Handmaid’s Tale and politics take centre stage at the Emmys
The bleak depiction of an authoritarian America, and HBO’s Big Little Lies, were the biggest winners, taking five awards each
Los Angeles — Television’s glittering Emmys placed politics front and centre on Sunday, lavishing The Handmaid’s Tale with awards for its bleak portrait of an authoritarian America.
The glitzy ceremony in downtown Los Angeles — the first under the administration of President Donald Trump — was widely expected to have a strongly political flavour, and host Stephen Colbert set the tone in his opening monologue.
"However you feel about the president, and you do feel about the president, you can’t deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way," he said. "All the late night shows, obviously, House of Cards, the new season of American Horror Story.’"
Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and HBO miniseries Big Little Lies were the big winners, with five statuettes each.
Big Little Lies cast members Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard all took home Emmys, along with director Jean-Marc Vallee. It also won outstanding limited series.
The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s acclaimed series based on the 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, won awards for writing and directing as well as the biggest prize of the night — outstanding drama series.
Ann Dowd, picking up her first Emmy at age 61 for her portrayal of brutal instructor Aunt Lydia, spoke of how her award was "a dream" while outstanding lead actress Elisabeth Moss turned the air blue with an expletive-strewn acceptance speech.
"That was the clean version," Moss joked backstage after the show, describing the opportunity. "I was just trying to remember everybody, and you do have a weird out of body experience."
Atwood said: "One takeaway would be ‘never believe it can never happen here’, which was one of the premises that I used for the book.
"And, as I’ve often said, nothing went into the book that people hadn’t done."
Hulu will have the most to celebrate as the post-show parties get started, stealing a march on rival streaming platform Netflix, which won just four statuettes all evening.
On a night that rewarded ethnic diversity, Sterling K Brown picked up lead actor in a drama for This Is Us while Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, Riz Ahmed and Donald Glover also made it to the podium.
But politics was always going to be the story of the awards from the moment John Lithgow picked up the first one: best supporting actor in a drama for his acclaimed turn as Winston Churchill in Netflix’s British royal drama The Crown.
"In these crazy times his life even as an old man reminds us what leadership and courage in government really looks like," the US actor said.
NBC’s long-running comedy sketch show, Saturday Night Live (SNL), went into Emmys week with 22 nominations — the joint-highest total alongside Westworld — after a year of mercilessly spoofing the new commander-in-chief.
Its haul of five Creative Arts statuettes included outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for Melissa McCarthy, whose Unhinged Spicey take on Sean Spicer came to embody early criticism of the administration.
The former White House press secretary, whose full-throated defence of Trump earned him derision on television, delighted his former tormentors in a surprise appearance at the opening of the show.
SNL took four statuettes, with Kate McKinnon tearfully accepting the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series for her portrayal of Hillary Clinton.
She told reporters backstage that the role had been "the greatest honour of my life" and talked of the "special kind of electricity" on set every week.
Alec Baldwin took home best supporting actor in a comedy for his Trump impersonation.
"I suppose I should say at long last, Mr President, here is your Emmy," he joked, in a dig at Trump’s oft-stated annoyance at never having won a statuette for NBC reality show The Apprentice or its celebrity spin-off.
The show also picked up the award for best variety sketch show and outstanding directing.
Elsewhere in the comedy stakes, the 33-year-old Glover took home a brace of statuettes for directing and starring in the FX comedy series Atlanta.
The award caps a huge year for Glover, who already has two Golden Globes for the show, focused on the Georgia capital’s rap scene.
Glover got a loud cheer when he took to the stage and thanked Trump for "making black people number one on the most oppressed list".
British funnyman Charlie Brooker also picked up two Emmys for writing and producing San Junipero, a feature-length episode of the dark comedy series Black Mirror.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in one of the least surprising announcements of the night, won her sixth consecutive Emmy for playing hapless ex-president Selena Meyer in HBO’s Veep, which also won best comedy series.
The network’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones has a record 38 awards, but was ineligible for the 69th Primetime Emmys, having started its seventh season too late.
That left the field open for several much-talked-about first-timers, including HBO sci-fi Western show Westworld, and Netflix’s 1980s-set horror series Stranger Things.
Neither was able to add to its five Creative Arts Emmys, however.
Perennial favourite HBO led the networks with 10 Emmys. Next were NBC (six), Hulu (five), Netflix (four) and FX (two).