The traditional HBO Emmy party at the Pacific Design Center may have been canceled this year because of the pandemic, but the premium cable network still had a lot to celebrate.
No Game of Thrones, no problem. A year after the fantasy series wrapped its dominant Emmy run with one final hurrah and a fourth Drama Series win last September, HBO’s Succession picked up where GoT left off. It won four Emmys tonight, including drama series, and 7 overall.
The decisive win erases doubts about HBO’s awards prospects post-GoT and any parallels to the post-Sopranos drought.
“I am thrilled,” HBO president Casey Bloys told Deadline on Sunday night. “It’s especially nice because there was a question how HBO would do. This is a pretty good way to answer that question.”
In addition to Outstanding Drama Series, HBO won Outstanding Limited Series for Watchmen, Outstanding Variety Talk Series for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, and Outstanding TV Movie for Bad Education. That was one more top category than last year’s Drama, Limited and Variety Talk Series statuettes for GoT, Chernobyl and Last Week Tonight, respectively. Additionally, HBO picked up a surprise Actress In a Drama Series Emmy for Euphoria‘s Zendaya.
The new seasons of both Succession and Euphoria have been delayed by the pandemic. Succession‘s third season is currently targeting a late fall start, while Euphoria is looking to begin filming Season 2 in early 2021, Bloys said. (There is no tentative return to the studio date for Last Week Tonight yet.)
To help bridge the long gap between Euphoria‘s seasons, there will be a “special COVID episode,” Bloys confirmed.
Zendaya teased the episode during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last month.
“We might end up doing a little bridge episode,” she said then. “I don’t really know how to describe it, but an episode that we can do with a limited amount of people in a safer environment… so we have something to live on until we are able to go into Season 2.”
Watchmen won the most Emmys of any program this year, 11. While it aired last fall, Watchmen became one of the most talked about programs of summer 2020 with newly found relevance following the death of George Floyd, which triggered nationwide protests.
“I’m proud of the show; it really did open a lot of people’s eyes to the Tulsa riot,” Bloys said. “It is unfortunate that it has become relevant because of what happened in the country, but I’m glad that Damon and the writers did something that made people talk, think and understand what that was all about.”
While he believes Watchmen “has the making of a classic” that people will revisit for years to come, the series won’t follow in the footsteps of other HBO limited series like True Detective and Big Little Lies, which continued beyond their original run. At least not for now.
At the virtual backstage after the Watchmen win, Lindelof was pretty firm.
“It would feel like a huge betrayal of winning limited series to come back and say ‘it was only a limited series’,” he said, but left the door ajar for others. “Watchmen is something I’ve loved since I was 13 years old. Someone else created it, and this was my run on it. I’ve invited any other artist who wants to take the baton.”
Asked to comment on Lindelof’s passing-the-baton comment, Bloys said, “There are no plans to do anything. It’s hard to imagine doing it without Damon. It seems unlikely, he told a pretty complete story. Never say never but there are no plans for another installment.”
HBO’s TV Movie win came for Bad Education, a feature the network acquired off the Toronto Film Festival. That was a rare film acquisition for HBO, following Laura Dern’s 2018 pic The Tale, as the network is traditionally known for its original movies.
Bloys called movie acquisitions “a good model” and hinted that there may be more buys especially with theatrical distribution hit hard by the pandemic.
“I think it shows, especially in middle of pandemic, that there are options, there are ways to have your movies seen, and the Emmy win is a recognition that that works,” he said. Bloys noted that there are “a lot of movies made for theatrical” which are exploring alternative ways to get to viewers, and HBO is looking what available films could fit into their Emmy plans.
After being topped by Netflix at the nomination stage 160 to 107, HBO led the list of networks with most wins, 30. Netflix was second with 21.
Bloys acknowledged that “people focus on the rivalry” and called Netflix a “formidable competitor.” But “we cannot be distracted and have to continue to focus on shows and creators we believe in,” he said.
“Because of the volume game, they may beat us in total nominations. But that won’t change the kind of shows we do,” he said.
While the timing of Succession‘s and Euphoria‘s next seasons is tied to the pandemic as shows are still finding their way safely back into production, HBO has a number of shows already set to compete at next year’s Emmys including Perry Mason, Lovecraft Country, The Righteous Gemstones and new seasons of Barry and Insecure.
Looking at Emmys 2022, we might have the Game of Thrones franchise back in Emmy contention with prequel series House of the Dragon.
Bloys confirmed that casting for the series is currently underway, and that the drama is still on track for a 2022 launch.