By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kenan Thompson kicked off the Emmy Awards with a tribute to TV, dismissing Tik-Tok as “tiny vertical television,” and a musical number saluting series’ theme songs from “Friends” to “The Brady Bunch” to “Game of Thrones.”
Once the music stopped, Thompson provided a mic drop moment — announcing Oprah Winfrey as the first presenter. Winfrey strutted onto the stage holding an Emmy statuette, declaring the night “a party!” The night’s first award went to Michael Keaton for his role in “Dopesick.” Winfrey and Keaton hugged before she handed him his trophy. “It means something,” Keaton said of his honor for the opioid crisis drama “Dopesick.”
The vibrant start to Monday’s show was very different from the best drama contenders include the violently dystopian “Squid Game,” bleak workplace satire “Severance” and “Succession,” about a powerful and cutthroat family. Even comedy nominee “Ted Lasso,” the defending champ, took a storytelling dark turn.
The Emmys are airing live on NBC and streaming on Peacock.
Early arrivals on the show’s gold carpet struck a fun, upbeat tone despite temperatures being in the 80s with unseasonable humidity in downtown Los Angeles. Phil Dunster locked arms with his “Ted Lasso” co-star Brett Goldstein and craned his head to make it look like the pair were a couple as they posed for photos.
Glamour was back with some metallic sparkle and lots of bright color as an otherworldly Britt Lower, Old Hollywood Elle Fanning and their fellow stars posed for photographers.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” actor Cynthia Addai-Robinson is at her first Emmys. Masks aren’t required but COVID-19 testing was.
“I think people are hungry for celebration. I know I am. We’re still getting used to gathering and getting together,” she said on the carpet.
Inside, guests found a similar seating arrangement to last year’s scaled-down ceremony and its club-style table seating for nominees and several panels showing photos of the downtown skyline.
Thompson, the veteran “Saturday Night Live” cast member taking his first turn as Emmys host, said in the runup to the show that he wants to enjoy the ceremony and make sure others do.
“This should be a night of appreciating artistry and creativity and removing the stress of it all out. I get it — it sucks to lose, and everybody’s picking outfits and trying to do the red carpet thing,” Thompson said. “But at the same time, it’s an awesome thing to be in the room on Emmys night, and I don’t want that to get lost in the stress.”
He doesn’t expect anything mirroring the Will Smith-Chris Rock confrontation that cast a shadow over the Oscars earlier this year, Thompson said.
Although HBO’s “Succession,” which won the best drama series award in 2020, and “Ted Lasso” from Apple TV+ are considered the frontrunners for top series honors, there’s potential for surprises. Netflix’s “Squid Game,” a global sensation, would be the first non-English language drama series to win an Emmy.
On the comedy side, ABC’s acclaimed newcomer “Abbott Elementary” could become the first broadcast show to win the best comedy award since the network’s “Modern Family” in 2014. It’s also among the few contenders this year, along with “Squid Game,” to field a substantial number of nominees of color.
At the Emmy creative arts ceremonies held earlier this month, the mockumentary-style show about educators in an underfunded Philadelphia school, won the trophy for outstanding comedy series casting. “Succession” won the drama series casting award.
“The Crown,” last year’s big winner, wasn’t in the running this time because it sat out the Emmys eligibility period. The dramatized account of Queen Elizabeth’s reign and family life will return for its fifth season in November, as Britain mourns the loss of its longest-serving monarch who died Thursday at age 96.
AP Writer Beth Harris contributed to this report.
For more on this year’s Emmy Awards, visit: www.apnews.com/EmmyAwards
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