The Best, Worst, and Wildest Moments of the 2022 Emmy Awards

7 minute read

The 2022 Emmy Awards on Monday night saw a mix of underdog wins and established shows taking home some of the biggest prizes.

Combined with the previously held Creative Arts Emmys, The White Lotus picked up the most awards with 10 golden statuettes. Euphoria and Squid Game each took home six, and perhaps the biggest prize—best drama series—went to Succession, an industry favorite. (All in all, a very good night for HBO, which won, according to Variety, twice as many awards as last year.) On the comedy side, Ted Lasso came out on top with best comedy series, actor and supporting actor in a comedy series.

Hwang Dong-Hyuk won the Emmy for best directing of a drama series for Netflix’s Squid Game—a show he had been trying to get greenlit for 10 years. Lee Jung-Jae also won for his work on Squid Game: best lead actor in a drama series for his portrayal of Seong Gi-hun, beating out Better Call Saul‘s Bob Odenkirk. Lee is reportedly the first Asian actor to ever win this award.

The standout moments of the night came when two stalwart actresses won their first Emmys after decades in the industry: Sheryl Lee Ralph (Abbott Elementary) with a win for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy and Jennifer Coolidge (The White Lotus) for outstanding supporting actress in a limited or anthology series or movie.

The evening was stuffed with too many comedy bits that didn’t quite land and too many speeches cut unnecessarily short to make time for them. But there were some genuinely surprising, joyful moments. Here’s what you missed if you skipped the broadcast.

Read more: You’ve Heard of Oscar Bait. 2022 Is the Year of Emmy Bait

Best Step Performance

Kenan Thompson onstage during the 74th Emmy Awards atPatrick T. FALLON—AFP via Getty Images

In his opening performance, host Kenan Thompson gave a whole song and dance—literally. “What sound fills us with more joy and anticipation than the familiar opening refrain of legally cleared TV theme songs?” the SNL star asked before leading a troupe of dancers to remixes of the theme songs from Friends, The Brady Bunch, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Stranger Things, and Game of Thrones. Never have we ever seen Kenan Thompson step dance in a platinum blonde wig as Daenerys Targaryen.

Best Acceptance Speech-Slash-Song

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Sheryl Lee Ralph accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series award for "Abbott Elementary"Chris Haston—NBC via Getty Images

On Monday night, Sheryl Lee Ralph became the second Black woman to win an Emmy for best supporting actress in a comedy series, and boy, did she celebrate. After being helped out of her seat (and out of her shock) by the cast of her show, Abbott Elementary, Ralph made her way to stage, eyes and hair jewels glistening. After a beat of silence, she launched into song: “I am an endangered species,” she belted from Dianne Reeves’ “Endangered Species.” “But I sing no victim’s song. I am a woman, I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs.”

She followed up the song with an impassioned speech about believing in your dreams, and it hit. “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,” Ralph said. “This is what striving looks like. And don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”

Most Predictable (But Also Deserved) Wins

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Julia Garner wins her third Emmy for her role on 'Ozark'Myung J. Chun—Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

There are two things we know with certainty: The Emmys will roll around every fall, and the Emmy voters will boost their trusty favorites. This year, that looked like Last Week Tonight With John Oliver winning outstanding variety talk series for the seventh (yes, seventh) consecutive year, SNL winning outstanding variety sketch series for the sixth year in a row, Julia Garner picking up her third drama supporting actress Emmy in three years for Ozark, and Brett Goldstein winning best supporting actor in a comedy series for Ted Lasso again. No bad choices here, but no particularly exciting ones, either.

Upstarts who were nominated but might as well not have been there: the men of Only Murders in the Building, the brilliant Severance, the much-discussed Yellowjackets.

Read more: The Snubs, Surprises, and Historic Nods of the 2022 Emmy Nominations

Weirdest Production Choices

This year, for the first time, the Television Academy offered nominees the option to submit their thank-yous ahead of time—a whole 350 characters’ worth of them. Not all nominees took the Academy up on it, but for those who did, their thanks scrolled across the bottom of the screen, news ticker-style. While it did allow some of them to say more interesting things than a list of names, that in conjunction with complaints like failing to mention nominees’ previous wins and the table service happening during the show made for a production that was perhaps less than smooth.

Others were none too pleased to see the late Norm Macdonald, who was nominated posthumously, excluded from the In Memoriam segment.

Best Refusal to Be Played Offstage

Comedy queen and character actor Jennifer Coolidge won her very first Emmy on Monday night, for her portrayal of Tanya McQuoid in The White Lotus. And not only did she win, she used her precious speech time to explain that her decision to take a lavender bath before the ceremony had the unfortunate effect of making her swell up inside her dress and therefore experience difficulty speaking. (Her perfect first six words: “Hey, hi, wow, thank you, gosh!”) How dare the Academy try to play her off stage! Coolidge, true to form, had the perfect response: dancing along to the music.

Best EGOT Milestone Unlocked

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Lizzo accepts an Emmy for "Lizzo's Watch Out For the Big Grrrls"Myung J. Chun—Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Singer, rapper, and songwriter Lizzo also picked up her first Emmy—for outstanding competition program for her show Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls—on Monday, bringing her one step closer to an EGOT, which the internet was quick to point out. The “About Damn Time” artist has also won three Grammy Awards, meaning she is now halfway to the landmark set of four awards. Engulfed in a glorious sea of red tulle, she teared up while giving her speech about wanting to see herself represented when she was a child: “You gonna see that person, but bitch, it’s gonna have to be you!” she joked.

Famous fans basked in her glow:

Best (and Safest) Outfit

Two-time Emmy winner Bill Hader rolled up to the awards show on Monday night in a sleek black tux paired with the accessory of the night: a black KN95 mask. Hader was noticeably one of the only guests in attendance to wear a mask, something Twitter users were quick to point out and laud—especially given that the comedian was seated next to 76-year-old Henry Winkler.

Best Use of Emmys Campaign Budget

Host Kenan Thompson pointed out that Abbott Elementary took all of their “Emmy marketing money and used it to buy supplies for public school teachers.” In an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air last spring, creator Quinta Brunson said that the show’s production team and network decided to direct its marketing money toward supplies for teachers. “It’s about being able to make those kinds of decisions that really excite me,” she said at the time. “things that can really materially help people.”

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