Entertainment·Analysis

Emmys 2021: The Crown and Ted Lasso win big — and so does streaming

In a year crowded with impressive offerings, Ted Lasso, and The Crown were among the Emmys' biggest winners on Sunday night, sweeping their categories despite strong competition. 

Netflix, Apple TV+ win top categories for 1st time at 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards

This combination photo shows stills from Apple TV's Ted Lasso, left, and Netflix's The Crown. Both shows won big at the Emmys on Sunday, and illustrate the rising influence of streaming services in the TV industry. (Apple TV, Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix)

In a year crowded with impressive offerings, Ted Lasso, and The Crown were among the Emmys' biggest winners on Sunday night, sweeping their categories despite strong competition. 

The wins provided recognition for both series, but more importantly the Emmy statues gave the platforms that carried Ted Lasso and The Crown a long-awaited artistic stamp of approval. The Crown, a Netflix production, won the best drama award, and Ted Lasso, an Apple TV+ production, won for best comedy series, marking the first time either streaming service has won an Emmy for top series.

There was more. Netflix won not just for The Crown, but it secured an Emmy for best limited or anthology series for Queen's Gambit.  Altogether, the streaming giant won 44 Emmys in 2021. That's more than any other network or platform, and marks the first time Netflix has even led that pack, beating out all other streaming services, cable channels and broadcast networks.

Jokes prove hit-or-miss 

In this photo taken from video, issued Sunday by the Television Academy, host Cedric the Entertainer speaks during the Primetime Emmy Awards. Some of the night's jokes — including one in which a fly declares 'all flies matter' — fell flat. (Television Academy/The Associated Press)

In its first year back since its virtual version last year, the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards program wasn't a completely smooth affair, as host Cedric the Entertainer led a number of sketches that received either a mixed or silent reception from the audience. 

Cedric along with guests Lil Dicky, LL Cool J and Rita Wilson started the show with an ensemble rap-tribute to television — set to the late Biz Markie's Just a Friend — and things spiralled from there.

A subsequent skit starring Zooey Deschanel, Jason Alexander, Fred Savage and Alyson Hannigan portraying a support group for actors without Emmys led to a few laughs, but another — which featured the fly seen in U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's hair during a debate last year — landed with a thud. 

The punchline of the skit, "All flies matter," was followed by near-complete silence. 

Ted Lasso tops comedy awards

The real excitement of the night went to the actors. Ted Lasso won best comedy series — the first time an original Apple TV+ show won a top series award  — while star Jason Sudeikis took home best actor, rounding out a commanding night of wins for the show. 

Jean Smart meanwhile took home best actress for a comedy series for her work on the lesser known — but critically acclaimed — Hacks, from HBO Max. 

Following a standing ovation, Smart started her acceptance speech on a sombre note while holding back tears. She thanked her husband, actor Richard Gilliland, who died six months ago. 

Jean Smart poses on the red carpet ahead of the 73rd Primetime Emmys in Los Angeles. Smart won the Emmy best actress in a comedy series. (Rich Fury/Getty Images)

"I would not be here without him" and his willingness to put her career first, said Smart. She also praised their two children as "courageous individuals in their own right."

Hacks took home a surprising total of three awards on the night — beating more well-known series for both directing and writing — while Ted Lasso snagged four, leading the category. 

Mare of Easttown, The Crown, Queen's Gambit win big

The drama and anthology categories had similar sets of big winners. Kate Winslet won best lead actress in an anthology series or movie for her work in Mare of Easttown, while co-stars Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson took home the supporting actor and actress awards. 

Ewan McGregor had a surprise win in the best lead actor in an anthology series for Halston, while best anthology series went to Netflix's The Queen's Gambit — the first time Netflix has won the category

But the true big winner of the night was in drama. The Crown took home a slew of awards. Indeed, it won every acting category, and the night's top prize for best drama series. 

Best lead actress went to star Olivia Colman and best lead actor to Josh O'Connor, while Gillian Anderson took home the best supporting actress for her take on Britain's Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher. 

Olivia Colman poses with her Emmy award for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. Colman was emotional as she reflected on her first Emmy win. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Accepting her award, Colman — like Smart — also teared up, as she reflected on her very first Emmy win. 

"I'd have put money on that not happening," Colman said, calling it "a lovely end to the most extraordinary journey" with the show's cast and creators. She cut her remarks short, explaining why she was tearful.

"I lost my daddy during COVID, and he would have loved all of this," she said.

Tobias Menzies rounded out their wins with best supporting actor for his portrayal of Prince Philip, while Peter Morgan picked up the award for outstanding writing and Jessica Hobbs for best directing — only the fourth woman to win the category.

The show took home a total of seven awards, the most of the night. 

Handmaid's Tale loses big

Contrasted against the night's big winners were its big losers. Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale set a record for the most losses in a single awards season: though it was up for 21 categories, it didn't win a single one. 

And while Disney's WandaVision took home three Emmys at the Creative Arts Emmys last week, it lost every category for which it was nominated on Sunday. 

Likewise, Star Wars space Western The Mandalorian saw no love on the ceremony's main night, though it did see seven wins at the Creative Arts Emmys. 

Wandavision had a total of 23 nominations, while The Mandalorian had 24 — tied with The Crown for the most of any series. 

In this photo taken from video, Scott Frank accepts the award for outstanding directing for a limited or anthology series or movie for The Queen's Gambit during the Primetime Emmy Awards. (Television Academy/The Associated Press)

And as the Emmys showed little love for The MandalorianQueen's Gambit director Scott Frank showed little love for the awards themselves.

After winning outstanding direction for an anthology series, he helped push the ceremony past the three-hour mark by giving an acceptance speech that topped three minutes, multiple times waving off the musical prompts that traditionally alert winners to wrap up their speech. 

"Seriously, stop the music," he said before continuing.

At the same time, the ceremony proved disappointing to those scrutinizing diversity in Hollywood. The record number of nominees of colour yielded only two Black winners, including RuPaul for RuPaul's Drag Race and Michaela Coel for I May Destroy You.

Michaela Coel is shown accepting the award for outstanding writing for a limited or anthology series or movie for I May Destroy You, in the photo taken from video. Coel is the first Black woman to win the award. (Television Academy/The Associated Press)

For her part, Coel's speech upon winning the Emmy for limited series writing was roughly 30 seconds, but led to a standing ovation from the audience. 

"Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn't comfortable, I dare you," she said.

"In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible — for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success — do not be afraid to disappear from it, from us for a while, and see what comes to you in the silence."

Coel is the first Black woman to win the award. She dedicated her win to survivors of sexual assault. 

With files from The Associated Press.

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