Jason Sudeikis, star of the warm-hearted "Ted Lasso," and Jean Smart of the generation-gap story "Hacks" won top comedy series acting trophies at Sunday's Emmy Awards.
Sudeikis, who also produces the series that many viewers found a balm for tough pandemic times, gave a speech that evoked the chipper, upbeat 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."
Princess Diana played by Emma Corrin (Netflix)
Earlier in the evening, ebullient "Ted Lasso" castmate 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."
The show's Brett Goldstein, who won the counterpart award for supporting actor, 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 of British royal drama "The Crown" were honored for their supporting performances. The series also picked up writing and directing honors.
Anderson, who played British political leader Margaret Thatcher, used her acceptance speech to thank her manager of 20 years for her mentorship and believing in her talent before she did.
Menzies who plays Prince Philip, didn’t attend the ceremony, which included a London gathering for "The Crown" nominees.
Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca Welton
Before announcing the winner in his category, presenter Kerry Washington saluted 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.
"The script was "true to the horror and beauty of ordinary people’s lives," particularly the lives of women, said Nicholson.
Both she and Peters saluted star Winslet.
"Man, you’re good at acting. But turns out you’re good at caring for a whole production," Nicholson said.
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 host 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 like 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.
"Why is there a roof? It’s more important that we have three chandeliers than make sure we don’t kill Eugene Levy tonight. That is what has been decided."
Cedric the Entertainer worked hard and landed some laugh-getting jokes, but the night’s comedy bits were hit and miss — including Stephen Colbert’s jokes about California’s failed gubernatorial recall and Ken Jeong’s effort to get past security and into the show.
The show's producers promised the show will be a celebration for all. But it could be much more rewarding, even historic, for some.
That includes Netflix's drama "The Crown" and Apple TV+ comedy "Ted Lasso." Each is considered a frontrunner Sunday for top series honors in their respective categories, and their casts received armloads of nominations.
More than the shows on streaming would benefit. Victories in both the best drama and comedy series categories would mark a first for streaming services and reinforce their growing dominance, to the dismay of competitors.
But the TV industry overall, including the broadcast networks that still field popular shows but are largely eclipsed at the Emmys, will be honored, say those in charge of the event airing on CBS.
Roughly 500 people attended the Emmys in downtown Los Angeles, with fashion standout Billy Porter sporting large wings attached to the sleeves of his black trouser look and Sudeikis walked the red carpet in a velvet suit of soft blue.
The producers' ultimate goal is a ceremony that is upbeat and acknowledges how much TV's importance grew during the pandemic and its lockdowns.
The top nominees include the British royal drama "The Crown" and the Star Wars-universe derived "The Mandalorian," which received a leading 24 nominations each.
On the comedy side, the feel-good comedy "Ted Lasso" is competing with "black-ish"; "Cobra Kai"; "Emily in Paris"; "Hacks"; "The Flight Attendant"; "The Kominsky Method" and "PEN15."
Other drama series contenders include past winner "The Handmaid’s Tale" and "Lovecraft Country," which was canceled after a single season but yielded nods for cast members Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Aunjanue Ellis and Williams.