The audience at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday was clearly rooting for host Andy Samberg, who ricocheted from one inside joke to another with oddly elongated pauses and a lack of focus. While his opening number made the point that there’s far too much TV to watch, the awards themselves settled into a familiar pattern with multiple wins for HBO’s “Veep,” “Olive Kitteridge” and “Game of Thrones” (beating out favorite “Mad Men,” one of several outgoing series like Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” that nabbed sentimental wins).
Clearly it was a great night for diversity (with Emmys for Viola Davis, Regina King, and Uzo Aduba), women (Jill Soloway and Lisa Cholodenko took home directing wins), and HBO, which threw a sweltering outdoor party at the Pacific Design Center to celebrate its 43 awards, including 29 Creative Emmys last week (CBS’s record of 44 was set in 1974), out of 126 nominations. Its prior high was 32 wins in 2004.
Why did “Game of Thrones” win over “Mad Men”? Finally, it’s the more widely viewed show (8 million weekly viewers vs. the “Mad Men” finale’s 3.3 million), and best demonstrates the degree to which TV series today can outdo Hollywood at delivering visual entertainment of scale and scope. At the HBO party, ex-filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, having completed the second season of “The Knick,” declared that he had never felt happier with the range of possibilities and choices offered by the new media landscape. “I wonder what iTunes is doing,” he asked.
Outstanding Comedy Series: Thankfully this was the year, with new rules in place, that perennial winner “Modern Family” was finally, mercifully dethroned. After five consecutive wins, it was time for the shopworn sitcom to let a quality show like HBO’s “Veep” step into the winner’s circle. With the current campaign for president proving that HBO’s acidly funny political satire is closer to social realism than we might want to admit, “Veep” was primed to play spoiler, removing the broadcast networks’ last toehold in the series categories in the process.
Outstanding Drama Series: With “Breaking Bad” (AMC) long since finished, Emmy voters could have sent off Matthew Weiner’s extraordinary “Mad Men” with the valediction it deserves, but the unorthodox rhythms of the AMC drama’s bifurcated final season may have scared away the traditionalists, leaving newcomer (and “Breaking Bad” spinoff) “Better Call Saul” and the resurgent “Homeland” to duke it out with “Game of Thrones,” which won despite a frustrating, controversial season. Finally, a field without a surefire favorite meant that HBO’s fantasy epic could take the title.
Outstanding Limited Series: By contrast, this category had a clear frontrunner, “Olive Kitteridge,” even though it aired nearly a year ago.
Outstanding Variety Talk Series: While three of the nominees—”The Colbert Report,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and “The Late Show with David Letterman”—bid adieu in the past year (and one of the three has won the Emmy every year since 1997), voters’ sympathies were with Jon Stewart, the most recent man to end his run. Colbert had not only won two years running but will still be around as he finds his footing on his new show. “You will never have to see me again,” said Stewart.
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series: Due respect to “Key & Peele,” home to some of TV’s most reliably excellent running gags—”Obama’s Anger Translator,” “Substitute Teacher”—this was clearly Schumer’s year. Through spring and into summer, Schumer emerged as an agent provocateur for women in Hollywood, testing boundaries of taste and, yes, political correctness as “Inside Amy Schumer” became must-see cultural commentary. (“12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” was then, and remains, the finest episode of television to air this year.) In an awfully strong category, voters agreed that “Inside Amy Schumer” was head and shoulders above the rest. “We all had to get Final Draft once they picked up our show,” said Schumer.
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program: Again, it was time for “The Amazing Race,” which has won the Emmy in this category 10 of the 12 times it’s been awarded, to relinquish its winning ways this year. The win went to one of two previous upsets: “The Voice.”
Outstanding Lead Actress (Comedy): It was inevitable that Julia Louis-Dreyfus would win her fourth straight Emmy for the role of now-President Selina Meyer (and her sixth overall, from an astounding 20 nominations), and it’s hard to fault the TV Academy for sticking with what works.
Outstanding Lead Actor (Comedy): Despite the strength of “Louie” this season, and popular debuts from Will Forte and Anthony Anderson, this category was Golden Globe-winner Jeffrey Tambor’s to lose. As trans woman Maura Pfefferman “Transparent,” Tambor seamlessly shifts from Maura’s self-actualization to the challenges of coming out to her three adult children—the ballast holding the many threads of director-winner Soloway’s warm, humane family dramedy together. Tambor, at 71 the oldest to win in the comedy actor category, praised transgender people for “your patience, thank you for your courage, thank you for your stories, thank you for your inspiration, and thank you for letting us be part of the change.”
Outstanding Supporting Actress (Comedy): With eight (!) nominees, a certain amount of pedigree came in handy, which is why defending champion Allison Janney (“Mom”) had the edge here. She ties Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore with seven career Emmy wins, and reminded viewers of how hot it was on the red carpet by throwing away her pink face-dabbing blotter. “I’m starting to cool down,” she said.
Outstanding Supporting Actor (Comedy): A strong showing for “Veep” across the board—along with the stunning climactic argument of “East Wing”— carried Tony Hale to his second Emmy out of three nominations for the role of loyal bag man Gary Walsh.
Outstanding Lead Actress (Drama): The relatively weak showing for “Empire” at nominations time suggested there was plenty of room for “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC) star Viola Davis to nab the trophy, becoming the first African-American actress to do so. “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson lept to her feet when Davis ascended to the podium to deliver the best speech of the night. Among one of “the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history,”as Samberg pointed out, Davis said that “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” And she celebrated the women who have “redefined what to means to be beautiful and sexy.”
Outstanding Lead Actor (Drama): As suave, thoroughly damaged ad man Don Draper, Jon Hamm fully inhabited what must now be considered one of the most iconic roles in the history of television, and after seven previous nominations, it was high time he received his due. To see Hamm lose an eighth consecutive time would have been nothing short of a travesty. Hamm had a tough year, as he went through rehab and ended his career-defining series as well as his 18-year marriage to Jennifer Westfeldt, who he thanked at the end of the night.
Outstanding Supporting Actress (Drama): In a competitive category, eight-year “Mad Men” veteran Christina Hendricks as pioneering woman in full Joan Holloway and Lena Headey as “Game of Thrones”‘ shamed Cersei Lannister lost to voters who made amends for being unwilling to award “Orange is the New Black” the Emmy for Best Drama by going with Uzo Aduba. She had won a Guest Actress Emmy when the Netflix series was deemed a comedy. Thanking her supporters on the show and her family, Aduba said, “I love you mostly because you let me be me.”
Outstanding Supporting Actor (Drama): On a strong night for “Game of Thrones,” Peter Dinklage took home his second Emmy win. Unfortunately, “Bloodline” landed too quietly this spring to carry Ben Mendelsohn to what would be a well-deserved victory: his mercurial Danny Rayburn is one of the most slippery, compelling figures to come down the pike in quite some time.
Outstanding Lead Actress (Limited Series/TV Movie): Despite impressive Emmy track records, Jessica Lange—for a weak season of “American Horror Story”—and Felicity Huffman—for the little-watched “American Crime”—were unlikely to throw a wrench in Frances McDormand’s path to the prize for HBO’s lauded “Olive Kitteredge.” (“Bessie” won the Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie at the Creative Arts Emmys.)
Outstanding Lead Actor (Limited Series/TV Movie): “Olive Kitteridge” proved popular with Emmy voters, as Richard Jenkins earned his first Emmy win, edging out “Nightingale” star David Oyelowo.
Outstanding Supporting Actress (Limited Series/TV Movie): The upset of the night was Regina King’s surprise win for John Ridley’s “American Crime” over Mo’Nique’s magnetic, show-stopping turn as Ma Rainey in HBO’s ‘Bessie’ Now.”
Outstanding Supporting Actor (Limited Series/TV Movie: Winner Bill Murray was the favorite in this category—if only for the name recognition factor—even though he was barely awake for his brief turn in “Olive Kitteridge.”