Streaming video solidified its place as the vanguard for television creativity as Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” was honored with five statuettes including outstanding drama series at the 69th Emmy Awards.
The win in the drama category marks the first time a streaming series has earned the most prestigious prize at the awards which were presented Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
The politically charged series based on the Margaret Atwood novel and produced by MGM Television, also won the drama categories for actress (Elisabeth Moss), supporting actress (Ann Dowd), direction (Reed Morano) and writing (Bruce Miller). With its wins at the Creative Arts Emmys last week, it won a total of eight awards, the second most of any show.
“Saturday Night Live” won the most of any show — nine — including for actors Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon for their brilliant impersonations of President Trump and Hillary Clinton, wins that underscored the sometimes funny, sometimes fierce political tenor of the awards.
HBO’s “Veep” won for comedy series for the third consecutive year while its star Julia Louis-Dreyfus was named best actress in a comedy for the sixth time, a record for any performer in the same role.
The wins for Hulu, which had not won an Emmy in a major category before, reflect the stunning rise of streaming video which has upended the television industry and also ushered in a boom in television production and diversity of offerings for consumers.
Streaming giant Netflix also scored wins for its anthology series “Black Mirror: San Junipero,” which was honored for television movie. It also earned a direction win in the category for Charlie Brooker. Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe earned wins in comedy writing for its series “Master of None,” and John Lithgow won for best supporting actor honor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Crown.”
In commenting on the rapid rise of Netflix and streaming, Emmy host Stephen Colbert noted that “five years ago their hottest show was a scratched DVD of ‘Finding Nemo.’”
Premium cable network HBO was the big winner overall on the night with 10 awards, even though its major piece of Emmy artillery “Game of Thrones” was not eligible this year and one of its most nominated series, “Westworld,” was shut out of the big awards.
The television academy was not even-handed. Only HBO with 10 wins, Hulu with five, NBC with six, Netflix with four and FX were honored on the night. There were no wins for ABC, CBS, Fox, PBS or any other cable network.
Capping a big night for female-centric shows, HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” a program praised for its depiction of spousal abuse, was honored for limited series or movie and took the categories for actress (Nicole Kidman), actor (Alexander Skarsgard), supporting actress (Laura Dern) and director (Jean-Marc Vallee).
HBO’s political commentary show “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” earned wins for variety talk series and writing in a variety series. The network’s other win came in the actor in a limited series or movie category as Riz Ahmed won for his performance in “The Night Of.”
The victories for “Big Little Lies,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Last Week Tonight” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” also reflect the Television Academy’s bent toward political commentary and socially conscious work, which was honored throughout the night. The actresses who were honored encouraged the industry to do more of it, especially in regard to issues important to women.
“It's been an incredible year for women on television,” said Reese Witherspoon, who co-starred in “Big Little Lies,” which is based on a based selling novel by Australian author Liane Moriarty. “Can I just say, bring women to the front of their own stories, and make them the hero of their own stories.”
President Donald Trump, who often lamented that he did not win an Emmy for his reality series “The Apprentice,” was very much a presence as awards recipients referenced him throughout the night.
“I suppose I should say, ‘At long last Mr. President, here is your Emmy,” Baldwin said during his acceptance speech for supporting actor in a comedy.
Baldwin acknowledged that his impression of Trump has been life-changing for him. “My wife and I had three children in three years, and we didn't have a child last year during the "SNL" season,” he said. “I wonder if there's a correlation there. All you men out there, you put that orange wig on, it's birth control. Trust me.”
Baldwin’s performance helped thrust “SNL” front and center in the national political conversation. Kate McKinnon was also honored in the supporting actress in a comedy category for her work on the show which she said is “the most important work I would ever do.”
“Saturday Night Live” also won Emmys for best variety sketch series — a prize it has not earned since 1993 — and direction of a variety series (Don Roy King).
“SNL” impresario Lorne Michaels summed up the program’s wild ride of the past year in his speech when he accepted the honor for sketch comedy
“I remember the first time we won this award,” he said. “It was after our first season, 1976. And I remember thinking as I was standing there alone that this was it. 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.”
A number of Emmy wins made history on the night. Waithe was the first African American woman to win an Emmy in comedy writing for a series. Donald Glover’s win in direction for his FX comedy series “Atlanta” was also a first for an African American director.
Glover, who also won for actor in a comedy series, became the first winner of in the comedy direction category to direct himself since Alan Alda did it for “MASH” in 1977.
Other major winners on the night included Sterling K. Brown, whose work in NBC’s “This Is Us, earned him a statuette for best actor in a drama series, and John Lithgow who won for best supporting actor in a drama for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the Netflix series “The Crown.”
NBC’s “The Voice” was named best reality series for the fourth year in a row.