LOS ANGELES — Netflix’s “The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit” combined with Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” to sweep top series honors at the Sunday’s Emmy Awards, a first for streaming services that cemented their rise to prominence in the television industry.
"I’m at a loss for words,” said Peter Morgan, the creator and writer of the British royal saga “The Crown,” which collected acting, writing and directing awards in addition to four acting honors.
His comment may also apply to the premium cable channels that once ruled the Emmy Awards and to the broadcast networks — including Sunday's ceremony host, CBS — that have long grown accustomed to being largely also-rans.
Netflix won a leading total of 44 awards, equaling the broadcast network record set back in 1974, by CBS. The streaming service, which fielded the first drama series nominee, “House of Cards” in 2013, finally won the category.
Newcomer Apple TV+'s first top series came less than two years after it launched.
“The Crown” and “The Queen's Gambit” tied as leaders with 11 awards each, with “Ted Lasso” topping the comedy side with seven trophies.
“The Queen's Gambit” made Anya Taylor-Joy a star and Emmy nominee for her portrayal of a troubled chess prodigy. Executive producer William Horberg singled her out in his acceptance speech.
"You brought the sexy back to chess, and you inspired a whole generation of girls and young women to realize that patriarchy has no defense against our queens.” he said.
There was a bright spot for HBO with its limited series “Mare of Easttown,” the crime drama that earned four Emmys, including a lead acting award for star Kate Winslet. For broadcaster NBC, “Saturday Night Live” again came through with variety honors.
The ceremony proved disappointing as well to those scrutinizing diversity in Hollywood. The record number of nominees of color yielded only two Black winners, including RuPaul for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and star-creator Michaela Coel's writing award for “I May Destroy You.”
PHOTOS: Emmys 2021 red carpet
Cedric the Entertainer proved a game host, moving from a hip-hop opening number to gags and sketches, but the relatively small crowd — a result of pandemic precautions — was fairly muted in their response to him and others' one-liners.
There was a feeling of personal sadness that pervaded the night, with a number of winners recounting the loss of loved ones.
“The Crown” stars Olivia Colman and Josh O'Connor won the top drama acting honors Sunday, with Jason Sudeikis, star of the warm-hearted “Ted Lasso," and Jean Smart of the generation-gap story “Hacks,” winners on the comedy side.
Colman and O'Connor were a winning fictional mother-son duo: She plays Queen Elizabeth II, with O'Connor as Prince Charles in the British royal family saga that combines gravitas and soap opera.
“I'd have put money on that not happening,” Colman said of the award, calling it “a lovely end to the most extraordinary journey” with the show's cast and creators. She cut her remarks short, explaining why she was growing tearful.
“I lost my daddy during COVID, and he would have loved all of this.” she said.
O'Connor gave a shoutout to Emma Corrin, who played opposite him as Princess Diana and was also a nominee Sunday, as a “force of nature.”
He also offered thanks to his grandmother, who died a few months ago, and his grandfather, Peter O'Connor, for the “greatest gifts” of kindness and loyalty.
Sudeikis co-created “Ted Lasso,” which many viewers found a balm for tough pandemic times. He gave a speech that evoked the chipper, upbeat title character he plays in the series about a U.K. soccer team and its unlikely American coach.
“This show’s about families and mentors and teammates, and I wouldn’t be here without those things in my life,” said Sudeikis. He also thanked his fellow castmates, saying, “I’m only as good as you guys make me look.”
Smart, who received a standing ovation, began her acceptance speech on a somber note: Her husband actor, Richard Gilliland, died six months ago.
“I would not be here without him” and his willingness to put her career first, said Smart. She also praised their two children as “courageous individuals in their own right.”
Earlier in the evening, ebullient “Ted Lasso" cast member Hannah Waddingham, winner of the best supporting actress award for a comedy, said Sudeikis “changed my life with this, and more importantly my baby girl’s."
Brett Goldstein, who won the counterpart award for supporting actor for playing a retired soccer star, said he had promised not to swear and either mimed or was muted for a few seconds, then called the show the “privilege and pleasure” of his life.
Gillian Anderson and Tobias Menzies were honored for their supporting performances on “The Crown.”
Anderson, who played British political leader Margaret Thatcher, was one of numerous cast members to accept from a “Crown” gathering in London. Menzies who plays Prince Philip, didn’t attend either ceremony.
Before announcing the winner in his category, presenter Kerry Washington paid tribute to another nominee, Michael K. Williams of “Lovecraft County.” Williams died Sept. 6 at age 54.
“Michael was a brilliantly talented actor and a generous human being who has left us far too soon,” Washington said.
Another lost star was remembered by John Oliver of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
“No one was funnier in the last 20 years than Norm Macdonald on late-night comedy," Oliver said in accepting the Emmy for best variety talk show, suggesting people spend time checking out clips of Macdonald, as he did after Macdonald died Sept. 14 at age 61.
Kate Winslet, who played the title character in “Mare of Easttown,” and Ewan McGregor, who starred in the fashion biopic “Halston,” were honored as top actors for a limited series.
Winslet saluted her sister nominees in “this decade that has to be about women having each other’s back.”
Julianne Nicholson and Evan Peters claimed best supporting acting honors for “Mare of Easttown,” about crime and family dysfunction. Both she and Peters praised star Winslet as an actor and colleague.
Debbie Allen received the Governors Award for a long and acclaimed career as an actor, dancer, choreographer and activist.
“I am trembling with gratitude and grace and trying not to cry ... it’s been many years in the making, taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time. Courage and creative and fight and faith to believe I could keep going, and I have,” she said.
The show opened with a musical number that featured Cedric the Entertainer rapping a modified version of the Biz Markie hip-hop hit “Just a Friend” with lyrics like “TV, you got what I need.” LL Cool J bounded from the audience as stars including Rita Wilson, Mandy Moore and more dropped verses celebrating the breadth of television.
Seth Rogen presented the first award, throwing some cold water on the celebratory vibe by noting that the Emmys were being held in a giant tent. “There’s way too many of us in this little room,” he exclaimed in what seemed to be an attempt to be funny that fell flat.
In the cumulative awards handed out Sunday and at the previously-held creative arts events, the outlets that followed Netflix included HBO and HBO Max with 19 combined awards; Disney+ with 14; Apple TV+, 10; NBC, 8.