1. The biggest story of the night wasn’t Jon Hamm finally winning an Emmy, or a free HBO Now account for everyone — it was Game of Thrones besting Mad Men for Outstanding Drama Series. (Since 2000, only four non-HBO or AMC series have won this category: The West Wing, 24, Lost, and Homeland.) I happen to like Thrones more than Mad Men, both in these past seasons and in general, but I’m still a little shocked. Mad Men is widely considered to be on the Mount Rushmore of Television, joining The Sopranos, The Wire, and Breaking Bad, and it had all the sentimental momentum. Plus, none of the controversy. And yet, the year’s most-nominated show won, and it deserved to (at least over the other nominees; more on that soon). Season five had its problems, but there’s still nothing else like Thrones on TV. What it accomplishes every week is cinematic at worst, and monumental at best. “Hardhome” was the year’s best episode, and Game of Thrones is, according to the Emmys, the year’s best show.
2. The lack of love for The Americans (the year’s best show, according to me and, like, four other people) was distressing, but at least it won something: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series went to an absent Margo Martindale. Meanwhile, Graham Yost’s other show, Justified, was completely ignored in its final season. In fact, the only time it was referenced at all was during the spoiler-filled tribute to departing shows, which showed Raylan getting shot and nearly dying. How fitting.
3. Veep is fantastic. It’s funny and vicious, and few casts run as deep. But c’mon, share the wealth, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who added another Lead Actress trophy to her increasingly heavy display case. She’s basically TV’s Michael Jordan, but even he didn’t win MVP every year. I thought Amy Poehler was going to be the Charles Barkley. Knope, guess not.
4. Jeffrey Tambor absolutely earned his trophy, though. He’s played three different iconic roles in three decidedly different shows — Hank Kingsley on The Larry Sanders Show, George Bluth Sr. on Arrested Development, and Maura Pfefferman on Transparent, a comedy that might have been an obnoxious drama without his grounded, restrained performance — but this was his first win in seven attempts. There’s always money in the banana stand, and you can always count on Tambor to give one hell of a performance. Even (especially?) in Heavyweights.
5. Did Viola Davis deserve to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series? Probably not. Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie was more iconic, Tatiana was more impressive, and Elisabeth Moss gave us the year’s best GIF. But the How to Get Away with Murder star did have one much-discussed scene, and she was consistently captivating on an otherwise goofy show. No one was complaining about Davis’ win, though, after her powerful speech. She was the first black woman ever to win in the category, and the historical significance of that wasn’t lost on her (or Kerry Washington, who was bawling in the audience). “Let me tell you something,” Davis said. “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.” That’s what Claire Danes was going to say, too.
6. Andy Samberg looked delighted to host, and his enthusiasm rubbed off on swayed viewers. The monologue was solid, his red-carpet bit with Tatiana Maslany was so weird that it worked, and the jobs were rimmed. He’s able to pull off being both giddy (he’s never not smiling) and biting (that True Detective burn), which isn’t easy to do. I wouldn’t be upset to see Samberg host again, as long as the Comedy Bang Bang team is still writing for him.
7. It was great to see Tracy Morgan on stage for the first time since his accident. We knew he was feeling well enough to host SNL next month, but his appearance last night was an unexpected surprise, and a delight. He began his speech with an uncharacteristic seriousness, saying, “I suffered a traumatic brain injury that put me in a coma for eight days,” before adding, “When I finally regained consciousness, I was just ecstatic to learn that I wasn’t the one that messed up.” Morgan even threw in a “whole lotta women are gonna get pregnant at the afterparty.” He’s back.
8. Back to HBO: Game of Thrones won 12 Emmys, besting The West Wing‘s old record for most wins for a series in a single year. Not only that, the 43 awards given out to HBO programming was just shy of CBS’ network record (it won 44 in 1974). Back then, there were only four channels; now there are about four million. Even after losing some of their most popular (True Blood), expensive (Boardwalk Empire), and inexplicably successful (The Newsroom; remember, Jeff Daniels has as many Emmys as Jon Hamm) shows, HBO still rules the TV landscape.
9. For all its Emmys success, SNL is now 0-for-10 in the Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress in a Comedy Series categories. I was hoping this would be the year Kate McKinnon would break the schneid (she’s the best reason to watch the show every week), but Allison Janney won for her addictive performance in Mom. Now, before you get mad again (Anna Chlumsky was also deserving for her breakdown), know that Mom is a very good, very funny, and very “real” comedy — it’s catnip for the Emmys, and this could be Janney’s category for a long time. Oh well, hopefully new Ghostbuster McKinnon got to at least say hi to band leader Ray Parker, Jr.
10. Here are this year’s most decorated shows:
Game of Thrones: 12
Olive Kitteridge: 8
American Horror Story: Freak Show: 5
SNL‘s 40th Anniversary: 4
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: 3
Deadliest Catch: 3
Going Clear: 3
And in conclusion, awards are dumb because Deadliest Catch won more Emmys in 2015 than Parks and Rec did in seven years, because Parks and Rec never won a single Emmy.
You said it, Ron.