Two overarching thoughts on last night’s Emmys:
1) Those were some awfully terrific, and often pleasantly surprising, Emmy results.
2) That was a really uneven telecast.
In an ideal world, great awards — and in this case many great speeches — would equal a great show, but that’s not always the case, as last night reminded us.
Let’s hit the good first. This was a history-making — and at times history-honoring — night at the Emmys in a bunch of areas.
Start with The Handmaid’s Tale dominating the drama series awards — it won for supporting actress (Ann Dowd), lead actress (Elisabeth Moss, finally getting the trophy she deserved for playing Peggy Olson), writing (Bruce Miller), directing (Reed Morano), and drama series, making Hulu — not mighty Netflix, or wealthy Amazon — the first streaming service to get an Emmy win for best series.
Atlanta creator and star Donald Glover became the first African-American man to ever win a comedy series directing Emmy, and later in the evening Master of None writer/co-star Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to ever win a comedy series writing Emmy (shared with Aziz Ansari) for the show’s autobiographical “Thanksgiving” episode. The Night Of star Riz Ahmed became the first male actor of Asian descent to ever win an Emmy.
Some wins weren’t firsts, but came after extremely long gaps. This Is Us star Sterling K. Brown dedicated part of his wonderful speech (more on that in a bit) to Homicide star Andre Braugher, the last black man to win the drama lead actor category before him, back in 1998. Morano was the first woman to win the drama directing trophy since Mimi Leder for the famous “Love’s Labor Lost” episode of ER back in 1995. Glover also won the comedy lead actor category, the first African-American to do so since Benson‘s Robert Guillaume back in 1985(*).
(*) That gap comes with a bit of an asterisk, as Bill Cosby refused to submit himself for the category for the run of The Cosby Show, when at the time — long before the sexual assault allegations went mainstream — he was so beloved he would have likely won a bunch of trophies. The gap would still be long, just not quite as long.
There was, as a result, a ton of new Emmy blood, even when the winners had been around a long time like Dowd. (I will pretend her award was at least partially boosted by her work on The Leftovers, even though she lost the drama guest actress race last week to Handmaid’s co-star Alexis Bledel, and no argument you make can sway me.) The marvelous Black Mirror episode “San Junipero” won the TV-movie award over more high-profile projects. (It’s a series, but, like Sherlock, can submit individual episodes as TV-movies due to an Emmy loophole.)