The 73rd annual Emmy Awards on CBS, commanded an audience of 7.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. That’s a 16 percent jump from last year’s all-time low, and the highest viewership since 2018, which drew over 10 million total fans. Comedian Cedric the Entertainer hosted the audience-attended gala at LA LIVE’s Event Deck (rather than the Emmy’s traditional Microsoft Theater), marking another notable change from 2020 when Jimmy Kimmel presided over a primarily virtual affair due to the pandemic. From wins to losses to noteworthy moments, here’s what you need to know.

Women Rule
Women shattered several glass ceilings, starting with their victories in directing categories. The Crown’s Jessica Hobbs won Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, while Lucia Aniello took Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series in honor of her work on Hacks. That marked the first time women scored top honors in both directing groups in the same year. What’s more, Hobbs’s recognition for directing season four of The Crown was rare—only the fourth time in 67 years that a woman has been thus distinguished in her category. “Not a lot of women have won this award, so I feel I’m standing on the shoulders of some really extraordinary people,” she said.

Fellow Emmy winner Kate Winslet, who took home the Best Actress in a Limited Series prize for her role in HBO’s Mare of Easttown, spoke honestly about early experiences of being body shamed at auditions. By contrast, her character, Mare Sheehan, is a rough-talking lover of Rolling Rock beer, Philly cheesesteaks and junk food. When asked about what this successful portrayal might say regarding Hollywood’s evolving view on women’s appearances, Winslet responded, “I’m honestly starting to feel that…the shifts are happening. And I think we’re finger pointing a lot less at women in terms of how they look, their shape. We stopped scrutinizing them.” From positive body messaging to conquering ageism, 70-year-old actress Jean Smart proved that some things improve with time. She scored this year’s Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award for her portrayal of Deborah Vance in Hacks, a win preceded by her 2008 Emmy Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Samantha Who?) and 2001’s Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Frasier). That makes her the fourth person to ever win every acting award in a single genre category.

Diversity Efforts
While women broke molds and emerged victorious, this year’s Emmy Awards were criticized for taking a step back in terms of diversity. First, the good news: Five-time NAACP Image Award winner Cedric the Entertainer emceed, making him the second Black host, after Bryant Gumbel in 1997. RuPaul also made history, collecting his eleventh statue for RuPaul’s Drag Race, which means he’s the all-time most-awarded Black Emmy artist. Season 14 of his show was recently greenlit by VH1, with international versions taking place in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the UK and the Philippines. [Special note: At ERPS we are especially proud of our partnership with World of Wonder, producer of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and honored to be their production payroll provider.] Legendary actress, producer, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen was honored with the Governors Award for her entertainment contributions over the last four decades, making her the first Black woman to receive this distinction. “…it’s taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time,” she said during her acceptance speech, before urging younger generations to “Tell your stories…it’s your turn.” Finally, British-Ghanaian writer-actress Michaela Cole became the first Black woman to win the award for Best Writing in a Television Limited Series or Movie thanks to her work on I May Destroy You, a drama about surviving sexual assault.

Still, more advancements must be made. Despite being nominated for a record lineup of awards, performers of color didn’t take home a single acting trophy at this year’s Emmys. White actors swept all 12 lead and supporting categories, prompting an immediate #EmmysSoWhite backlash. Even the late Michael K. Williams, previously considered a shoo-in for Lovecraft Country, posthumously lost to supporting actor Tobias Menzies of The Crown. “It was disappointing,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences and professor of sociology and African-American studies at UCLA. “When you have 44 percent of the nominees that are people of color and you have 0 percent that win, there’s something structural going on.” Such snubs were by no means a novel occurrence, leading many to call for systemic change in the structuring of awards shows.

Streamers for the Win
Streaming services stole this show year, starting with Netflix. The content giant snagged a total of 44 trophies, propelling it to the ranks of most Emmy awarded network or platform. Commendations went to actors Gillian Anderson, Olivia Colman, Josh O’Connor and Tobias Menzies for The Crown, which itself commanded 11 wins. That tied the drama series with Netflix’s other record-breaking hit, The Queen’s Gambit, for most wins for an individual program. Netflix more than doubled its 2020 tally, when it walked away with 21 statues. Critics’ darling HBO, plus streamer HBO Max, came in second. Netflix beat out HBO for the first time—accruing 19 trophies, mainly for Hacks and Mare of Easttown. While Hulu and Amazon got shut out (following 2020 wins of one and four Emmys, respectively), Apple TV collected 10 awards and made history by being the fastest-ever streamer to command a series prize, while only in its second year of operation. That distinction went to fan-favorite Ted Lasso, for Outstanding Comedy Series. Best actor Jason Sudeikis, best supporting actress Hannah Waddingham and best supporting actor Brett Goldstein rounded out Apple TV’s comedy wins. “While Ted Lasso taught us to believe that anything is possible, we are so genuinely moved that this has culminated in such a historic night for both Apple TV and the cast and crew of this special series,” said Zack Van Amburg, head of worldwide video. With the 2021 Emmy Awards wrapped, we’ll be looking forward to next year’s slate of programming and nominees.

Gilbert Galvan
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