Awards shows often mirror current events, from politically pointed acceptance speeches to winners whose subject matter feels especially relevant in the moment. The 69th Emmy Awards, held Sunday night, didn’t skimp on either, as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Veep” posted strong — even dominant — showings over the course of the night.
“He’s the reason I’m probably up here,” “Atlanta” star Donald Glover said of President Trump, while accepting an award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Kate McKinnon won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for “Saturday Night Live,” on which she famously played Hillary Clinton; her counterpart, Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin, also won, and took an unsurprising jab at the president in his acceptance speech. Riz Ahmed, winner of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for “The Night Of,” praised the work of the Innocence Project and South Asian Youth Action in his speech.
It was a big night for juggernauts. The evening’s final honoree, Outstanding Drama Series winner “The Handmaid’s Tale,” gave star Elisabeth Moss her first Emmy in nine nominations; Ann Dowd also won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Reed Morano took an award for her work as one of the show’s directors, and Bruce Miller won Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. (“The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood even took the stage at the end of the night.) “Big Little Lies” stormed the Outstanding Limited Series categories in which it was nominated — with wins for actors Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard — and won a directing award for Jean-Marc Vallée.
“Veep” and “Atlanta” split the major comedy categories. The former took Outstanding Comedy Series, while star Julia Louis-Dreyfus set an Emmy record for her sixth consecutive win playing the same character. (She’d previously tied Candice Bergen, who’d won five in a row as the star of “Murphy Brown.”) “Atlanta” took two big awards of its own, both for creator/star Donald Glover: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series. But the comedy category’s most dramatic win of the night came when “Master of None” writers and co-stars Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari won Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series — and received a standing ovation. The coming-out story they’d told in “Master of None’s” “Thanksgiving” episode was reflected in Waithe’s speech, in which she thanked “my LGBQTIA family,” of whom she said, “The things that make us different, those are superpowers. … [T]he world would not be as beautiful as it is if you weren’t in it.”
Host Stephen Colbert opened the show with a musical number, in which he visited actors in character — including cast members from “Stranger Things,” “The Americans” and “Veep” — and made room for a guest verse from Chance the Rapper (!!!), whose words hinted at the political overtones of the telecast to follow: “I love television, it’s a pleasant distraction / 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?” Elsewhere, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer made a less rapturously received cameo in which he bragged about the size of the Emmys audience.
Other winners included “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (for a writing award and Outstanding Variety Talk Series), “This Is Us’” Sterling K. Brown (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series), “The Crown’s” John Lithgow (Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series), “Black Mirror” (Outstanding Television Movie and a writing award), and “The Voice” (Outstanding Reality-Competition Program).