- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Host Cedric the Entertainer opened the 2021 Primetime Emmys with a declaration that the annual TV kudos would be a celebration of the entire medium, not just the past year’s standouts. Well, either the entirety of TV is much smaller than we’ve been led to believe or he simply didn’t get a preview of the winners list… because the show lavished an overwhelming majority of its praise on just a few series and even fewer people of color.
Echoing 2020’s wild Schitt’s Creek sweep, Netflix’s The Crown nabbed an Emmy in every category it was up for — sweeping all performances in the drama race before going on to win the genre’s top prize. Apple TV+ flagship Ted Lasso had similarly wild momentum early on in the comedy races, though HBO Max’s Hacks certainly made its presence known. The only arena where more than two series got in on the action was among limited series, where voters vacillated between HBO’s Mare of Easttown, Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit and HBO’s I May Destroy You.
Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham, delivering a speech that could only be described as endearingly euphoric, nabbed best supporting actress in a comedy at the very top of the show. The impressive fact that she earned that nod by overcoming a potentially split vote with co-star Juno Temple was echoed (and bested) when the supporting actor in a comedy category went to co-star Brett Goldstein. He beat back three colleagues, winning in a category he shared with Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed and Jeremy Swift.
Comedy writing and directing, in a bit of a surprise, went to Hacks scribes Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs and Jen Statsky — and then to Aniello again for directing the same show. Two of the night’s few foregone conclusions — a lead actor in a comedy win for Ted Lasso star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis and lead actress in a comedy win for Hacks star Jean Smart — made the night’s ultimate comedy prize feel somewhat up in the air. But it was Ted Lasso‘s all along. The Bill Lawrence-produced comedy won the top prize in its first year of eligibility.
On the drama front, perennial nominee The Crown had even more decisive momentum from the very first drama categories. Series creator Peter Morgan scored his first Emmy win, one he earned for writing. Director Jessica Hobbs then won for her work on the series’ fourth season. Supporting players Gillian Anderson and Tobias Menzies beat back some exceptionally formidable competition, including the late Lovecraft Country actor Michael K. Williams who died just weeks before the telecast. Outgoing Crown star Olivia Colman, the second of three to tackle Queen Elizabeth II in the series, won the lead actress race before Josh O’Connor won for his work on the period piece. The Crown swept every acting award in the drama race and, with literally zero doubts by the eleventh hour of the telecast, took home the top drama prize for the first time.
Drama and comedy have long been considered the Emmys’ sexiest genres, in terms of clout and anticipation, but most Hollywood insiders spent this year’s voting cycles speculating about the absolutely stacked limited series races. After the previous weekend’s Creative Arts ceremony lavished The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) with an auspicious nine wins, odds were clearly in its favor. But dual wins for Mare of Easttown (HBO) supporting performers Julianne Nicholson (beating co-star and double-nominee Smart) and Evan Peters suddenly made limited wins look less certain. The tide turned again in The Queen’s Gambit‘s favor with a directing win for creator Scott Frank, whose bloated speech made another compelling argument for abolishing the filibuster. He did not repeat in writing. Michaela Coel, the it auteur of the last 16 months, finally got some mainstream U.S. awards love for penning her revelatory one-off I May Destroy You. (Ewan McGregor, in the night’s biggest head-scratcher, won best actor in the limited field for his work in Netflix and Ryan Murphy’s unenthusiastically-received Halston.)
The limited race swung yet again when Oscar winner and acting royalty Kate Winslet’s work in Mare of Easttown beat back Coel’s performance and early favorite Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit). It made the eventual come-back win for The Queen’s Gambit, the last award handed out for the night, a genuine nail-biter.
In non-narrative news, HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and NBC’s Saturday Night Live scored some no-brainer wins, much like Vh1 incumbent RuPaul’s Drag Race as reality competition of the year, proving once again that TV Academy voters in those categories appear to be on autopilot. Live variety special went to Stephen Colbert’s election night extravaganza, and pre-taped went to the 2020 telepic of Broadway juggernaut Hamilton.
So, how do we encapsulate what these wins mean as interest in the 2021 race wanes as I type? Well, the next time The Crown is up against HBO’s soon-to-return Succession — and, presumably, some other new series as well — it will likely be anyone’s game. Ted Lasso, whose second season has been warmly-received by critics, may be at the start of a potentially long hot streak. Netflix and Apple execs, respectively, should be thrilled with those wins — Netflix, especially. Coupling that drama sweep with a best limited series win gave the streamer its biggest Emmy night to date.
What’s most exciting, however, is the growing opportunity among limited series. Not only did the diverse offerings produce wins for multiple series, it gave the Emmys a genuinely suspenseful final moment after a night of coronations and a few streaks. The top prize going to The Queen’s Gambit, when it could have just as easily gone to Mare or even I May Destroy You, felt like an apology for those anticlimactic Oscars earlier in the year.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day