“The White Lotus” cleaned up as repeat winners mixed with first-time honorees at the 74th annual Emmy Awards, but it was Sheryl Lee Ralph who woke up the audience with her half-sung acceptance speech, on a night where HBO and Netflix geared up for another in their now-annual battles for supremacy in the realm of prestige TV.
Ralph became only the second Black woman to win supporting actress in a comedy for ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” a win that came 35 years after Jackee Harry broke through for “227.” The Broadway star sang part of her speech (thanking executives in script that ran across the bottom of the screen), bringing the crowd – sleepy, until that point – bounding to its feet.
There was, as usual, a fair amount of repetition, and a whole lot of bleeped-out words. The former included the seventh consecutive award to “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” and another trophy for “Saturday Night Live.” Oliver’s HBO show has owned that category, in much the way Jon Stewart did at his former home, “The Daily Show.”
Julia Garner also received her third Emmy for her supporting role as Ruth in Netflix’s grim drama “Ozark,” while Brett Goldstein nabbed a rare back-to-back win (thanks to being eligible in successive years) for Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso.”
Still, other first-time winners broke through as well. Matthew Macfadyen took the supporting actor award for HBO’s “Succession,” this year’s most-nominated program, joined by limited-series stars Michael Keaton for “Dopesick” and Amanda Seyfried for another fact-based Hulu production, “The Dropout.”
First-time nominees Murray Bartlett and Jennifer Coolidge were also recognized for HBO’s “The White Lotus,” with the latter having to overcome four of her co-stars. Coolidge got played off during her ebullient acceptance speech, after a few recipients had talked over the music. Mike White also won for both writing and directing the series, which already claimed five technical awards previously.
Amazon’s “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” also capped its three-Emmy run through this awards season by winning for competition program, prompting an emotional acceptance from its host.
Netflix tied a 47-year-old record (originally set by CBS) with a total of 44 Emmys last year across the Creative Arts Awards, dedicated primarily to technical categories, and the main telecast. That included sweeping the top drama categories with “The Crown,” which didn’t air during this year’s eligibility period.
HBO and HBO Max topped all platforms coming into this year’s primary telecast, with 26 awards, versus 23 for Netflix. Both were well ahead of the nearest competitors, Disney+ and Hulu – both owned by Disney – with nine and eight wins, respectively. (Like CNN, HBO is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.)
HBO was the most-honored network in 2019 and 2020, tying with Netflix the year before that.
Hosted by Kenan Thompson, the ceremony kicked off with a tribute to TV theme songs, and a standing ovation for Oprah Winfrey, who presented the first award of the night.
After record-low ratings in 2020 with a virtual ceremony, viewership of the Emmys rebounded last year to an estimated 7.4 million viewers – still low by historic standards, but a marked improvement over the previous two years.
Ratings for linear TV have been declining in general, and the Emmys are perceived to have been impacted by nominating fewer widely popular shows as streaming has taken over the awards competition.
TV rights to the Emmys rotate among the four major broadcast networks. This year’s show moved from its usual Sunday broadcast because it’s airing on NBC, which carries “Sunday Night Football.”