2021 Emmy Awards: Facts & Feats

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The 73rd annual Emmy Awards, which were held at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday (Sept. 19), got off to a surprisingly hip start. Emmy host Cedric the Entertainer opened the telecast with a parody of Biz Markie’s 1990 hip-hop classic, “Just a Friend.” He was joined by LL Cool J, Lil Dickie and actress/singer Rita Wilson on the fondly remembered hit by the rapper, who died in July.

The Emmys also made a hip choice over the In Memoriam spot. Jon Batiste, who won an Oscar in April, joined Leon Bridges for a two-guitar version of “River,” a song from Bridges’ 2015 debut album.

Beyond some hip musical choices, history was made during the three-hour show. Here are 10 of this year’s most notable Emmy facts and feats.

RuPaul became the person of color with the most career Emmys. He won his 11th Emmy for outstanding competition program as an executive producer of RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1). RuPaul pulled ahead of Donald A. Morgan, a cinematographer and lighting director, who has won 10 Emmys. This is the fourth consecutive win for outstanding competition program for RuPaul’s Drag Race, which puts it in a tie with The Voice (NBC) for second place on the all-time winners list in this category, behind only The Amazing Race (CBS), which won 10 times.

‘Hamilton’ won outstanding variety special (pre-recorded), five years after it swept the Tonys. The show won one other Emmy — outstanding technical direction, camerawork, video control for a special, at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys. Hamilton won a near-record 11 Tony Awards five years ago. The cast album won a Grammy in early 2016 for best music theater album. The original cast album climbed as high as No. 2 on the Billboard 200, the highest ranking for a cast album since 1969, when Hair logged 13 weeks at No. 1.

‘Saturday Night Live’ won outstanding variety sketch series for the fifth straight year. Prior to this streak, the show won twice—in 1976 and 1993—for outstanding variety series. SNL won eight Emmys this year, bringing its lifetime total to 85, more than any other series in TV history. In accepting the award, executive producer Lorne Michaels said that Weekend Update has been one of the show’s signature features since the show’s launch in 1975 and that Norm McDonald, who hosted the segment from 1994 to 1997, “was one of the best we ever had.” McDonald died on Sept. 14.

‘Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020′ won outstanding variety special (live). It beat The Grammys (which has yet to win a top variety program Emmy), The Oscars, and the Super Bowl halftime show starring The Weeknd, all of which were co-produced by Jesse Collins, as well as Celebrating America – An Inauguration Night Special.

‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ won outstanding variety (talk) series for the sixth year. That puts the HBO series in a tie with Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) for second place on the all-time winners list in this category, behind only The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central), which won an astonishing 11 times. In accepting the award, Oliver paid tribute to fellow nominee Conan O’Brien, who wrapped up a 30-year run in late night in June.

‘The Crown’ and ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ were the year’s top winners, with 11 Emmys each. They won for outstanding drama series and outstanding limited or anthology series, respectively. This was The Crown’s first win for outstanding drama series. The show lost in its first three seasons to The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones and Succession, respectively.

‘Ted Lasso’ won outstanding comedy series in its first season. It’s the fifth sitcom since 2000 to win this top award in its first season. It follows Arrested Development (2004), 30 Rock (2007), Modern Family 2010) and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2018).

Jean Smart became the oldest winner ever for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series. In winning for Hacks, Smart, 69, set a new record as the oldest winner in the history of the category. The old record was set just last year by Catherine O’Hara of Schitt’s Creek, who was 66 when she won.

As happened at the Oscars, an actor, widely expected to win posthumously, did not. Many expected the late Michael K. Williams, nominated for Lovecraft Country, to win for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series, but he lost to English actor Tobias Menzies, who played Price Philip in The Crown. Something similar happened at the Oscars in April, where many expected Chadwick Boseman to win best actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but he lost to Welsh actor Anthony Hopkins for The Father. In both cases, the winning actors were not on hand to accept their awards.

Debbie Allen has won as many Emmys in the past week as she had in her entire career prior to this year. Allen received the governor’s award on Sunday, one week after winning two Creative Arts Emmys for her work as an executive producer and choreographer of Netflix’s Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square. These three Emmys in one year equal the number of Emmys Allen had received in her entire career prior to this year. She won two Emmys for her work on the series Fame in 1982-83 and one on the 1991 special, Motown 30: What’s Going On!

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