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The Winners and Losers of the 2021 Emmy Awards

A ceremony that had too many bits and went mostly chalk was utterly dominated by Brit-heavy shows like ‘Ted Lasso’ and ‘The Crown’

Getty Images/AP Images/Ringer illustration

While last year’s ceremony highlighted the bizarre nature of having a virtual award show in the middle of the pandemic, the 73rd Emmy Awards largely celebrated the shows and performances that kept us occupied while we were cooped up indoors for months. The Emmys had limited attendance for the in-person festivities that took place at the Event Deck at L.A. Live, but it was a step toward normalcy. Meanwhile, a new normal is being built in the TV landscape as streaming services both old and new were crowned (pun very much intended) with some of the Television Academy’s buzziest awards. Let’s break down the biggest winners and losers from Sunday night.

Winner: Ted Lasso

While the players and staff of AFC Richmond thrive as underdogs, Ted Lasso’s freshman season was anything but at the Emmys. It’s a testament to the word-of-mouth power of the Apple TV+ series that its Emmys coronation—claiming Outstanding Comedy Series, as well as acting wins for Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, and Brett Goldstein—felt like a foregone conclusion for the better part of 2021. To keep the analogies in the spirit of the series, other comedies trying to compete for the top awards against Ted Lasso might as well have been going up against Manchester United’s Treble-winning team—defeat was inevitable. We’ll see whether Ted Lasso can keep this momentum going at next year’s Emmys, or whether the dreaded (and at times extremely bizarre) discourse will rear its head again.

Winner: The Crown and the End of Netflix’s Emmys Drought

With mainstays like Succession and Better Call Saul taking the year off, it didn’t appear that any dramas could stand in the way of The Crown, which is no stranger to Emmy wins, but hasn’t been able to win the big award—Outstanding Drama Series—in its first three seasons of eligibility. To say The Crown didn’t have much competition would be an understatement, as the fourth season did a clean sweep of all seven drama categories. Really, the only thing standing in the way of The Crown was itself, like when Olivia Colman won Outstanding Lead Actress over her equally stellar costar Emma Corrin.

The Crown’s Emmys coronation was also a significant achievement for Netflix. Despite being a major player at the Emmys since the early days of House of Cards, the streamer has never won an Outstanding Series Award (comedy, drama, limited series). In fact, the only streaming service to win Outstanding Drama Series was Hulu for the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale. Well, Netflix finally broke its duck—not just with The Crown, but also with an Outstanding Limited Series win for The Queen’s Gambit to cap the evening. Netflix ended the show with 44 Emmy awards, the most for a single network in 47 years. Now, Netflix has only one major award show milestone left to check off its list: winning Best Picture at the Oscars.

Winner: The British

Ted Lasso follows a fictional English Premier League club in London; The Crown is about the monarchy; Emmy winners John Oliver, Kate Winslet, and Michaela Coel also represent the U.K. contingent; and a limited series about professional chess has so much British energy that it’s legitimately shocking it isn’t actually British. (Though its lead actress, Anya Taylor-Joy, does have dual citizenship and thus the U.K. can claim her.) All told, the 73rd Emmy Awards were utterly dominated by the folks from across the pond, as evidenced by the festivities having to cut to a Crown viewing party in London for every single drama series win. They might as well have rebranded the 2021 Emmys as the Other BAFTAs. Cheers.

Loser: Bits

This isn’t the kind of statistic that gets stored on IMDb, but I can say with absolute certainty: This year’s Emmys set a new record for how early it took to get the majority of viewers to reflexively cringe in horror. Within moments of appearing on stage, host Cedric the Entertainer was accompanied by a man—I think it was a man?—with a television where his head should be. Then there was a musical number set to the late Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” and performed, for some reason, by the likes of Lil Dicky, Rita Wilson, and the original cast of Hamilton. (As in: “TV, you got what I need.”)

But the opening performance was just the first in a long line of bits—from Ken Jeong pulling ivermectin out of his bag while trying to get past security to Cedric being responsible for the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head—that fell flat and took too long. As a result, many of the major award winners were played off during their speeches to compensate for lost time, and the ceremony ran far past its (lol) 11 p.m. ET cutoff time.

If there was one thing to take from the string of virtual award shows in 2020, it was that ditching pre-orchestrated skits and giving more time to the people accepting the awards was a comfortable trade-off that led to more moments of emotion and intimacy. Clearly, the Television Academy learned all the wrong lessons from last year’s ceremony.

Winner: Seth Rogen Telling the Truth

As the Emmys’ first award presenter, Seth Rogen expressed what a lot of viewers at home might’ve been thinking: This outdoor venue sure didn’t look very … outdoorsy. “I would not have come to this,” Rogen said, blurring the line between punch line and actual contempt. “Why is there a roof? It’s more important that we have three chandeliers than that we make sure we don’t kill Eugene Levy tonight.”

Even though a COVID vaccination was a requirement to attend, it did feel a bit off-putting to watch an award show with a bunch of maskless celebrities packed like sardines into a glorified tent (with, yes, three chandeliers). Let’s hope the Emmys aren’t followed by reports about breakthrough infections in a few days’ time. Because Rogen is right: We must protect Eugene Levy at all costs.

Winner: Evan Peters Saying “Hoagies”

It appears that the time between the filming of Mare of Easttown and the Emmys did nothing to curtail Peters’s heavy Delco accent.

Perfect execution. It is only right that a new Wawa hoagie be created in his honor.

Loser: MCU Television

When WandaVision collected 23 Emmy nominations, the third most of any series, it announced the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a potential award-season player on the small screen. But while WandaVision did collect three Creative Arts Emmys for technical achievements, the limited series came home empty on Sunday night—despite the fact that Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn were favorable picks in their respective acting categories.

What does this mean for the MCU’s television experiment? Not much, to be honest: These shows were created to facilitate Phase 4 and lure more subscribers to Disney+. Any Emmys would’ve just been a nice bonus. But WandaVision’s rough evening might not bode well for the other MCU shows, especially considering it’s the best of the bunch so far. (The less said about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the better.) Ultimately, when it comes to the Emmys, the MCU appears to be following in the footsteps of The Mandalorian: racking up nominations and letting the ridiculous production values reap the technical rewards.

Winner: Conan O’Brien, Chaos Agent

With his eponymous late-night show getting an Emmy nomination for its final season on TBS, Conan O’Brien used the rare spotlight on a major broadcast network to ensure that he might never get invited to one of these things again. My guy was screaming at the top of his lungs when Television Academy chairman Frank Scherma went up for the customary Television Producer Person Talking About the Power of Television Speech, which is typically the most boring part of the Emmys but, thanks to Conan, turned into deranged performance art:

Scherma clearly wasn’t in on the joke, which made it even funnier. The same can be said for the team behind Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020: Democracy’s Last Stand Building Back America Great Again Better 2020, who had to share the stage with Conan when he ran to the stage to help them accept their Outstanding Variety Special (Live) award. With all due respect to Cedric the Entertainer, Conan made a much stronger memorable impression on Sunday night. In short: Let Conan host the Emmys next year, you cowards.

Loser: The Play-off Music

It’s award season etiquette to wrap up a speech when the music starts playing. But a few folks at this year’s Emmys didn’t get the memo, or perhaps more accurately, they simply chose to flout one of society’s longest held rules. The Queen’s Gambit writer-director Scott Frank ignored multiple play-off attempts to get through a speech that was two pages long—a timely reminder of the importance of editors during the writing process. Stephen Colbert did the same accepting for Variety Special (Live), though compared to Frank giving the oratorical equivalent of the Snyder Cut, it wasn’t nearly as egregious. And this year’s Governors Award recipient Debbie Allen told the Emmys to not even bother playing the music, which was (a) an amazing flex and (b) actually effective in allowing her to get through a speech that wasn’t even that long to begin with.

Ultimately, everyone not named Scott Frank deserves to take their time celebrating a crowning achievement in their careers. As for award show producers, they better take note: The people are no longer respecting the play-off music. Anarchy lies ahead.