Back to IndieWire

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Breaks the Emmy Awards Streaming Barrier, One of Several Records Shattered This Year

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Donald Glover, and "Master of None" writer Lena Waithe were among the winners who broke new ground at Sunday night's ceremony.

Elisabeth Moss, Margaret Atwood. Elisabeth Moss, left, and author Margaret Atwood embrace as "The Handmaid's Tale" wins the award for outstanding drama series at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles69th Primetime Emmy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2017

Elisabeth Moss with “The Handmaids Tale” author Margaret Atwood


The streaming TV biz passed the ultimate Emmy threshold on Sunday night, as Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” made history.

“Handmaid’s Tale” picked up the win for outstanding drama series, which represents the first time a streaming service had one won of the top Emmy series prizes. It was just four years ago, in 2013, that Netflix became the first streaming platform to win an Emmy, as “House of Cards” picked up a handful of victories.

“Streaming has arrived, and we’re here to say what a wonderful journey,” said “Handmaid’s Tale” executive producer Warren Littlefield. Added exec producer Bruce Miller: “The way Hulu handled our show, they were bold and behind us and committed to making something interesting.”

The fact that Hulu was the first to land a top Emmy series prize, rather than Netflix, is a bit surprising, as Netflix came into this year’s Primetime Emmys with a whopping 91 nominations — up from 56 last year. Netflix still had a great night, also winning its first major program Emmy: Outstanding Television Movie, for “Black Mirror: San Junipero.”

“The Handmaid’s Tale” not only gave the streaming services (and Hulu) their first series Emmy, but also the first outstanding actress Emmy for a streaming platform, as Elisabeth Moss won for her stunning portrayal as Offred. Hulu scored 10 Emmys overall, including 8 for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” while HBO was the overall network victor with 29 — thanks especially to “Big Little Lies” — and Netflix was second, with 20 Emmys overall.

This year’s top-winning program was NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which won nine Emmys total — including outstanding variety sketch program.

On the comedy side, incumbent “Veep” helped also break some Emmy records, as Julia Louis-Dreyfus scored her sixth consecutive victory in the role of former president Selina Meyer.

Beyond that, this year’s Emmy Awards also brought diversity to the forefront, honoring the first-ever African American winner as best comedy director (Donald Glover), the first-ever African American woman to win best comedy writing (Lena Waithe) and the first woman to win for outstanding drama directing (Reed Morano) in more than 20 years.

“Handmaid’s” won the outstanding drama Emmy over “Better Call Saul,” “The Crown,” “House of Cards,” “Stranger Things,” “This Is Us” and “Westworld.” Last year’s winner, “Game of Thrones,” did not air during this year’s Emmy eligibility timeframe.

The absence of “Game of Thrones” also cleared the way for “Handmaid’s Tale” to take over as the new winner for outstanding drama writing and directing, two more categories that “Thrones” won last year.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” took the most awards of any drama, winning eight overall — including outstanding drama actress, for Elizabeth Moss, and outstanding supporting actress, for Ann Dowd.

Moss’ win — her first, out of nine nominations — was over Robin Wright (“House of Cards”), Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”), Keri Russell (“The Americans”), Claire Foy (“The Crown”) and Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld”).

Dowd won over Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”), Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”), Samira Wiley (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Chrissy Metz (“This Is Us”) and Thandie Newton (“Westworld”). “This is a dream,” Dowd said.

The show’s wins also extended to outstanding drama director Reed Morano and outstanding writing for a drama recipient Bruce Miller, both for the pilot “Offred.”

Morano’s win makes her the first woman to win the outstanding drama directing Emmy for the first since 1995 (when “ER’s” Mimi Leder won). “Lizzie is my ultimate inspiration and this is as much her as it is me,” Morano said of star Moss.

In his acceptance speech, Miller thanked Morano and novel author Margaret Atwood, as well as star Moss.

Veep cast - Outstanding Comedy Series69th Primetime Emmy Awards, Press Room, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2017


David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

“Veep’s” repeat win for outstanding comedy series came in a category that also included “Atlanta,” “Black-ish,” “Master of None,” “Modern Family,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Silicon Valley.” (All of them, except freshman “Atlanta,” was nominated last year as well.)

“This show works because we have a no jerk offs policy and other than Julia we really stick to it,” quipped executive producer David Mandel. “I will never have a better job than this.”

“Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, to the surprise of no one, grabbed her sixth consecutive win for outstanding actress in a comedy. It was already the longest streak ever in the category — but now she has beat the record for most Emmys won by a performer in the same role for the same series.

Louis-Dreyfus has now bested Candice Bergen (“Murphy Brown”) and Don Knotts (“Andy Griffith Show”), and has tied Cloris Leachman for the most Emmys ever won by a female performer, at eight each.
“This is and it continues to be the role of a lifetime, and an adventure of utter joy,” she said.

Louis-Dreyfus won this year over Ellie Kemper (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Pamela Adlon (“Better Things”), Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”), Allison Janney (“Mom”), Jane Fonda (“Grace and Frankie”) and Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”).

Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon. Nicole Kidman, center left, Reese Witherspoon, center right, and cast and crew accept the award for outstanding limited series for "Big Little Lies" at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, at the Microsoft Theater in Los AngelesAPTOPIX 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2017

“Big Little Lies”


“Big Little Lies” nabbed HBO’s biggest wins at this year’s Emmys , scoring eight awards overall — including outstanding limited series.

“It’s been an incredible year for women in television,” said star Reese Witherspoon, also an executive producer on the program. Added Nicole Kidman: “Now, more great roles for women!”

“Big Little Lies” won the limited series Emmy over “Fargo,” “Feud: Bette and Joan,” “Genius” and “The Night Of.”

The show also nearly swept the limited series or movie acting nods, including Kidman’s win for outstanding actress — her first Emmy. She bested her co-star, Reese Witherspoon, as well as Felicity Huffman (“American Crime”), Carrie Coon (“Fargo”), Jessica Lange (“Feud: Bette and Joan”) and Susan Sarandon (“Feud: Bette and Joan”).

“By you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more,” Kidman said of the plight of domestic abuse, which her character faced in “Big Little Lies.”

In the supporting actress in a limited series or movie category, “Big Little Lies” star Laura Dern won her first Emmy, out of six nominations. Dern won over her “Big Little Lies” co-star Shailene Woodley, as well as Regina King (“American Crime”), Judy Davis (“Feud: Bette and Joan”), Jackie Hoffman (“Feud: Bette and Joan”) and Michelle Pfeiffer (“The Wizard of Lies”).

Alexander Skarsgard picked up the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie, beating out David Thewlis (“Fargo”), Alfred Molina (“Feud: Bette and Joan”), Stanley Tucci (“Feud: Bette and Joan”), Michael K. Williams (“The Night Of”) and Bill Camp (“The Night Of”).

Helmer Jean-Marc Valle won his first Emmy, as outstanding director in a drama, for “Big Little Lies.”

HBO’s limited series wins also extended to Riz Ahmed, who won the outstanding actor in a limited series or movie Emmy for “The Night Of.”

Lorne Michaels and the cast of SNL accept the award for outstanding variety sketch series for "Saturday Night Live" at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, at the Microsoft Theater in Los AngelesAPTOPIX 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 17 Sep 2017

Lorne Michaels and “Saturday Night Live”


Meanwhile, while streaming had a huge night, broadcast TV had at least one reason to cheer: “Saturday Night Live” won eight Emmys overall, including the key outstanding variety sketch program award. A broadcast program hadn’t won a Outstanding Variety Series Emmy since 2002, when CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman” won the prize. The race was split in 2015 into separate variety talk and variety sketch categories, but cable had continued to win both races — until this year.

It was also “Saturday Night Live’s” win in a top variety category since 1993; it had previously won in 1976. Creator Lorne Michaels was also up in the race for “Documentary Now!” and “Portlandia,” while other nominees included “Billy on the Street” and “Drunk History.” (Last year’s winner, “Key & Peele,” has ended its run.)

“I remember the first time we won this award. It was after our first season in 1976. 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… or exhilarating. Turns out I was wrong,” Michaels said.

“SNL” won for best directing for a variety program (Don Roy King) and also won four key acting awards.

Alec Baldwin won for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy, for playing President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.” Baldwin isn’t even a regular cast member, but he appeared as Trump in so many episodes that he wasn’t eligible for guest actor.

“At long last Mr. President, here is your Emmy,” Baldwin said, referring to the fact that Trump has griped in the past that he never won the award for “The Apprentice.”

Baldwin beat last year’s winner, Louie Anderson (“Baskets”), as well as Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Tony Hale (“Veep”), Matt Walsh (“Veep”) and Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”).

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon landed her second consecutive Emmy, for supporting actress in a comedy. She beat out fellow “SNL” castmates Leslie Jones and Vanessa Bayer, as well as “Transparent” stars Kathryn Hahn and Judith Light, and “Veep’s” Anna Chlumsky.

“Being part of this season of ‘Saturday Night Live’ was the most meaningful thing I will ever do, so I should probably stop now,” she said. McKinnon also thanked Hillary Clinton for her “grace.”

“Saturday Night Live” had been gifted with 22 nominations this year; its other wins included guest actor in a comedy series for Dave Chappelle, and guest actress in a comedy series for Melissa McCarthy, both of whom picked up their prizes at the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony.

Besides “SNL,” “This Is Us” came into the night as broadcast’s great hope, but ultimately only won on Sunday night with Sterling K. Brown’s outstanding drama actor Emmy. Brown, who won last year in the limited series actor category for “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” said it was his “supreme honor” to follow in the footsteps of Andre Braugher, who previously won the award.

Brown beat out Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”), Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”), Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”) and his co-star Milo Ventimiglia.

Donald Glover Emmys

Donald Glover


Another big winner of the night was multi-hyphenate Donald Glover — who won two Emmys for starring in, and directing FX’s “Atlanta.” The Emmys were Glover’s first, and the first for an African American helmer in the comedy directing category.

Glover won the outstanding comedy actor Emmy for starring as Earn Marks in “Atlanta.” “This is nuts,” he said. Glover ended Jeffrey Tambor’s two-year streak (for “Transparent”) in the category, and also beat out Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”), William H. Macy (“Shameless”), Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”) and Zach Galifianakis (“Baskets”).

As outstanding directing in a comedy, Glover won for the episode “B.A.N.” He dedicated the award to “Atlanta” pilot director Hiro Mirai, who “taught me everything about directing.”

Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe won the outstanding comedy writing Emmy for “Master of None,” for the episode “Thanksgiving.” It was the second consecutive win in the category for “Master of None,” which also won last year.

Waithe is the first African American woman to win the outstanding comedy writing Emmy. “The things that make us different, those are superpowers,” Waithe said.

In the TV movie competition, Netflix’s “Black Mirror: San Junipero” beat out “The Wizard of Lies,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” and “Sherlock: The Lying Detective.” That denied back-to-back wins for the famed detective, as Masterpiece’s “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride” won last year.

“Black Mirror” executive producer Charlie Brooker also won the Emmy for outstanding writing in a limited series or TV movie.
“I’m shocked and I’m going to go melt this down for currency,” Brooker said. “‘San Junipero’ was about love, and love will defeat help. But it’s going to need a little help.”

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” once again landed the Emmy for outstanding variety talk show and outstanding writing for a variety series, both of which the show won last year as well. Oliver said contrary to conventional wisdom that Donald Trump has made writing for his show easier, it’s harder — “because it just won’t stop.”

In the reality competition program category, “The Voice” landed its third consecutive (and fourth overall) Emmy, beating out “The Amazing Race,” “American Ninja Warrior,” “Project Runway,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Top Chef.”

Emmy royalty John Lithgow kicked off the night — and the streaming platform haul — by winning the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a drama. Lithgow won for playing Winston Churchill in “The Crown,” which gave the actor his sixth Emmy win out of 12 lifetime nominations.

“‘The Crown’ just keeps on giving,” said Lithgow, on his first Emmy win since his “Dexter” role in 2010. Lithgow beat out Jonathan Banks (“Game of Thrones”), Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”), Mandy Patinkin (“Homeland”), David Harbour (“Stranger Things”), Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us”) and Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”).

Here’s the complete Emmy tally for networks earning more than one this year: HBO (29), Netflix (20), NBC (15), Hulu (10), ABC (7), FX (6), Fox (5), Adult Swim (4), CBS (4), A&E (3), VH1 (3), Amazon (2), BBC America (2), ESPN (2) and Nat Geo (2).

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Awards and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox