Newcomers rose to the top, but old favourites stole the limelight; the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards left no stone unturned as outspoken speeches made headlines of their own right. The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story (albeit a bit of a mouthful) dealt the biggest blow to the trophy-case, stealing five of the major awards, including four acting awards and the award for ‘Outstanding Limited Series’.
Unsurprisingly, the big triumph of the night was Game of Thrones, who despite stealing only three of the main categories (‘Outstanding Drama Series’, ‘Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series’ and ‘Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series) secured 12 wins overall, overtaking Frasier as the most successful show in Emmy award history. The show reached 38 awards in its six-year run just edging past Kelsey Grammer and co. at 37. Disappointingly for many fans, however, the show’s actors were all beaten with Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Maisie Williams, Peter Dinklage and Kit Harington all nominated for best supporting actor/actress in a drama series. This blow was softened by executive producer David Benioff, who claimed; “We have the best cast that I think has ever been assembled.”
Veep and Transparent triumphed in the comedy categories with two wins each, but it was Veep who stole the top nod of ‘Outstanding Comedy Series’. Julia Louis-Dreyfus secured the crown of America’s funniest woman with her fifth consecutive ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series’ win. Transparent director Jill Soloway’s rousing acceptance speech for directing in a comedy series was a major talking point of the night as she slammed the patriarchy, praised the transgender community and spoke of changing the world through television. She closed her speech with her battle cry; “We need to stop violence against transgender women and topple the patriarchy.” Her sentiments were echoed by ‘Outstanding Actor in in a Comedy Series’ winner and Transparent star, Jeffrey Tambor who called on producers, directors and creators to give transgender talent their chance.
Maggie Smith whose yearly absence from the ceremony was the subject of much of Kimmel’s gags, took home her fourth Emmy at age 81 for her role in Downton Abbey. Newcomer Remi Malek (Mr Robot) became the first minority actor in 18 years to take home the award for best actor in a drama series, and Tatiana Maslany, another first-time winner, stole the gold for best actress in a drama series for her role in Orphan Black.
It was a mixture surprises and predictability, but it wasn’t just the losers left licking their wounds. Instead some familiar targets (and one in particular) were the objects of countless jokes, digs and slurs. Not far from the home he loves on screen, America’s television awards delivered blow after blow to Donald Trump. From presenter Jimmy Kimmel’s blatant scolding of Celebrity Apprentice producer Mark Burnett for bringing the Republican red-head into our homes, to Julia Louis-Drefus personally apologising for “the current political climate”, admitting it makes Veep look like a “sobering documentary” rather than political satire. Despite Burnett’s attempt to back up his buddy, Trump, and throw counter-shade at Hilary Clinton, she got off far lighter than her political rival.
Numerous jibes also highlighted the diversity of the Emmy’s in comparison to its movie counterpart, the Oscars. Several comments hinted at the Academy Awards’ racist undertones. Kimmel in his opening monologue hit the first punch, announcing; “If you are a person of colour in our audience tonight, especially if you’re a nominee, please find a white person right now just to take a moment to reach out and say ‘Thanks for your bravery’.” His point was reiterated by ‘Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series’ winner Aziz Ansari who jokingly claimed he was voting for Trump and therefore all Muslim and Hispanic nominees should leave, a feat much easier achieved if he were at the Oscars.
Aside from the gibes and activism, there were lighter elements interspersed throughout. What started as an ode to recently deceased director Gary Marshall, evolved into a performance of ‘Hallelujah’ by singer-songwriter Tori Kelly in memoriam of many fallen greats this past year including Alan Rickman, Doris Roberts, Anton Yelchin, Prince, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie and Gene Wilder. A Carpool Karaoke-turned-Wham! concert, peanut butter sandwiches handed out by the kids from Stranger Things, and Matt Damon’s epic shade-throwing upon Kimmel’s own category defeat all made for an entertaining night with a bit of bite. It was better than the IFTAs at any cost.
-By Aisling Bonner