03:07 - Source: CNN
Watch 'Abbott Elementary' star's epic acceptance speech
CNN  — 

“Succession” and “Ted Lasso” emerged as returning champions at the 74th annual Emmy Awards, on a night that tilted toward repeat winners while spreading the wealth in a way that appeared to celebrate diversity among talent, platforms and content.

After Netflix’s record-tying performance in 2021, HBO reasserted its dominance in its now-annual battle with Netflix for supremacy in the realm of prestige TV. The pay network was led by the limited series “The White Lotus,” whose five awards on Monday night – coupled with a handful of technical prizes at the earlier Creative Arts ceremonies – let it check out with 10 overall wins this season, more than any other program.

HBO collected 12 of the 25 statuettes awarded at Monday’s ceremony. That included a second win for “Succession,” which sat out last year due to the eligibility window, leaving the door open for “The Crown” to sweep the drama voting.

“Ted Lasso” became comedy’s back-to-back winner for the show as well as stars Jason Sudeikis and Brett Goldstein – an increasingly rare feat, if only because shows now more frequently take longer breaks between runs.

Denied an opportunity to make history as a non-English-language drama winner, as “Parasite” did at the Oscars, Netflix’s social-media sensation “Squid Game” garnered awards for star Lee Jung-jae and directing. The show had previously earned a quartet of victories at the Creative Arts ceremony.

Adding the earlier ceremonies with Monday night, HBO totaled 38 Emmys this year, far ahead of second-place Netflix, at 26. Apple’s “Ted”-powered showing left the streaming service with nine overall, tied with Disney+ behind Hulu, with 10 thanks largely to its fact-based limited series. (Like CNN, HBO is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

After a sleepy start to the show, Sheryl Lee Ralph woke up the audience as she became only the second Black woman to win supporting actress in a comedy for ABC’s “Abbott Elementary,” a win notched 35 years after Jackee Harry broke through for “227.” The Broadway star then sang part of her speech (thanking executives in script that ran across the bottom of the screen), bringing the crowd bounding to its feet.

Quinta Brunson, the show’s star and producer, was also honored for writing the sitcom about teachers, a boost heading into its second season next week.

Ralph brought energy to a telecast that probably could have used more of her. Hosted by “Saturday Night Live’s” Kenan Thompson (and including a mini-reunion with former co-star Kel Mitchell), the ceremony bounced along at an awkward pace. Politics played a muted role in the evening, and the efforts to celebrate the breadth of television sometimes felt as if they came at the expense of time devoted to the actual awards.

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 the long-running “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.”

Zendaya claimed her second lead-actress award for HBO’s bleak high-school drama “Euphoria,” and Julia Garner received her third Emmy for her supporting role as Ruth in Netflix’s grim drama “Ozark.” Jean Smart joined the repeat winners for the HBO Max comedy about comedians, “Hacks.”

Still, other first-time winners broke through as well. Matthew Macfadyen took the supporting actor award for “Succession,” this year’s most-nominated program, joined by limited-series stars Michael Keaton for “Dopesick” and Amanda Seyfried for another Hulu production, “The Dropout,” and her portrayal of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.

First-time nominees Murray Bartlett and Jennifer Coolidge were also recognized for “White Lotus,” with the latter having to overcome four of her co-stars in the bountiful cast. 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.

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 one of the more emotional acceptance speeches from its host.

HBO’s strong showing followed a year in which Netflix tied a 47-year-old record (originally set by CBS) with a total of 44 Emmys across the Creative Arts and main telecast. That included sweeping the top drama categories with “The Crown,” which didn’t air during this year’s eligibility period.

HBO was the most-honored network in 2019 and 2020, tying with Netflix the year before that.

The presentation 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.”