With ‘The Crown,’ Netflix finally takes the Emmys throne
By John Koblin
At long last, the streaming platforms were triumphant at the Emmys, with Netflix and AppleTV+ taking major awards in drama, comedy and limited series as Television Academy voters acknowledged a profound shift in entertainment, from the channel-flipping days of traditional TV to the 21st-century mode of click-and-watch binge viewing.
“The Crown,” the lush Netflix chronicle of the ups and downs of the British royal family, won the prize for best drama at the 73rd Emmy Awards on Sunday, propelling the tech giant to its first victory in one of television’s biggest prizes.
The drama won on the strength of its fourth season, which took viewers into the 1980s as it portrayed the relationship of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. “The Crown” also dominated the acting categories. Olivia Colman, in the role of Queen Elizabeth II, took the award for best actress in a drama. She was the second actress to win for a portrayal of Queen Elizabeth on “The Crown,” with Claire Foy having taken the honor in 2018.
On Sunday, Josh O’Connor (Prince Charles), Gillian Anderson (Margaret Thatcher) and Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip) also won Emmys for their performances on the period drama.
“I’m very proud, I’m very grateful, we’re going to party,” said Peter Morgan, creator of “The Crown,” offering his remarks from a viewing party attended by the show’s cast in London, after winning for best writing.
“The Queen’s Gambit,” Netflix’s seven-episode show about a chess prodigy, won best limited series, another first for the platform. The limited series category has become a must-see genre among viewers, with its big-budget productions often featuring A-list stars, and the Television Academy, which organizes the Emmys, seemed to agree: The limited series category was the last award of the night, a designation formerly reserved for best drama.
For Netflix, the wins in best drama and best limited series were a long time coming. From 2013 to 2020, the streaming service earned a whopping 30 nominations in best drama, comedy and limited series, but had never pulled off a win in those categories, often losing out to HBO, the perennial Emmys heavyweight.
Before the best drama win for “The Crown,” only one streaming service, Hulu, had won in that category, when “The Handmaid’s Tale” took the award four years ago. And before the win for “The Queen’s Gambit,” no streaming show had ever taken the best limited series statuette.
By the end of the ceremony, Netflix had received more awards than HBO for the first time, taking 44 Emmys, compared with 19 for HBO and its streaming platform, HBO Max.
And Netflix was hardly the only streaming service to have a big night.
“Ted Lasso,” the feel-good show about an aphorism-spouting, fish-out-of-water soccer coach that has struck a chord with viewers, took the Emmy for best comedy, a major triumph for Apple TV+, a streaming service that is not quite 2 years old.
Jason Sudeikis, the former “Saturday Night Live” stalwart who plays the show’s title character, won his first Emmy for best actor in a comedy, and his fellow cast members Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddingham won in the supporting categories.
“Jason, you’ve changed my life with this,” an exuberant Waddingham said, paying tribute to Sudeikis, who is also a creator and executive producer of the show, amid screams of joy.
“Hacks” also scored well in the comedy categories, winning awards in writing and directing, and for best actress in a comedy for Jean Smart’s role as a Joan Rivers-like comedian on the show. The series was made not for cable, but exclusively for HBO’s streaming service, HBO Max.
The wins were fitting for a ceremony that recognized the best shows that impressed critics and hooked viewers amid the coronavirus pandemic. During the stay-at-home months last year and early this year, people increasingly turned away from cable and embraced streaming video entertainment, accelerating a yearslong trend.
Cable TV wasn’t completely out of the picture Sunday.
“Mare of Easttown,” HBO’s gritty whodunit limited series, tore through the acting categories, with Julianne Nicholson and her castmate Evan Peters taking best supporting actor honors. Kate Winslet, for her role as a weary detective, won best actress in a limited series, besting Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”) and Michaela Coel (“I May Destroy You”) in one of the night’s most competitive categories.
“‘Mare of Easttown’ was this cultural moment and it brought people together and gave them something to talk about other than a global pandemic,” said Winslet, after accepting her Emmy.
Another score for cable: “RuPaul Drag’s Race,” the winner of the best competition series for a fourth straight year. With the win, RuPaul Charles brought his career tally to 11 Emmys.
Michaela Coel won for best writing in a limited series for HBO’s “I May Destroy You.” And John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” an HBO series, won a sixth straight Emmy in best variety talk series. In his speech, Oliver paid tribute to Norm Macdonald, the comedian who died of cancer last week at 61. Lorne Michaels, the main creator of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” also honored Macdonald, a onetime anchor of the show’s Weekend Update segment, when accepting the Emmy for best variety sketch series.
“‘Weekend Update’ has been part of ‘SNL’ for 46 seasons,” Michaels said. “And here I’d like to pay tribute to one of the best we ever had — Norm Macdonald.”