Peak TV finally got the Primetime Emmy Awards that it deserves.
Sure, “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” repeated their wins Sunday in the top drama and comedy series categories (giving HBO its second year of winning both). And legends like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jeffrey Tambor continued their trophy dominance.
But underneath that, a whole new generation of fresh faces picked up their first-ever Emmys on Sunday night. Actors and actresses that seemed like long-shots just a few years ago were instead embraced by a large voting body that appears ready to embrace the new talent earning raves in this new golden era of Peak TV. Superstars and newbies alike hit the stage, and even the surprise winners were hard to argue.
Rami Malek, Tatiana Maslany, Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, Courtney B. Vance, Kate McKinnon and Ben Mendelsohn were just some of the stars landing the night’s top Emmy prizes — keeping awards watchers on their toes.
“Game of Thrones” cleaned up with 12 awards overall, between Sunday’s Primetime ceremony and last week’s Creative Arts Emmys – the most of any program. (The show also won 12 Emmys last year).
The “Thrones” haul was also historic: The HBO drama has now picked up 38 wins overall, making it the scripted primetime series now with the most Emmy wins. “Fraiser” previously held the record, at 37.
The show won the outstanding drama Emmy over “Downton Abbey,” “The Americans,” “House of Cards,” “Homeland,” “Better Call Saul” and “Mr. Robot.”
The “Game of Thrones” episode “Battle of the Bastards” made a specific impression with TV Academy voters. Executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won the outstanding drama writing Emmy for the episode (beating “The Americans,” “Downton Abbey,” “The Good Wife,” “Mr. Robot” and “UnReal”), while Miguel Sapochnick, who helmed the episode, won for outstanding director (over “Downton Abbey,” “Homeland,” “The Knick,” “Ray Donovan” and another episode of “Thrones”).
Benioff and Weiss also won the Emmy last year for drama writing, while “Thrones” also repeated in the drama category.
Meanwhile, “The People v. O.J.: American Crime Story” lived up to expectations, cleaning up nine Emmys (including 5 on Sunday), topped off with the win for outstanding limited-run series.
Perhaps it was a little bit of a vindication for O.J. Simpson prosecutors Marcia Clark and Chris Darden, who were celebrated via Emmy wins for the actors who played them, Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown. The defense also scored another win: Courtney B. Vance, who played Johnnie Cochran, picked up the Emmy as well.
It was the first Emmy win for all three performers. Paulson won for outstanding lead actress, Vance scored four oustanding lead actor, and Brown was named outstanding supporting actor, all in a limited series/movie.
“A lot of you may not have known who I was, but you checked the box anyway and that makes me very happy,” Brown said.
Paulson brought the real-life Clark to the ceremony, and even publicly apologized to the former prosecutor — now a successful author — for how she (like most people) “had been superficial and careless in my judgment” before actually playing her in the series.
“Mr. Robot” star Malek’s win was a huge get for both the show and USA Network, which hasn’t traveled often in awards circles. Malek beat out Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”), Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) and Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”).
“Please tell me you’re seeing this too,” Malek joked.
Maslany’s first-time win, for playing multiple roles on “Orphan Black,” beat out Robin Wright (“House of Cards”), Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), Claire Danes (“Homeland”), Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and last year’s winner, Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”).
“I am so lucky to be on a show that puts women at the center,” Maslany said.
While newbies won out of the gate in many early categories, it was the veterans that still picked up the big prizes.
“Veep’s” repeat win for outstanding comedy series came in a category that also included “Black-ish,” “Master of None,” “Modern Family,” “Transparent,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Silicon Valley.”
“Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, to the surprise of no one, grabbed her fifth consecutive win for outstanding actress in a comedy. It’s now the longest streak ever in the category — beating Helen Hunt’s four consecutive wins for “Mad About You” in the late 1990s. (Others, including “Murphy Brown’s” Candace Bergen, have won five Emmys for the same role — but not consecutively.)
Louis-Dreyfus won this year over Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Laurie Metcalf (“Getting On”), Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”), Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer”) and Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”). Louis-Dreyfus dedicated her win to her father, who passed away on Friday. “His opinion was the one that really mattered,” she said.
“Downton Abbey” star Maggie Smith, who has previously won three other Emmys (including another for “Downton”), won another supporting drama actress award, for the show’s final season. Host Jimmy Kimmel pointed out that Smith (a no-show) habitually doesn’t attend the Emmy ceremony – and grabbed her trophy.
Also not attending: Outstanding drama supporting actor winner Ben Mendelsohn (Netflix’s “Bloodline”), who beat out last year’s winner (Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones), as well as Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”), Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”), Jon Voight (“Ray Donovan”) and Kit Harrington (“Game of Thrones”).
Jeffrey Tambor’s repeat win for outstanding comedy actor was so expected that host Kimmel even made a joke during his monologue, handing the actor his trophy early. When Tambor later presented an award, he noted that producers took the Emmy back. But then he won.
“There is no best actor,” Tambor said. “I’m so honored to be in this category with these artistic killers.”
Tambor won in a category that also included Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”), Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”), Will Forte (“The Last Man on Earth”), William H. Macy (“Shameless”) and Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”).
Interestingly, both comedy acting roles went to men playing female characters. That’s because the supporting actor in a comedy series went to “Baskets” star Louie Anderson, who won his first Emmy (out of his first-ever nomination) on Sunday. TV Academy awards chief John Leverence told IndieWire that he doesn’t believe that, until Tambor and Anderson, that any male actors have ever been nominated for playing female roles.
“Mom, we did it!” Anderson said on stage. “I have not always been a good man, but I play one hell of a woman.” The comedian gave thanks to his mother, from whom “I stole every nuance, shameful look, cruel look, loving look [and] passive aggressive line.”
Anderson’s win also makes him the first person not on “Modern Family” or with the name “Tony Hale” to win the category since 2009. Anderson beat out last year’s winner, “Veep’s” Tony Hale (who has won two Emmys), as well as 2014’s winner Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”), Keegan-Michael Key (“Key & Peele”), Andre Braugher (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Matt Walsh (“Veep”).
“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon also picked up her first-ever Emmy, for supporting actress in a comedy. Fighting back tears, McKinnon thanked two of the real-life people she often parodies on the sketch series, Ellen DeGeneres and Hillary Clinton.
McKinnon beat last year’s winner, “Mom” star Allison Janney, as well as Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”), Gaby Hoffman (“Transparent”), Judith Light (“Transparent”) and Niecy Nash (“Getting On”).
In the variety talk race, the “Daily Show” streak lives, sort of. HBOs “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” landed the Emmy for outstanding variety talk show — the first time a Comedy Central series hadn’t won the category (or its predecessor, variety series) since 2002. But with “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” both gone, it opened the door for the newbie.
“Last Week Tonight” won over “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” “Last Week Tonight” also won for outstanding writing for a comedy series — the first time a non-Comedy Central show has won that category since 2007.
Comedy Central did continue the streak on the outstanding variety sketch side, as “Key & Peele” won the award for its final season, beating out last year’s winner (“Inside Amy Schumer”), as well as “Documentary Now,” “Drunk History,” “Portlandia” and “Saturday Night Live.”
“Key and Peele” has been nominated for 18 Emmys over the course of its life – but this was its first-ever win. Separately, Comedian Patton Oswalt took home the Emmy for outstanding writing in a variety special, for his Netflix special “Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping.”
“Master of None” executive producers Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang won the outstanding comedy writing category, for the critically acclaimed episode “Parents.” Yang and Ansari beat out the first episode of Amazon’s “Catastrophe” and two episodes each from “Silicon Valley” and “Veep.”
“Parents” was extra personal for the writers. It was inspired by Yang’s family but also featured Ansari’s real-life parents, playing themselves on the show. While collecting his trophy, Yang noted the lack of Asian American representation on screen — pointing out how Asian Americans have been stereotyped over the years with characters like “Long Duck Dong” in the movie “Sixteen Candles.”
“We have a long way to go,” he said. “But I know we can get there. Asian parents, do us a favor — get your kids cameras instead of violins and we’ll be all good.”
“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway won her second Emmy in a row in the outstanding drama directing category, for helming the show’s episode “Man on the Land.” Soloway beat out an episode of “Master of None,” two episodes of “Silicon Valley” and three episodes of “Veep.”
“People ask me if it’s hard to be a director,” Soloway said. “I tell them no — life is really hard.”
“The People v. O.J. Simpson’s” wins began with the outstanding writing for a limited series, which went to D.V. DeVincentis (who wrote the landmark episode “Marcia, Marcia Marcia”). The episode won out over two other “People v. O.J.” episodes, as well as two “Fargo” episodes and “The Night Manager.”
Preventing a full limited-run series sweep for “People v. O.J.”: Susanne Bier of AMC’s “The Night Manager” picked up the Emmy for outstanding directing. Bier was up against three episodes of “People v. O.J.” (which may have canceled each other out), and “Fargo” and “All the Way.”
Paulson was also nominated in the supporting actress in a limited series/movie competition (for “American Horror Story: Hotel”), but “American Crime” star Regina King won the award for a second consecutive year.
In the TV movie competition, PBS’ “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride” wonbeat out “All the Way,” “Confirmation,” “Luther” and “A Very Murray Christmas.” It was the first time HBO hadn’t won the category since 2003. It’s actually only the third time that HBO hasn’t won the outstanding TV movie category since 1993.
HBO led this year’s total Emmy tally at 22 wins, followed by FX (18), Netflix (9), PBS (8) and a tie between Amazon, Fox and NBC (six each).