K-drama Squid Game competes for Emmys history by becoming first foreign-language show to win top honours
South Korea’s Squid Game made history on Monday at the Emmys by becoming the first foreign-language television show to win top honours. Lee Jung-jae who plays player 456 won the award for Best Actor, Hwang Dong-hyuk bagged the Best Director award making both the first Asians and native Koreans to win in the category.
The Netflix show — in which misfits and criminals compete for cash in barbaric and deadly versions of schoolyard games — aimed to emulate the success of Oscar-winning South Korean movie Parasite with a triumph at TV’s top prize gala.
But it faces tough competition from previous winner Succession, the tale of a family vying for control of a media empire — rife with Shakespearean backstabbing — that earned the most nominations overall at 25, and won the Best Drama category over Squid Game.
“It’s pretty hard to go against that HBO juggernaut,” said Pete Hammond, awards columnist for Hollywood publication Deadline.
Experts polled by awards prediction site Gold Derby have tipped Succession as the favorite.
“I do think [Squid Game] is going to win best actor,” noted Hammond — an outcome that would make Lee Jung-jae the category’s first winner for a non-English performance.
Other shows contending for the night’s top drama prizes include Apple TV+ dystopian workplace series Severance, starring Adam Scott, and the final season of Netflix’s much-lauded crime saga Ozark.
Zendaya, who became the youngest-ever best actress winner two years ago for HBO’s hard-hitting teen drama Euphoria, is tipped to repeat.
Best comedy series looks like an open goal for season two of Apple TV+’s fish-out-of-water soccer coach Ted Lasso.
In the best actor category, star Jason Sudeikis is up against Bill Hader, whose dark hitman comedy Barry returns from a three-year absence.
Jean Smart is heavily tipped to repeat as best comedy actress for Hacks, in which she plays an ageing Las Vegas diva forced to reinvent her dated stand-up routine.
Offering some fresh blood are the nominees in the limited series section, which honours shows capped at a single season.
Four of the five contenders chronicle real-life scandals.
Dopesick looks at the US opioid crisis, The Dropout recounts the Theranos fraud, Pam and Tommy recalls an infamous celebrity sex tape and Inventing Anna is inspired by a Russian con artist who scammed upper-crust New York.
But the pundits’ favorite in a tight race is The White Lotus, a satirical look at hypocrisy and wealth among the guests at a luxury Hawaii hotel.
The show — which is bending Emmy rules having returned for a second season, albeit with a largely new cast and location — has a whopping eight acting nominations, including for Jennifer Coolidge.
“I think Michael Keaton has got a lock on actor in a limited series” for Dopesick,“ said Hammond, while Amanda Seyfried’s turn as disgraced Theranos boss Elizabeth Holmes in The Dropout is expected to prove popular.
The ceremony, which will be hosted by Saturday Night Live stalwart Kenan Thompson, is the first major Hollywood awards ceremony since this year’s extraordinary Oscars.
Back in March, Will Smith stunned viewers by slapping Chris Rock live on stage for cracking a joke about his wife.
Emmy organisers say they don’t expect a repeat.
“We have smart security. We have people around that make quick decisions,” Television Academy head Frank Scherma told Deadline.
“I can’t imagine that lightning will strike twice.”