The Handmaid’s Tale, Saturday Night Live and Veep cleaned up at the 2017 Emmy Awards, befitting a three-hour ceremony that simmered with political outrage and proffered television as a haven for diversity, equality and opportunity – and perhaps an escape as well.
Host Stephen Colbert opened the show with a monologue packed with Trump burns, focusing specifically on the president’s obsession with the Emmys and the fact that his long-running reality show, The Apprentice, never won. At the end of his speech, he introduced Trump’s former Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, who rolled a podium onto the stage a la Melissa McCarthy’s SNL impersonation of him and joked, “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period – both in person and around the world.”
In all, Saturday Night Live took home nine Emmy awards – the biggest haul of the evening. In the night’s two biggest categories, The Handmaid’s Tale won Outstanding Drama Series while Veep took home its fourth Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. The night saw several stars winning their first Emmys as well, with Donald Glover picking up Best Actor in a Comedy Series and Best Directing for his work on Atlanta, and Elisabeth Moss – after years of coming up short for Mad Men – winning Best Lead Actress in a Drama for The Handmaid‘s Tale.
This year’s returning champs included Sterling K. Brown, who followed up his 2016 win for The People v O.J. Simpson, with Best Lead Actor in a Drama for This Is Us, while SNL‘s Kate McKinnon won her second straight Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy award. Julia Louis-Dreyfus also made Emmy history with her sixth consecutive Best Actress in a Comedy win for Veep (earlier in the show, Colbert joked that the Emmys were “a day when all the beautiful men and all the beautiful women gather to give golden statues to Julia Louis-Dreyfus”).
Big Little Lies proved to be the night’s other big winner in the increasingly competitive limited series category. The HBO show picked up the trophy for Outstanding Limited Series, while Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman all won acting awards and Jean-Marc Vallée won for Best Directing.
In the variety category, Saturday Night Live and Last Week Tonight shared the spoils. John Oliver’s HBO series won Best Writing and Best Variety Talk Show while SNL won Best Directing and Variety Sketch Show. Accepting the latter award, SNL‘s creator Lorne Michaels recalled the first time the long-running sketch show won the award after its first season. “I remember thinking as I was standing there, alone, that this was it,” he said. “This was the high point. There would never be another season as crazy, as unpredictable, as frightening, as exhausting, or as exhilarating. Turns out, I was wrong.”
Along with McKinnon’s win for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Alec Baldwin also took home the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor for his recurring role on SNL as President Trump. Baldwin joked during his acceptance speech, “I guess I should say, at long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy.”
The night boasted several more memorable moments, most of which had a sharp political edge. Colbert prefaced his monologue with a song-and-dance routine about the escapism of modern TV that featured a guest verse from Chance the Rapper, “I love television, it’s a pleasant distraction,” the MC spat, “But just imagine taking action/ I like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in fact I’m addicted/ But where’s the cop show where one gets convicted?”
Later in the ceremony, Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin came together for a 9 to 5 reunion that garnered a standing ovation. During the bit, Fonda and Tomlin ruthlessly compared 9 to 5 boss, Franklin Hart, Jr., to Trump, though Parton refrained from getting political and instead joked about vibrators and breasts.
The evening also featured several remarkable and poignant speeches from winners like Ann Dowd (who won Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for The Handmaid’s Tale) and Laura Dern, who noted pointedly about the female-driven Big Little Lies, “I’ve been acting since I was 11 years old and I think I’ve worked with maybe 12 women, so I just want to thank the television academy for honouring our show.”
Elsewhere, Donald Glover quipped during his Best Actor speech, “I want to thank Trump for making black people Number One on the oppressed list. That’s probably why I’m up here.” And Riz Ahmed, after winning Best Actor in a Limited Series or Television Movie for The Night Of, said, “It is always strange reaping the rewards of a story based on real-world suffering, but if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our societies, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that is something.”
However, the night’s most exciting speech came from Master of None‘s Lena Waithe, who became the first black woman to win the Emmy for Best Writing for a Comedy Series, for an episode of Master of None she co-wrote with Aziz Ansari. During her speech, Waithe thanked her “LGBTQIA family” and proclaimed, “The things that make us different – those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”