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A Review Of Sunday Night's 73rd Emmy Awards

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I spent a few minutes before the show today scanning the news for the big winners at the Emmys. I mean, it's news, right? It is my job. Headline - "Ted Lasso" and "The Crown" won big. But that's not enough to satisfy my award show curiosity, so here is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans to fill in the rest of the story.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Last night's Emmy Awards started with an anthem that promised a seriously fun party - a version of the late rapper Biz Markie's hit "Just A Friend" adapted for the Emmy Awards, with Rita Wilson, among others, rapping.

(SOUNDBITE OF 73RD PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS TELECAST)

RITA WILSON: (Rapping) And this rap wouldn't be complete. I got to give a shoutout to "Sesame Street."

DEGGANS: But as the awards unfolded, that energy didn't hold. In fact, it was surprising - especially for a contest where the winners were largely expected, well-liked and deserving - how lackluster it all was. Netflix's "The Crown" won seven awards last night, including best drama series, its first win in four nominations, but widely expected. Similarly, Apple TV+'s popular "Ted Lasso" scored four wins, including best comedy series and best supporting actress in a comedy, which went to a very excited Hannah Waddingham.

(SOUNDBITE OF 73RD PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS TELECAST)

HANNAH WADDINGHAM: To my parents, who I nearly lost during the filming of this season, I'm so glad that you're here to see this moment.

DEGGANS: One of the night's more poignant speeches came from Jean Smart, winner of best actress in a comedy for HBO Max's "Hacks." Smart, a TV veteran who's become a fan favorite with a string of powerful performances in recent acclaimed shows like "Watchmen," "Mare Of Easttown" and "Hacks," drew a standing ovation.

(SOUNDBITE OF 73RD PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS TELECAST)

JEAN SMART: I have to acknowledge my late husband, Richard Gilliland, who passed away six months yesterday. And I would not be here without his kind of putting his career on the back burner so that I could take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that I've had.

DEGGANS: But the evening also had an odd tension. Comic actor Seth Rogen touched on one issue when he noted everyone seemed to be gathered in a relatively small space with no mask on during a pandemic.

(SOUNDBITE OF 73RD PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS TELECAST)

SETH ROGEN: Let me start by saying there is way too many of us in this little room. They said this was outdoors. It's not.

DEGGANS: The show also struggled with when to start music to, quote, "play off" winners who talked too long. After the music cut off Jean Smart, Governors Award winner Debbie Allen made it plain she wasn't tolerating anyone limiting her remarks.

(SOUNDBITE OF 73RD PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS TELECAST)

DEBBIE ALLEN: It's taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time. Honey, turn that clock off. I ain't paying no attention to it. Turn it off. Turn it off.

DEGGANS: Scott Frank, co-creator, writer and director of the best limited series winner "The Queen's Gambit," drew ire online by refusing to stop talking while accepting an Emmy for best direction. Waving off the music several times, he looked like the picture of Hollywood entitlement, speaking longer than most every other winner.

But what was most striking - no person of color won any of the dozen acting awards handed out last night, despite racial and ethnic diversity among the nominees and presenters. Michaela Coel, star of HBO's limited series "I May Destroy You," was one of the few non-white Emmy winners to speak last night. She won a writing award for the program, which was loosely based on her own experience with sexual assault.

(SOUNDBITE OF 73RD PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS TELECAST)

MICHAELA COEL: Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that isn't comfortable. I dare you. I dedicate this story to every single survivor of sexual assault. Thank you.

DEGGANS: Host Cedric the Entertainer seemed overmatched from the start. Despite a few interesting jokes and a great pre-taped skit with actors like Jason Alexander complaining about never winning an Emmy, he wasn't able to provide much spark. A quality awards ceremony is a mix of good pacing, great entertainment and a few surprises. Unfortunately, by offering a ceremony that was a little too predictable, a little too scripted and a little too white, last night's Emmy Awards fell short in just about every category.

I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBIENT JAZZ ENSEMBLE'S "ELEVEN DAYS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.