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Analysis: Emmys honor ‘The Crown,’ ‘Ted Lasso’ and ‘Queen’s Gambit’ as Netflix makes history

<i>Des Willie/Netflix</i><br/>The Crown
Des Willie/Netflix
Des Willie/Netflix
The Crown

By Brian Lowry, CNN

Netflix capped a historic night with Emmy wins in two of the three top categories for “The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit,” with Apple TV+’s comedy “Ted Lasso” completing a streaming sweep at the 73rd annual Emmy ceremony.

In a stunning achievement, Netflix’s 10 wins on Sunday night, coupled with 34 wins at the Creative Arts Emmys a week ago devoted mostly to technical categories, ties the all-time record for wins by a network or service in a single year. But CBS earned those 44 awards in 1974, a dramatically different era before the explosion of abundant cable and streaming options that currently exists.

Although presenters celebrated diversity and inclusion on stage, the performing winners as chosen by the Television Academy didn’t reflect that ethos, with every award in the lead and supporting acting categories going to White performers.

Netflix’s assault on the Emmy record books included sweeping the drama-series categories handed out Sunday for “The Crown,” with Olivia Colman, Josh O’Connor, Gillian Anderson and Tobias Menzies all taking home gold.

The series about the British royal family amassed 11 awards including technical ones, just short of the drama-series record of a dozen established by HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

“The Queen’s Gambit,” about a chess prodigy, took just a pair of awards on Sunday — the other for director Scott Frank, who refused to be played off the stage. Its nine wins from earlier ceremonies gave it 11 overall. The record there still belongs to HBO’s “John Adams.”

Emmy voters spread the wealth a bit more elsewhere. In addition to comedy series, Apple’s star player claimed acting prizes for Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein, having already received a trio of wins in technical categories. HBO’s limited series “Mare of Easttown” also amassed a trio of acting statuettes for Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson and Evan Peters.

HBO’s nine Emmys on Sunday gave it 19 for the awards season, far behind Netflix, but pushing it ahead of Disney+, whose lone win for the musical presentation “Hamilton” gave it 14 overall.

Last year, combining all ceremonies HBO topped all outlets with 30 awards, compared to 21 for Netflix, whose previous high was 27 Emmys in 2019. No rival had surpassed HBO in total wins in 20 years, including a tie with Netflix in 2018.

The HBO Max comedy “Hacks” broke up any thoughts of a “Ted Lasso” block party to rival “The Crown’s” jewels, as Jean Smart earned the fourth Emmy of her illustrious career, tearfully thanking her late husband Richard Gilliland. The show also won for directing and writing, with director Lucia Aniello saying of the crew working through the pandemic, “They made something in a really hard time to help people escape.”

Smart’s was one of several tributes to those who recently died, including Michael K. Williams — a nominee for “Lovecraft Country” — and comedian Norm Macdonald.

John Oliver also paid tribute to Macdonald, as well as Conan O’Brien ending his longrunning latenight show, in accepting his sixth consecutive Emmy for HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” beginning to approach the win streak of the show from which he came, “The Daily Show” during Jon Stewart’s tenure.

Hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, the show opened with a rap performance celebrating television involving much of the in-person crowd, a departure from last year’s virtual ceremony. “We all vaxxed,” the host said, adding, “I did not have a reaction like Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend.

Netflix began its aggressive push into original programming in 2013 with the series “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” but it has never won the coveted best drama or comedy series prizes. Other streaming services have, with wins for Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Amazon’s “Fleabag” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Neither of last year’s winners were in contention. HBO’s “Succession” didn’t air during the eligibility window (it returns in October), and “Schitt’s Creek” was recognized for its final season. Like CNN, HBO is a unit of WarnerMedia.

In a night that featured a relatively modest number of political speeches emanating from the stage, issues pertaining to women stood out.

Winslet spoke of the power and importance of women sticking together, and Michaela Coel, the star of the HBO limited series “I Will Destroy You,” dedicated her win for writing the show to all survivors of sexual assault.

“Let this moment resonate with women across the world,” Debbie Allen said in receiving the Governors Award for her long career as a director, actor and choreographer, extending that to women from Texas to Afghanistan.

“It’s taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time,” she said, telling the producers to turn off the clock on her acceptance speech, to applause from the crowd, closing by saying, “Let this moment resonate with women across the world.”

CBS broadcast the show under a rotating agreement among the four major broadcast networks. Of those channels, only NBC was recognized on Sunday for “Saturday Night Live,” the 86th Emmy in the program’s storied run.

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