Jewish actors and the Jewish condition were well to the fore in this year’s Emmy awards, the annual prizes for the best in television, honouring depictions of strictly Orthodox Judaism — Unorthodox — and perhaps more familiar cultural Jews such as the Rose family of Schitt’s Creek.
The Canadian father-and-son Eugene and Dan Levy swept the board with nine wins for their groundbreaking comedy series, Schitt’s Creek, which ended its sixth season this spring and has won international fans after it aired on Netflix.
It’s the story of a Jewish family, the Roses, who bask in vast wealth and then suddenly lose all their money. The shows tell the story of how they eventually end up living in a motel in a hick town in north America. Eugene Levy won as outstanding lead actor in a comedy series while his screen “wife”, the veteran actress Catherine O’Hara, won the female equivalent award.
Dan Levy, Eugene’s son, whose brainchild the show was, won an Emmy for best supporting actor, and Annie Murphy, who played Alexis Rose in the series, was named best supporting actress. In all Schitt’s Creek, which also featured Dan Levy’s real-life sister, Sarah, garnered four awards for Dan and two for his father, as well as the crowning award for best comedy series.
Dan Levy, accepting the latter award, said: “Our show, at its core, is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and that is something we need more of now than we’ve ever needed before.”
There was serious — Jewish — opposition, though. Up against the Levy family was The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, the story of a young Jewish New York woman in the late 1950s and early 1960s, who jettisons her life as a conventional housewife to become an acclaimed stand-up comedienne and friend of Lennie Bruce.
There was triumph for Maria Schrader as best director for a limited series for Unorthodox, which follows the journey of a strictly Orthodox Jewish woman who leaves her community. Unorthodox received eight nominations but only won one Emmy.
Though disappointed for Israeli actress Shira Haas (who plays the lead role, Esty) that she did not win an Emmy, Schrader was nevertheless thrilled with her award. She said: “As we worked on the show, we had a sense it would be a relevant and emotional story with a universal appeal, but we didn’t know just how well and how widely it would be received. We put something out there we thought was under the radar, but you just never know”.
Shows with identifiably Jewish characters, such as The Kominsky Method, also received a number of nominations.
Jewish actress Julia Garner, up against the likes of Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter, said she was “shocked” to win — for the second year running — best supporting actress in a drama series for her role in “Ozark.”
Comedy actress Maya Rudolph took home two awards, one for her role as the judge in The Good Place, which she told a news conference was modelled on Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at the weekend. She said: “When you think of a judge, when you think of all-knowing, when you think of powerful, when you think of all good — we modelled her robe after RBG, so that was pretty cool.”
Jewish screenwriter Damon Lindelof won outstanding writing in a limited series and best limited series with writing partner Cord Jefferson for their work on the HBO superhero show “Watchmen.”