We'll see what happens.

WELDON: OK. And speaking of rooting for, this was a surprise, a good surprise. "Abbott Elementary" had a couple good wins in the comedy category. Sheryl Lee Ralph won for supporting actress. Let's talk about Sheryl Lee Ralph and her speech.

HOLMES: Yeah, you know, there are times when you have to sort of think about, well, you know, what were the highlights of the night? What are the - you know, and you kind of go back and forth over different things. This was the slam-dunk highlight of not just this Emmys but, like, maybe any Emmys, arguably.

WELDON: I was about to say that. I mean, you could tell as soon as her name was announced that the entire room was rooting for her.

HOLMES: Yeah.

WELDON: She had them on her side, and then she stepped up slowly to the mic.

HOLMES: Yep.

WELDON: And she proceeded to blow the roof off the place.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "74TH PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS")

SHERYL LEE RALPH: (Singing) Oh, I'm an endangered species, but I sing no victim's song.

HOLMES: Yeah. And if you are not familiar with Sheryl Lee Ralph before "Abbott Elementary," I've been watching her on TV since the mid-1980s. She was on a show called "It's A Living," with a bunch of waitresses.

WELDON: Yep, yep, yep.

HOLMES: She's been on television for literal decades. And so I think everybody was incredibly excited when she got up. It only got better.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV Show, "74TH PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS")

RALPH: To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn't, wouldn't, couldn't come true, I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like. This is what surviving looks like.

WELDON: Yeah, I agree. This is, like, not only best Emmy speech of the night but maybe best Emmy speech in my memory.

HOLMES: Yeah.

WELDON: And of course, another great night for "Abbott Elementary" because Quinta Brunson, showrunner - winning for writing.

HOLMES: Yeah. That was great. I loved seeing her win. I loved seeing her speak, although...

WELDON: Yeah. She didn't get a moment alone, as everybody else did, because before her speech, Will Arnett and Jimmy Kimmel did a bit, where Arnett dragged Jimmy Kimmel's drunk body onto the stage, and instead of getting out of the way, he kind of stayed there, and she had to kind of step over him as she delivered what was a really heartfelt speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "74TH PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS")

QUINTA BRUNSON: Jimmy, wake up. I won. Jimmy? OK, hold my...

HOLMES: Yeah. It was a regrettable moment of, you know, Jimmy Kimmel has done enough awards shows to know you don't pull focus during somebody's speech because everything is not the you, you, you show.

WELDON: Yeah.

HOLMES: And it was a very poor bit of judgment, too, particularly with her, with her being somebody people were so excited for. And, you know, she's so exciting and creative and all that stuff. To have that moment kind of stepped on by him - very messy.

WELDON: Yeah, it doesn't have to be malicious. It can just be thoughtless, which is exactly...

HOLMES: It was.

WELDON: ...What it was.

HOLMES: And she was also - you know, she was nominated for her acting, as well. And I think a lot of people would have loved her - to see her win. Jean Smart from "Hacks" repeated in that category. Who doesn't love Jean Smart? Nobody. Right? This, to me, is one of the things about the Emmys this year. Even when there was somebody that I really would have loved to see win, more often than not, something else won that I also think is good. I just wanted the thing that maybe hadn't won yet.

WELDON: Yeah, and nobody's saying that "Ted Lasso" and "Succession" aren't deserving, but they won before - unlike "Squid Game," which...

HOLMES: Yep.

WELDON: ...Had a really good night, as well. Lee Jung-jae won for lead actor in a drama for "Squid Game." He is the first Asian actor to win in the lead actor in a drama category. And this is the first win in the category for a non-English series. And of course, Hwang Dong-hyuk won for directing. This is a big deal.

HOLMES: It is. And, you know, I think with the phenomenon that that show was, I was never going to be surprised if that show had a strong showing, just because people were so enthralled by it. And I think sometimes television loves whatever gets people super excited about television.

WELDON: Sure.

HOLMES: And so it made sense to me that that had a strong showing.

WELDON: And, even though it was surprising, and, you know, it was one of the few surprises of the night, then we get to limited or anthology series. I think most people were thinking "White Lotus" was going to have a good night, including - and it did. It won for outstanding limited or anthology series. Murray Bartlett won for best supporting actor, Jennifer Coolidge for supporting actress. And she had a fun speech.

HOLMES: She did. You know, she got up there and she started - I mean, first of all, she's a fun lady, right? That's her whole...

WELDON: Yes.

HOLMES: ...Part of her whole thing. And she got up there and she started talking about how she had taken this lavender bath, and so she was feeling puffy in her dress. And then, you know, she started to thank everybody, and they started to play her off.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "74TH PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS")

JENNIFER COOLIDGE: Team, wait, hold on. No, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. And I'm full. I'm full. Wait, wait, wait. Hold on. Wait.

HOLMES: Which works for some people on some awards shows, sometimes. It did not work for her. They just kept playing her off. And then when they got tired of trying to get her to take the hint, and she kept saying no, they started their backup plan, which is they play "Hit The Road Jack," which personally I think is rude.

WELDON: Subtle.

HOLMES: But she - and this is my favorite thing. You know, a lot of people would immediately go, OK, OK. And they would sort of shuffled off and it would be kind of, you know, anticlimactic and a little bit embarrassing. She, on the other hand, started dancing to "Hit The Road Jack."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "74TH PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS")

COOLIDGE: Wait, hold on. Wait, hold on. OK.

HOLMES: It was my favorite. She - and the crowd just roared. They thought it was so fun.

(CHEERING)

HOLMES: Love her. Love her.

WELDON: Love her. And of course, that's - this is quintessential her. Like...

HOLMES: It's true. It's true.

WELDON: Mike White won for directing and writing of "The White Lotus." Now, Mike White has a very strange reality TV history.

HOLMES: He does. He was on "The Amazing Race" and he was on "Survivor." My first real knowledge of Mike White was as an "Amazing Race" contestant with his dad, who he referenced in his speech. I don't know exactly what's going on with his dad. It sounds like it might be health stuff or something. But I knew him as a reality TV contestant. Then I got to know more of his work in television and film. "The White Lotus" is a show that I think came in for a lot of very smart and very valid criticisms. I also thought it was fascinating and had a bunch of really strong performances, so I was pleased for everybody that won. I was delighted for Murray Bartlett, who's terrific on that show. You know, but I also really liked "The Dropout." And, you know, I think there's lots to recommend - different shows in that category. But yeah, I have nothing against "The White Lotus" doing well.

WELDON: No, sure. And "The Dropout" wasn't overlooked. Amanda Seyfried won lead actress in a limited series or movie for "The Dropout."

HOLMES: She sure did.

WELDON: And a lot of these are expected - lead actor in a limited anthology series or movie, Michael Keaton for "Dopesick."

HOLMES: Yes.

WELDON: Lead actress in a drama series - Zendaya, again, for "Euphoria." Supporting actress in a drama - Julia Garner for "Ozark," again. Lead actress in a comedy series - Jean Smart for "Hacks," again. The big surprise came in a place we don't normally expect surprises, which was competition program. The reign of RuPaul is over and god bless the new queen, Lizzo, with "Lizzo's Watch Out For The Big Grrrls," won, leading to Lizzo having one of the more charismatic speeches of the evening.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "74TH PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS")

LIZZO: And the trophy is nice, but my emotion is for these people who are on the stage with me. The stories that they shared, they're not that unique. They just don't get the platform. Telling stories - let's just tell more stories.

HOLMES: Yeah, absolutely. I was so happy for her. It was so much fun to see her bring her kind of all of herself, I think, to that moment and all of her excitement and joy. And of course, you know, because she's a musician, this immediately got the EGOT people talking about her - her EGOT opportunities in the future. And there's nobody who I enjoy watching be happy more than Lizzo. So - and, you know, as you said, it's not historically a category where you get a ton of surprises. There was - you know, "The Amazing Race" won that category for a billion years.

WELDON: Yep.

HOLMES: And, you know, there have been some other shows that have won it in the interim. But then it switched over to "Drag Race" and it really kind of was "Drag Race," "Drag Race," "Drag Race," "Drag Race." And then you get this really kind of breath of fresh air, which there weren't that many of that were as unexpected as I think this one was.

WELDON: Yeah. And she goes extra point for me in the telecast because she had to follow Sheryl Lee Ralph's speech.

HOLMES: Absolutely.

WELDON: And do a little bit? It's like, oh, boy, I would not.

HOLMES: She's a delight.

WELDON: She's a delight. So let's widen out a little bit about the telecast itself. Kenan Thompson hosted. And they opened with a throwback number, which was a mash-up of various TV themes with updated remixes and backup dancers and Kenan Thompson planting himself center stage and acquitting himself well, I thought.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "74TH PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS")

UNIDENTIFIED ROBOTIC VOICE: Let's get the party jumping (ph).

HOLMES: The thing that was funny about that number is that it was such a throwback. Look, you know, these things often open with a musical number. That's not the surprise. You know, there was a very fun one that Jimmy Fallon did a bunch of years ago with the "Glee" cast. You know, starting with music is not uncommon.

WELDON: Right.

HOLMES: But this was more like, if you remember, like, the Oscars of the '80s. They would have these numbers, where dancers would be on stage and they would go through and it would be the nominated scores, but it would be like a war movie. So it would be, like, you know - and I'm making this up - but it would be, like, here's the score of "Platoon," and there would be, like, a bunch of dancers dressed as soldiers, and they would dance to the music from "Platoon."

WELDON: Yep.

HOLMES: And then it would be, like, and here's "Tootsie." And then it was - those are not the same year. Don't email me. But what I'm saying is, it would be kind of all over the place with dancing, and that's what this kind of was.

WELDON: Yeah. I got - I thought they were serving Golden Globes. I thought they were, like, surgically removing all of the good stuff from the Golden Globes and leaving all the bad stuff where it was. They were thinking, you know, the Golden Globes aren't a thing anymore for very good reasons. But let's take this notion of a party of people sitting around tables...

HOLMES: Right.

WELDON: ...With booze...

HOLMES: Right.

WELDON: ...With loud rock music to make it kind of seem like a party. And let's do something incredibly cheesy for the opening number. That - it was serving me Globes, in a big way.

HOLMES: Yeah. I think that's right. And I think, look. The elephant in the room here is that the last time we all got together for an awards show of this kind was the Oscars, when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage, which really kind of threw off the night, in addition to just being a generally very strange story that has continued to kind of resonate and be talked about. I - so I think everybody is now kind of coming into these ceremonies thinking calm, simple, calm. Nobody gets emotional. Nobody gets overstimulated. We're just going to have it be really noncontroversial. So, you know, I noticed that, in addition to the fact that that musical number kind of replaced a traditional monologue, where you would have those kind of tense jokes being made about people in the audience - you know, Jack Nicholson is here, blah, blah, blah, etc.

WELDON: Yep.

HOLMES: But even when they were making jokes, even when Kenan came out and did do some jokes, they were more jokes about networks and less jokes about people, particularly people who were there. But I think they were definitely trying to go for a very gentle vibe to these awards.

WELDON: Right. I mean, especially it seemed like their marching orders was light and frothy. Keep it light and frothy. Ladies and gentlemen, five, six of the Brady kids for...

HOLMES: Yeah.

WELDON: ...No discernible reason.

HOLMES: Yeah.

WELDON: Which kind of gave it a kind of, like, who is this for exactly? We're doing...

HOLMES: Right.

WELDON: ..."Friends." We're doing "The Brady Bunch." We're doing - like, it's kind of all over the map. But this felt old school.

HOLMES: It is. And, like, it is so frustrating because it does feel so tame, right? And you get another round of, I would say, even more boring than usual montages, where they take a break and it's like...

WELDON: Oh, good Lord.

HOLMES: ...Here's a bunch of drama series. But it wasn't like it was the best drama series of all time. It was just a bunch of things that are on right now. So it was sort of, like, let's have a montage that includes "Succession" and "La Brea." Like...

WELDON: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...What are we doing? What is this, other than just here's some television?

WELDON: Yep.

HOLMES: And there was a montage of cop shows and there was a montage of medical shows. All that stuff is so rote, and it does get so, like, bogged down. But then you get these really soaring moments, this Sheryl Lee Ralph speech that I think will, you know, be play - I personally am going to, like, download it to my phone so that if I'm having a bad...

WELDON: Yep.

HOLMES: ...Day, I'm just going to play it for myself.

WELDON: That's in every Emmy's montage from now on. Absolutely.

HOLMES: And, you know, the Lizzo speech and the Quinta Brunson speech and the wonderful things that went on - I felt uplifted by those things, legitimately. I just didn't feel uplifted by any of the things that were carefully calibrated to be uplifting. That's all.

WELDON: It did come in nearly on time. I think they wanted to - they introduced a new piece of technology, I guess, where they went up to all the nominees and said, give us your list. Give us your list of people you want to thank. And then while you're giving your speech, if you win, we'll just flash that up on the bottom of the screen so you don't have to go through these boring lists.

HOLMES: Yeah, I feel like they've done that once before in either this show or one of the other shows. But I...

WELDON: Yeah.

HOLMES: It's meant to allow something like Sheryl Lee Ralph going up there and singing, right? But if she chooses, she can choose to run the names across the bottom at the same time. I think, in theory, it is an interesting idea that could save you people rattling off their agents and lawyers, which is sometimes boring. But the question is, how does it feel to be the person who got put in the crawl rather than in the speech? (Laughter) You know what I mean?

WELDON: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

HOLMES: I get it. And there were people who used it. Julia Garner used it, and some other folks used it. But I don't know.

WELDON: Yeah.

HOLMES: How would it feel?

WELDON: Well, I mean, you mentioned Sheryl Lee Ralph's speech again. Look. If the slap launched a thousand think pieces the day after the Oscars, I'm hoping that Sheryl Lee Ralph's speech will at least be as discussed as the slap was. We want to know what you think about this year's Emmy Awards. Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter at @pchh. That brings us to the end of our show. Linda Holmes, my friend, thank you so much for being here.

HOLMES: Thank you, buddy.

WELDON: And thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. If you've got a second and you're so inclined, please sign up for our newsletter at npr.org/popculturenewsletter. This episode was produced by Candice Lim and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music. I'm Glen Weldon. And we'll see you all tomorrow, when we will be talking about Serena Williams.

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