‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ ‘Bo Burnham: Inside,’ ‘SNL,’ ‘Queen’s Gambit’ Gain Steam Heading Out of Sunday’s Creative Arts Emmys

at the Creative Arts Emmys at
Michael Buckner for PMC

The Emmy momentum is on RuPaul’s side. And Bo Burnham’s. Not to mention “The Crown,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Mandalorian.”

Those are some of the series that won major awards on Sunday as the Creative Arts Emmys concluded with two back-to-back ceremonies: One focused mostly on unscripted and animation in the afternoon, followed by an evening event with key scripted categories.

“The Queen’s Gambit” heads into next Sunday with the most wins so far, at nine — including casting for a limited/anthology series or movie. That’s followed by “The Mandalorian” and “Saturday Night Live,” with seven each. Among networks, Netflix dominates so far with 34 wins (three programs, 31 individual), while Disney Plus has 13 (12 individual, one series). Then there’s the combo of HBO and HBO Max with 10, followed by NBC (7), Apple TV Plus (6) and VH1 (5).

The casting category can often hint at where the key races are going; last year, “Schitt’s Creek,” “Succession” and “Watchmen” all won the outstanding casting categories and went on to win their respective series categories. This year, “The Crown” won for casting in a drama; “The Queen’s Gambit” won for casting for a limited/anthology series or movie, and “Ted Lasso“ won for casting in a comedy. All three are considered series frontrunners; is this even more of a sign?

Bo Burnham: Inside,” meanwhile, could also be gunning for the top variety special (pre-recorded) Emmy in a very crowded field. Burnham has already won for music direction, directing for a variety special and writing for a variety special.

Now on to the big show, as the marquee Primetime Emmys will be handed out on Sept. 19, live on CBS. But here’s a recap of the Sunday festivities, held in-person (with a limited audience) at the L.A. Live events deck in downtown Los Angeles. And it all starts with RuPaul.

Go ahead and put your money on another Emmy competition program win next Sunday for “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” If the Creative Arts Emmys are any indication, and they usually are, Television Academy voters are ready to give the VH1 show a fourth consecutive victory in the category.

That would tie “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with “The Voice” as the second-most honored series in the competition category since it began in 2003. Only “The Amazing Race,” with ten, has more. (It’s a bone of contention with plenty in the industry that although this category has now existed for nearly two decades, just four shows have won.)

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” is on fire, starting with RuPaul Charles, who won the host for a reality or competition program for a sixth consecutive time. (Ru had already made history by breaking the record in the category last year, this just further cements his dominance.)

Charles is also poised to make history in another way: Per his reps, he has now tied the record for the most Emmy wins by a person of color (tied with cinematographer Donald A. Morgan). If “RuPaul’s Drag Race” wins at next week’s Emmys for competition program, which we have just written is very likely, he will break the record, with 11.

The show won four during the Sunday afternoon Creative Arts Emmys ceremony, the second of three events held this weekend. “Drag Race” also nabbed the win for directing a reality program (for Nick Murray), which “Drag Race” had last won in 2018 (last year it went to Netflix’s “Cheer”). Also adding to the franchise’s dominance: “RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked” won the unstructured reality category — its first win there. (“Cheer” won there.)

The “Drag Race” dominance was a reminder that Television Academy voters like what they like, and that’s great news for the incumbents in the annual Emmy race — and perhaps a bit discouraging for those aiming to break through. There are always the newcomers that arrive and dominate (witness what we’re about to see with “Ted Lasso”), but during the second of three Creative Arts Emmys, a lot of familiar faces were once again honored.

In the guest performer categories, Courtney B. Vance is beloved among actors, and is even president of the SAG Foundation. His role in “Lovecraft Country” was a standout, so put it all together and his win as guest drama actor made complete sense. And Claire Foy has already won a best drama actress Emmy for “The Crown,” so although her cameo in this season was limited, it’s not hard to see voters gravitating toward her for the guest drama actress Emmy. (It’s also another positive sign for the show’s drama hopes next week.)

On the comedy side, Maya Rudolph picked up a second consecutive win in the guest actress field, for “Saturday Night Live,” while Dave Chapelle won for hosting his episode of “Saturday Night Live.” It’s the second year in a row “SNL” scored both. Rudolph once again won character voice-over performance for “Big Mouth” as Connie the Hormone Monstress, among others, making it her second year in a row.

Among other Emmy favorites: “Saturday Night Live” helmer Don Roy King won his fifth Emmy in a row for directing for a variety series — this time for host Dave Chappelle’s episode. (This marks his tenth Primetime Emmy win all together.) Derek Hough returned to win his first choreography Emmy since 2015, as he won for “Dancing with the Stars” in the choreography for variety or reality programming field. Wieden+Kennedy, which last won the outstanding commercial category in 2019 for a Nike spot, won again this year for another Nike ad, “You Can’t Stop Us.”

Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian” repeated last year’s win for stunt coordination (in 2020, it was for drama, limited series or movie; this year, it’s for al fare) and added another for stunt performance, the first time an individual performer has been singled out. In this case, it was Lateef Crowder, from the episode “Chapter 16: The Rescue.” “The Mandalorian” also received the special visual effects in a season or a movie Emmy (it won a similar award last year). In the special visual effects in a single episode category, Paramount Plus’ “Star Trek: Discovery” won — which marks the streamer’s first major Emmy win since rebranding from CBS All Access.

Additionally, “The Mandalorian’s” Ludwig Göransson won for music composition for a series (original dramatic score), which he also won in 2020.

“Queer Eye” landed its fourth consecutive win for structured reality program, for example. That’s a milestone for the show, as it now ties “Shark Tank” for most-ever wins in the category (which was launched in 2001). Other returning unscripted winners included the fourth consecutive win for “Life Below Zero” in outstanding cinematography for a reality program.

American treasures Dolly Parton and Debbie Allen were celebrated by the TV Academy for “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square.” Parton won her first Emmy as the Netflix film was named best TV movie, while Allen won the choreography for scripted programming Emmy, her fourth. Allen is also slated to receive the Governors Award during next week’s ceremony.

In the shortform fields, Apple’s “Carpool Karaoke: The Series” won for short form comedy, drama or variety series, its fourth consecutive win (although the other three were in the short form variety category, prior to the re-merge of comedy and drama with variety this year).

J.B. Smoove won the shortform comedy or drama actor for Quibi’s “Mapleworth Murders,” which will now be Roku Channel’s “Mapleworth Murders” going forward. But for now, this technically is Quibi’s final Emmy. And that’s a wrap on Quibi at the Emmys. In the short form comedy or drama actress field, Keke Palmer won for Facebook Watch’s “Keke Palmer’s Turnt Up with the Taylors.”

And then, will “WandaVision” go all the way? It’s unclear, but the show’s ear worm “Agatha All the Time” won Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez a big win in the original music and lyrics category.

It was a good day for CNN, which reclaimed the hosted nonfiction series or special category, for “Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy.” It’s a field that the news network’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” won in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. (A&E’s “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” won last year and in 2020).

Also for CNN, “Lincoln: Divided We Stand’s” Sterling K. Brown won as narrator (adding another Emmy to his collection). That broke a three-year streak for famed narrator David Attenborough, but his presence was still felt, via multiple wins for “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” (cinematography for a nonfiction program, music composition for a documentary series or special/original dramatic score, and sound mixing for a nonfiction or reality program among them).

Also scoring its first animated program Emmy was Adult Swim’s “Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal.” That means Adult Swim has won this category three out of the last four years (“Rick and Morty” won in 2018 and 2020).

Among other winners, there were some surprises: Disney Plus scored a big one in the documentary or nonfiction series field, for James Cameron’s “Secrets of the Whales,” beating out high-profile entries like “Allen v. Farrow,” “City So Real,” “Pretend It’s a City” and “American Masters.”

And then there’s the interesting case of docs. Netflix’s ‪”Dick Johnson Is Dead” won the Emmy for outstanding directing for a documentary/nonfiction program, while Apple TV Plus’ “Boys State” won for documentary or nonfiction special, and Pluto TV (in its first Emmy win) picked up the exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking award for “76 Days.” (That’s also the first win for producer MTV Documentary Films.) Having previously been submitted in the Oscar race, none of those would not have been eligible as of next year, now that the TV Academy has ruled that starting in 2022, documentary films placed on the AMPAS viewing platform will be ineligible for Emmy consideration.

While speaking with press backstage, Johnson discussed the importance of making her film. “I really needed cinema to help me face the loss of my dad to dementia, and I believed that cinema could help put it back together again.”

As for “Drag Race,” the show additionally repeated its casting for a reality program win, which it also picked up last year, as well as picture editing for a structured reality or competition show (another repeat from 2020). So all told, the franchise actually won five this year so far.

Executive producer and World of Wonder co-founder Randy Barbato was one of the many crew and cast members who celebrated and acknowledged the importance of this season’s contestants. During his acceptance speech, Barbato said, “The season 13 queens were an inspiration on a daily basis. If you happen to be a fan of ‘Drag Race’ or even if you aren’t, we ask you one favor:  Please, tip your local queens.”

Ross Matthews, who presented several awards alongside fellow “Drag Race” judge Michelle Visage, discussed the significance of Kylie Sonique Love’s recent historic win as the show’s first trans contestant. “Our show tells stories that have never been told at this level in the mainstream,” he said. “It shows people around the world that whoever you are, you can achieve what you want to do.”

Here’s the tally of Emmys so far, heading into next Sunday’s Primetime Emmys:
The Queen’s Gambit 9
The Mandalorian 7
Saturday Night Live 7
Love, Death + Robots 6
RuPaul’s Drag Race 4
The Crown 4
Bo Burnham: Inside 3
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet 3
Pose 3
Ted Lasso 3
WandaVision 3
David Byrne’s American Utopia 2
Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square 2
Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal 2
Life Below Zero 2
Lovecraft Country 2
The Social Dilemma 2

And here’s the network totals:

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Television Academy