The Primetime Emmy awards had their 2021 ceremony last night, in what was to be the ceremony’s 73rd outing. The awards show was a fairly predictable one, with favourites Ted Lasso, The Crown, and Queen’s Gambit winning big.
British performers had a successful evening, with the fan-favourite royal drama The Crown surprisingly tied with The Mandalorian in nominations – harboring a staggering 24 nominations, and sweeping all drama categories. Actress Olivia Coleman won an acting award, alongside fellow The Crown actors Josh O’Connor, Gillian Anderson, and Tobias Menzies. The Crown was also named best drama, the first win in that category for Netflix, who also led the year in award wins, with 44 trophies in total, including recent wins at the Creative Arts Emmys.
Ted Lasso managed to dominate most of the comedy categories of the night, echoing the sweep that Schitt’s Creek had had at last year’s ceremony. The British-set American comedy from Apple TV snatched the Emmys Comedy Gold from Veep to take home four awards in total, winning best comedy alongside acting nods to Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, and co-creator Jason Sudeikis.
Halting Ted Lasso’s comedy sweep was the HBO comedy show Hacks, which won an award for best comedy writing as well as Jean Smart winning best leading actress. Smart was also nominated for her role as supporting actress in the Mare of Easttown. Hacks co-creator Lucia Aniello won best comedy directing for the show’s pilot, she said in her acceptance speech: “We wanted to make a show that honors anybody who struggled to tell their stories, especially women who never got to tell their story at all because the world wasn’t listening”. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver won best variety talk show and the outstanding writing award for the genre, for the sixth year in a row.
Best limited series awards were split between Netflix’s The Queen's Gambit (which won best limited series and best directing for Scott Frank) and the aforementioned Mare of Easttown, which saw supporting performers Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson taking home trophies, and Kate Winslet winning an award for best lead actress.
Questions have yet again been raised about the lack of diversity within the list of winners, with only three people of colour winning awards: Courtney B Vance won guest actor in drama series Lovecraft Country, RuPaul won best competition series with RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Michaela Coel won best writing in a limited series for I May Destroy You. Coel is the first black woman ever to win the award, and in her speech urged writers to “write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn’t comfortable. I dare you.”, ending her acceptance speech by saying: “I dedicate this story to every single survivor of sexual assault”.
Even with a lack of ethnic diversity in the winners list, strong progress has been made regarding women behind the scenes. It was the first year that women had swept the comedy and drama writing categories – The Crown’s Jessica Hobbs became only the fourth female directing winner, and Hacks’ Lucia Aniello was the fifth.
Director, actor, dancer, choreographer, and singer Debbie Allen won the prestigious lifetime Governor’s award, for her work on shows like Fame, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Cosby Show. She mentioned in her speech: “It’s taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room a lot of times”. She concluded by saying: “For young people who have no vote, who can’t even get a vaccine – they’re inheriting the world that we live in and where we lead them,” she said. “It’s time for you to claim your power. Play your voice, sing your song, tell your stories. It will make us a better place. Your turn.”