Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, HBO’s Big Little Lies and NBC’s Saturday Night Live carried off the lion’s share of the awards at the Television Academy’s 69th annual Emmy ceremony, each garnering five of the coveted awards handed out.
A recurring theme throughout Sunday evening’s eventful Prime Time Emmys, notable for both records set and first-time honorees, was an air of self-congratulation for the diversity of this year’s nominees and winners along with many laudatory references to what is being called the age of Peak TV.
“I didn’t know you could applaud and pat yourselves on the back at the same time,” said the Late Show’s Stephen Colbert who was hosting the Emmy Awards for the first time.
But President Trump all but trumped the Hollywood event as a fusillade of political jokes and sharp-tipped barbs were directed at him all through the ceremony, not just by Colbert, but by many of the presenters and Emmy winners.
Trump was mocked for his oft-stated resentment at not receiving an Emmy — although he was nominated twice for The Apprentice, during the time when he was best known to the public as a reality-TV star.
“I suppose I should say at long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy,” Alec Baldwin said bitingly as he accepted the award for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for satirizing Trump to great acclaim on numerous episodes of SNL during last year’s election and since he’s become president.
An early high point of the festivities was when former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer suddenly popped up on stage behind a podium, gobsmacking the star-studded audience in a surprise self-parody of his widely-derided claim that the crowd at the Trump inaugural was the largest in history.
“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world,” said Spicer who was also memorably mimicked on several episodes of SNL by Melissa McCarthy.
Having won an Emmy at last week’s Creative Arts Awards as outstanding guest actress in a comedy show for spoofing Spicer, she sat stunned as did many in the audience when he appeared.
SNL’s Trump-fueled dominance was reinforced when regular cast member Kate McKinnon got the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, highlighted by her deft takes on Hillary Clinton and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway known for coining the phrase “alternative facts.” In her acceptance speech McKinnon gave a shout out to Hillary Clinton for her “grace and grit.”
The SNL capstone came when the show received the Emmy as the outstanding Variety Sketch Series. Producer-creator Lorne Michael in accepting the honor said this was perhaps the most successful season in SNL’s history, topped only by its award-winning debut 41 years ago.
The evening’s other two big winners, The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies both resonated with issues important to women.
The Handmaid’s Tale, adapted from a 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood (who was in in attendance) about an anti-woman dystopia, won the Emmy for outstanding dramatic series. The award represented a triumph for Hulu, which became the first streaming service to get a kudo for best series. The five wins were the first ever for Hulu.
Elisabeth Moss, with seven previous nominations (most of them for her part in Mad Men) won her first Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for playing Offred, the main role in Handmaid’s Tale; and also got a second as one of the show’s producers.
The outstanding supporting actress in a drama series Emmy went to Ann Dowd who played Aunt Lydia in Handmaid’s Tale. In an emotional acceptance speech Dowd remarked on getting the honor late in her career: “I have been acting for a long time and that this should happen now, I don’t have the words.”
Handmaid’s Tale female director Reed Morano received the Emmy for outstanding directing for a Limited Series, TV Movie or Special. And the show’s fifth award went to Bill Miller for outstanding writing for a drama series.
Big Little Lies won the Emmy for Best Limited Series. Nicole Kidman won the Emmy (her second) for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie for playing Celeste Wright, a battered wife, in the noir comedy-drama about dark secrets lurking behind what seem to be idyllic lives of three mothers of young children.
In the highly competitive category Kidman won out over fellow nominee and series co-star Reese Witherspoon (who did however win an Emmy as one of the show’s producers). She also bested the two leads of Feud, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lang, who played Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in the mini-series.
Laura Dern, another member of the actress-dominated cast of Big Little Lies, got the Emmy for best supporting actress.
The show’s sole male acting winner was Alexander Skarsgård who got the Emmy for best supporting actor. “Thank you for making this boy feel like one of the girls,” Skarsgård joshed in his acceptance remarks.
Kidman said the project came about because of the frustration that she and Witherspoon had as actresses: “We weren’t being offered great roles.”
She also talked about her part: “We shone a light on domestic abuse. It is a complicated, insidious disease, and it exists far more than we allow ourselves to know. It is filled with shame and secrecy, and by you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more.”
Meanwhile Julia-Louis Dreyfus won a record-breaking sixth Emmy as lead actress in a comedy series for her role as Selina Meyer on Veep (HBO), the most awards ever for playing the same role in a single show.
Veep also repeated previous awards, winning yet another prize for best comedy series.
“Let’s hope this is the beginning of something even better in our country — and in the world — because I think the world would be a better place if more women were in charge,” said Dreyfus.
She also told the audience that the show’s writers had at one point considered a plot about a presidential impeachment. “We did have a whole storyline,” she noted, “but we abandoned that because we were worried” that Trump might really get impeached first.
Trump took his most direct hit when Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin, the trio of stars from their hit Nine to Five came out as presenters.
“Back in 1980 in that movie we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” said Fonda. “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” Tomlin chimed.
Parton coyly said nothing, and pretended to be surprised at their applying one of the film’s most famous and most caustic quotes to Trump.
In addition to Vice, other shows that won two Emmys included FX Networks’ Atlanta, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO and Black Mirror on Netflix.
Atlanta’s Danny Glover made Emmy history winning as both the star of the offbeat comedy and as best comedy director. Not only was he the first black actor to win in that category since Robert Guillaume won for Benson in 1985, but his Emmy in comedy directing was the first ever for an African-American.
“I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most oppressed list,” Glover said in accepting one of his awards. “He’s the reason I’m probably up here.”
Sterling K. Brown, another black actor, won the Emmy as outstanding lead actor in a drama series for playing in Randall Pearson, This Is Us (NBC).
The outstanding supporting actor in a drama series Emmy went to John Lithgow for playing Winston Churchill in the Netflix prestige series The Crown, about the early years in the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she ascended the throne in the 1950s. Lithgow has now won a total of seven Emmys.
The Emmy for outstanding writing for a comedy series went to Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe for another Netflix show, Master of None. Ansari, who is also the shows’s lead, is of Indian descent and one of the first Asian-Americans to win an Emmy.
NBC’s The Voice won the Emmy for best reality-competition series, beating out Rupaul’s Drag Race, nominated for the first time in the category.
Finally, it was a disappointing evening for several nominated shows with high hopes of winning an Emmy but came up empty-handed — most prominently Stranger Things, Feud and Westworld.
Complete list of 2017 Emmy Award winners
Outstanding Drama Series
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Elisabeth Moss as Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Sterling K. Brown as Randall Pearson, This Is Us (NBC)
Outstanding Limited Series
Big Little Lies (HBO)
Outstanding Television Movie
Black Mirror: San Junipero (Netflix)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Riz Ahmed as Nasir “Naz” Khan, The Night Of (HBO)
Outstanding Comedy Series
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, Veep (HBO)
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Donald Glover as Earn Marks, Atlanta (FX Networks)
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series
Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Outstanding Writing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special
Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror: San Junipero (Netflix)
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, TV Movie or Special
Reed Morano, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Outstanding Reality-Competition Series
The Voice (NBC)
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, Master of None (Netflix)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Outstanding Variety Series
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Alexander Skarsgård as Perry Wright, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special
Jean-Marc Vallée, Big Little Lies (HBO)
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
Bruce Miller , The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Donald Glover — Atlanta (FX Networks)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Laura Dern – Big Little Lies
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Kate McKinnon – Saturday Night Live
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
John Lithgow as Winston Churchill, The Crown (Netflix)