The documentary Free Solo chronicles rock climber Alex Honnold’s amazing ascent to the top of Yosemite’s El Capitan without the aid of ropes, harnesses or other safety equipment. On Saturday night, the film reached a less dangerous, but still impressive, summit — top winner at the first of the weekend’s two 71st Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Among platforms, Netflix led the night with 15 Emmys, followed by National Geographic with eight — seven for Free Solo and one for the reality series Life Under Zero.
The final award of the evening, for outstanding live variety special, brought the audience to its feet when presenters Carrie Ann Inaba and Derek Hough announced the winner: ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons, a restaging of two of Lear’s iconic 1970s comedies with contemporary casts that included Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei as Archie and Edith Bunker and Anthony Anderson and Wanda Sykes as George and Louise Jefferson.
The honor marked the fifth career Emmy for Lear, the legendary producer whose other series include Maude, Good Times and Sanford and Son. It also earned him the distinction of being the oldest winner in Emmy history, at age 97. Lear was joined on stage by ABC late-night host immy Kimmel, who was instrumental in bringing the production to fruition.
Free Solo scored Emmys for its direction, cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, picture editing and music composition, and its accompanying short film, Free Solo 360, took the award for creative achievement in interactive media within an unscripted program.
Other programs with multiple wins included the animated series Love, Death & Robots with five and the reality series Queer Eye with four — both from Netflix. Three programs earned three Emmys — YouTube’s Age of Sail, VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race and NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Five others won two Emmys — CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell, HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Fox’s Rent and another Netflix offering, Our Planet.
Following Netflix and National Geographic for most Emmys among platforms were CNN and NBC with five each, Fox, HBO and YouTube with four each and CBS and VH1 with three each. ABC, Apple Music, The CW, FX Networks, Oculus Store and Twitch each won single Emmys.
On Saturday, the emphasis was on unscripted and documentary programming; Sunday will bestow awards for scripted programming.
In addition to the awards for Love, Death & Robots (short form animated program, character animation, animation storyboard artist, animation production design, animation background design) and Queer Eye (outstanding structured reality program, directing, casting, picture editing), Netflix’s 15 Emmy wins included Our Planet (outstanding documentary or nonfiction series, narration), Springsteen on Broadway (directing), Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (motion design), Carmen San Diego (animation background painting), and the Hannah Gadsby comedy special Nanette (writing).
CNN’s five Emmys included two for Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Bourdain, who died in June of last year, won two posthumously — and consecutively — outstanding informational series or special, writing for a nonfiction program), two for United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell (outstanding unstructured reality program, picture editing) and one for RBG, a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking).
The five for NBC included Saturday Night Live (production design, lighting design, nonprosthetic makaeup), Creating Saturday Night Live (short form reality or variety series) and the reality competition World of Dance (choreography).
Other notable wins:
• RuPaul Charles, of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, was named outstanding reality competition host for the third consecutive year.
• James Corden took home Emmys for CBS’s Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live from Liverpool (outstanding prerecorded variety special) and Carpool Karaoke: The Series, from Apple Music, which won the Emmy for outstanding short form variety series for the second year in a row.
• Fox’s long running hit The Simpsons won the Emmy for outstanding animated program for the first time since 2008.
• Seth MacFarlane won for outstanding character voice-over performance for his work on another Fox animated hit, Family Guy.
• HBO’s Leaving Neverland, in which two men describe alleged child sexual abuse by pop music icon Michael Jackson, captured the award for outstanding documentary or nonfiction special.
• HBO’ The Sentence, about about the devastating consequences of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes, shared the Emmy for exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking with CNN’s RBG.
• Outstanding interactive program went to YouTube’s NASA and SpaceX: The Interactive Demo-1 Launch, which depicts a historic trip to the International Space Station.
• The CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which has received widespread acclaim for its music during the course of its run, won the Emmy for outstanding music and lyrics for the song “Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal.” The award went to series star Rachel Bloom, along with Adam Schlesinger and Jack Dolgen.
Bob Bain was executive producer of the Creative Arts Emmys for the fifth consecutive year. The other executive producers were Jonathan Murray, chair of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards Committee, and vice-chair Bob Bergen.
FXX will broadcast edited highlights from the Saturday and Sunday Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday, September 21, at 8:00 PM ET/PT.
A complete list of winners is available here.