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The Best and Worst Moments of the 2017 Emmys

September 18, 2017 4:08 PM
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Sean Spicer was star of one of 2017’s buzziest shows, a short-lived comedy-drama that blurred the lines between fact and fiction. The Emmys couldn’t resist calling the former White House press secretary out to parody his own performance (with Melissa McCarthy in the audience).

“However you feel about the president — and you do feel about the president — you can’t deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way,” Mr. Colbert said in his opening monologue.

Many of this year’s best TV shows are available to stream immediately. Watching, The New York Times’s TV and movie recommendation site, can show you where.

After Mr. Colbert razzed President Trump for never winning an Emmy for “Celebrity Apprentice,” Alec Baldwin, who won best supporting actor in a comedy for his portrayal of Mr. Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” picked up the theme.

“I suppose I should say at long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy,” he said.

In some cases, the references were coy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus said “Veep” writers had scrapped a story line about impeachment “because we were worried that someone else might get to it first.” Tatiana Maslany, introducing the best actress in a drama category, said the Claire Underwood character from “House of Cards” would be a great president because “she doesn’t tweet.”

When Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin presented together, forming a reunion of their 1980 movie, “Nine to Five,” Ms. Fonda noted that in the movie, they “refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” Ms. Tomlin added: “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

Others were even less subtle. Donald Glover, who won best actor in a comedy, directly thanked the president in his acceptance speech.

Donald Glover and Lena Waithe both made history with their wins; Mr. Glover is the first African-American to win in the best comedy series director category, for “Atlanta” and Ms. Waithe is the first African-American woman to win in the best comedy series writer category. (She shared the award with “Master of None” series star and co-creator Aziz Ansari.)

To little suspense, Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her sixth consecutive award for best lead actress in a comedy for her role as Selina Meyer in “Veep.”

Ho-hum. We’re used to that. But this time, the win allowed her to set or tie some major records.

She is now the record-holder for most wins by an actor playing one character, passing Candice Bergen for “Murphy Brown” and Don Knotts for “The Andy Griffith Show.” Factoring in earlier wins for “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Seinfeld,” she tied Cloris Leachman’s record of eight prime-time acting Emmys.

With the absence of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” from this year’s Emmy race, it was a great night for Hulu and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the series based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. It won best drama (beating out Netflix’s “The Crown,” “Stranger Things” and “House of Cards”), best actress in a drama (the excited and foul-mouthed Elisabeth Moss), best writing in a drama (the showrunner Bruce Miller), best directing in a drama (Reed Morano) and best supporting actress in a drama (Ann Dowd, who pronounces the word “Hulu” unlike anyone else).

The series, which felt topical and resonant (depending on your political views), represents Hulu’s first genuine hit and will certainly increase the streaming service’s profile among both cord-cutting users and stars and creators looking to place new series. While Netflix and Amazon Prime are still better known, Hulu is the first of the big three streamers to win best drama.

“Saturday Night Live” tends to shine in an election year. But even after the 2016 campaign wrapped, the show’s appetite for political humor stayed as strong as ever. And clearly, it was Emmy catnip: The show cleaned up this year, winning all four guest and supporting comedy performance Emmys, as well as the awards for directing for a variety series and best variety sketch show.

“I want to thank my cast. Milo, Mandy, Justin, Chrissy, you are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had. Better than Mr. Drummond, better than them white folks that raised Webster. I love you. Susan Kelechi Watson, it is my pleasure to rep black love with you, sister. Let’s keep doing it like Martin and Gina. Ron Cephas Jones, you just have to show up and the work is already there, brother. Thank you so much for embodying the presence which is never an object. I love you. Our writers, you are a lifeblood. You can play, you can play. You can play. I didn’t get that loud, nobody got that loud music.”

The good news is that the wonderful “Big Little Lies” deservedly won a boatload of Emmys. The less good news is that talk of a Season 2 seems inevitable, even though the show was clearly never intended for any such thing.

As far as limited series go, the show came just shy of a batting a thousand: Jean-Marc Vallée won for directing, Nicole Kidman for lead actress, Laura Dern for supporting actress and Alexander Skarsgard for supporting actor. The only category it lost in was for writing, with David E. Kelley losing out to Charlie Brooker of “Black Mirror.” Reese Witherspoon probably should have beat Ms. Kidman, but she still got to give her speech when accepting for best mini-series, because she was one of the show’s executive producers.


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