Netflix and HBO Set the Pace at 70th Primetime Emmys Telecast, with Amazon and FX Close Behind
Game of Thrones wins Outstanding Drama for fourth time, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel takes Outstanding Comedy, Assassination of Gianni Versace named Outstanding Limited Series, RuPaul's Drag Race is Outstanding Reality or Reality-Competition Series.
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The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards kicked off with Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson noting that this year's nominees were the most diverse in the history of the Emmys — then launching into a pointed tongue-in-cheek song-and-dance number with Ricky Martin, Andy Samberg, Sterling K. Brown, Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, RuPaul Charles and John Legend about how the entertainment industry has "solved it" when it comes to improving diversity.
While the opening number celebrated that diversity — confirmed the weekend before, at the Creative Arts Emmys, where all four winners for guest performances were African American: Tiffany Haddish (Saturday Night Live), Samira Wiley (The Handmaid's Tale), Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us) and Katt Williams (Atlanta) — the Primetime winners' list suggested there is still progress to be made.
The Amazon Prime Video comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, with five awards, and the FX limited series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, with three, were the standouts in major categories. Though the acclaimed fantasy drama Game of Thrones only took home two during the telecast, the HBO juggernaut still led the 2018 Emmys overall with nine awards total between tonight's show and the Creative Arts.
Hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che, of NBC's Saturday Night Live, ran with the diversity theme, while also noting that NBC was the most-nominated broadcast network — which Che compared to "being the hottest person on life support." They also joked about Netflix's dominance being a result of an enormous but not always impeccable slate of programming: "They now have 700 original series," noted Jost, "which makes me realize that the show I pitched them must have really sucked. It's like getting turned down for a CVS rewards card."
For the first award of the night, a six-time nominee but never previously a winner, Henry Winkler, went home with the Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series gold for his role as Gene Cousineau, a tragically uncool acting coach in HBO's Barry. In his acceptance speech, Winkler, who received his first Emmy nomination in 1976 for the role of Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli on the ABC comedy Happy Days, said, "I wrote this 43 years ago," and added, "[Entertainment lawyer] Skip Brittenham said to me a few years ago, 'If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you.' Tonight I cleared the table."
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series went to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel co-star Alex Borstein for her performance as caustic comedy club manager Susie Myerson. After ripping off a bolero jacket from her outfit as she approached the stage, Borstein — who won the Emmy for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance at the Creative Arts for her work on the Fox animated comedy Family Guy — took the microphone to thank Maisel creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show's crew, and several family members, especially her children. "My children are everything," she said. "Nothing else matters. You matter. I love you. Thanks for giving me a life. I'm trying to be there for more of it."
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series also went to Mrs. Maisel, for the pilot script by Sherman-Palladino. "Whoever put that carpet down hates women. Time's up," she quipped after she crossed the stage. "Alex Borstein made me rip my tights, whatever." She then thanked her husband, Maisel co-executive producer Daniel Palladino, as the "the Sid to my Nancy." When she won the Directing for a Comedy Series award minutes later — making her the first woman in Emmy history to win the awards for both writing and directing a comedy series in the same year — she cracked, "My panic room is gonna be so pretty!"
The Mrs. Maisel sweep continued when Actress in a Comedy Series went to Rachel Brosnahan, who stars as Miriam "Midge" Maisel, a Manhattan homemaker turned budding standup comedian. "What I love about this show is it's about a woman finding her voice anew, and one of the most important ways we can use our voices is to vote," Brosnahan said, taking her moment to encourage the audience members to do their civic duty.
After presenter Michael Douglas jokingly advised anyone who lost during the evening "to carry that rage [of losing] and to know you were robbed and let that fire burn in your belly until your cold, dead body is in a pine box," he presented the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series to Bill Hader for his role as a frustrated assassin with acting aspirations on HBO's Barry. Hader seemed surprised by his win. "I was taught you should always make other people look good, so I hired a bunch of really great actors who made me look really good," he said.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Hader, a prevous Emmy winner as a producer for Comedy Central's South Park, gushed about his co-star and fellow winner Henry Winkler, and admitted he wasn't ready for his own statuette: "I planned nothing. I was waiting for Ted Danson or Donald Glover. I thought, 'That will be cool.' I legit don't remember what I said up there, guys, so it might have been crazy."
Returning to the diversity topic between awards presentations, Michael Che joked, "Six awards, all white winners — nobody's thanked Jesus yet."
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series was presented by John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, with Teigen joking about Legend becoming an EGOT — Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony Award — winner during the Creative Arts, when he won an Emmy for for co-producing Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. "Guys, don't encourage this behavior," she joked," before taking Che's challenge and thanking Jesus. Merritt Wever, who won the award for her role in the Netflix's Godless, seemed flustered during her acceptance speech. "I came prepared, and it's bombing already," said Wever, a previous Emmy winner for her work on Showtime's Nurse Jackie.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie went to five-time nominee — and a previous Emmy winner for HBO's The Newsroom — Jeff Daniels, also for Godless. He thanked everyone from his wife to his driver and his horse wrangler for his success on the Western-themed Netflix show. He also offered a tip to young actors: "When they call and say, 'Can you ride a horse?' don't lie. You will find out on day one you're in the Kentucky Derby." He also thanked his horse, Apollo, who threw him off three times before Daniels broke his left wrist. "It's now officially healed," he declared, as he hoisted his statuette in his left hand.
Writing for a Limited Series went to William Bridges and Charlie Brooker for their Star Trek-inspired episode of Black Mirror, "U.S.S. Callister," which also won three Emmys during the Creative Arts Emmy awards.
Another theme for the evening was frequently referencing the first Emmy Awards 70 years ago, and midway through the evening the only currently working actor who was also working at that time, Betty White, took the stage. The 96-year-old actress took a moment to thank the audience, who rose to give her a standing ovation. "It's incredible I'm still in this business and you're still putting up with me," she said. "I'm thanking you. It's incredible you can stay in a career this long and still have people who work with you. Thank you to each and every one of you."
After presenter James Corden joked, "We're trending: #EmmysSoWhite" — as in Betty — the Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series went to Ryan Murphy for The Assassination of Gianni Versace. "I'm very shocked," the show creator — who had won three Emmys in previous years — admitted.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie was awarded to Regina King, the first non-white winner of the night, for her role in Netflix's Seven Seconds. Despite having two previous Emmys for her work on the ABC's American Crime, she was surprised by this one. "Really? Say word. I dropped lipstick on my dress and I was trying to get it out," King said. "I wasn't really expecting this. This is amazing, I want to curse right now." Before she left the stage, she threw in a callback. "Thank you, Jesus," she said, referencing Che's earlier joke.
Backstage, King tried to explain what she had mentioned during her acceptance speech, which was struggling with dropping her lipstick in her dress. "That's all I can focus on, so I'm trying to leave to go get a Shout [stain remover], and I can't stop focusing on that... my heart is giggling still right now." When asked about the diversity issue, she said, "I do feel a lot of times it's so divided as a country, and things are always looked at as black or white, and I'm guilty of that as well. We all are looking at things in sections all the time. That was one of the moments really sitting with me on stage. This is the Television Academy, an academy of my peers, and they're not just interested in what things look like. And this is an example of us thinking more globally and not thinking in a box."
Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie went to two-time nominee Darren Criss, who won for his role as real-life killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace. "Actors are really only as good as the moments they are given," he said, before thanking Ryan Murphy and his family.
After Che reminded the audience that Jeff Daniels thanked his horse, the show went to a pre-recorded segment in which he presented an award he called the Reparation Emmys to notable African-American stars Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons), Jimmie Walker (Good Times), Kadeem Hardison (A Different World), Jaleel White (Family Matters), Tichina Arnold (Martin) and John Witherspoon (The Wayans Brothers), joking that the statuettes were stolen from Bill Cosby.
Writing for a Variety Special went to John Mulaney for his Netflix special Kid Gorgeous at Radio City. After thanking his co-nominees for their contributions to comedy — "There's no better feeling than laughing uncontrollably" — he added that his wife was in New York and was very busy. "My wife said she couldn't fly across the country to watch me lose. I still don't think she was wrong."
The biggest surprise of the evening wasn't when the director of the Oscars, Glenn Weiss, won the award for Directing for a Variety Special — it was what he did with his acceptance speech. After admitting how much he missed his mother, who had died two weeks prior, he addressed his girlfriend in the audience "You wonder why I don't want to call you my girlfriend? Because I want to call you my wife." As the shocked but delighted audience members rose to their feet, she walked to the stage, where he presented a ring and went down on one knee. "This is the ring my dad put on my mom's finger 67 years ago," he said. "And to my sisters and brothers, I didn't swipe it — Dad knows I have it." In a true Hollywood moment, Weiss' girlfriend, Jan Svendsen, said yes.
Backstage, Weiss related how his mother had befriended Svendsen while they were backstage during rehearsals for the Oscars, and would often say, "She was my friend first." "That's what makes this feel bittersweet but really nice," he said.
The award for Supporting Actor in a Drama was given to Peter Dinklage, winner of his third Emmy for the role of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. "Thank you [creators] Dave [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] for changing my life. I can't walk down the street anymore."
Supporting Actress in a Drama was awarded to Thandie Newton for playing Maeve Millay on HBO's Westworld. "I don't even believe in God, but I'm going to thank her tonight," she said, before accidentally dropping the F-bomb while saying she was "so f---ing blessed." She also thanked her 18-year-old daughter, Nico, saying, "I get to guide you and love you and protect you, which is my north star."
FX's The Americans, which has completed its last season, won for Writing for a Drama Series. The award went to show creators Joel Fields and Joseph Weisberg. The duo thanks various colleagues and executives, and Fields added "The television critics who helped keep us on the air — and, of course, our passionate and die-hard, slightly treasonous fans."
Hannah Gadsby, the groundbreaking lesbian comedian who drew widespread praise for her recent Netflix standup special, Nanette, presented the award for Directing for a Drama Series. Nowadays, "Nobody knows what jokes are, especially not men. Am I right?" Gadsby quipped. She accepted the award for Stephen Daldry, who won for his work on another Netflix show, The Crown, and was not able to attend the ceremony.
The Americans won another award — this one in the Lead Actor category — for Matthew Rhys' portrayal of Russian spy Philip Jennings. "I will be brief — I've been told to be my entire life," the Welshman said during his speech. "We had a cast and crew you could only wish for in a fairy tale." Then, in a call-back to Glenn Weiss' surprise earlier in the show, he said, "To the woman who truly got me this award, she said, 'If you propose to me I will punch you clean in the mouth,'" referring to his co-star and significant other, Keri Russell.
Speaking with reporters, Rhys described the experience of winning and giving an acceptance speech: "It's like you're playing Hamlet and you don't know the words, and you become a bubbling idiot. And that giant Jumbotron flashing stop, stop, and it's just terrifying."
Although there was much pre-show buzz about Killing Eve star Sandra Oh being the first Asian woman to be nominated in the category, Lead Actress in a Drama Series went to Claire Foy for her work as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. "This wasn't supposed to happen. I felt so proud of being in the company of such extraordinary performances," she said, before noting how impressive they were to her. "Bloody hell — and that's not swearing," she added.
Outstanding Reality Competition Program was awarded to RuPaul's Drag Race, which won the category for the first time despite previous multiple wins in other categories, and three Emmys — including one at this year's Creative Arts — for RuPaul Charles' hosting. "We are so happy to present this show," he said, thanking the audience "on behalf of the 140 drag queens we have released into the wild, and all of the dreamers out there." Summing up, Charles said, "If you can't love yourself how the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen in here? Now let the music play!"
Speaking to the media, Charles discussed the wider impact of the show. "We're living in a country that's very divided right now. We provide some relief for the outsider, for people who dance outside the box. We all on this planet have more things in common than not in common... These stories of courage and fabulousness are true for everyone."
Comedian Dave Chappelle presented the Outstanding Variety Sketch Series award "to fill the Emmy-sized hole in yourself" to Saturday Night Live, which brought its record-breaking total of all-time Emmys to 67 — including 16 for show creator Lorne Michaels. Michaels — also an executive producer of this year's Emmy Awards telecast — took a moment in his speech to clap back at critics of broadcast television: "In 1975 there were a lot of articles about how the networks wouldn't be around much longer. Now it's 2018, and we're on TV, and we're on NBC."
HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was awarded Outstanding Variety Talk Series. "All the shows, every year, we fly our staffs here and put them in the worst seats in the building to send them a mixed message," said Oliver, adding, "My son hates our show, he likes Paw Patrol. And if our show is anything, it's the precise opposite of Paw Patrol."
Oliver commented on the current political climate while backstage, and how challenging it is to cover the news of the day. "I don't want to get too Dickensian," he said, "but it's between the best of times and the worst of times, and it's a bit closer to the end of that sentence. It's very difficult."
Outstanding Limited Series went to The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Ryan Murphy took a moment during his speech to address the larger themes of the series. "It's about homophobia and a country that allows hatred to grow unchecked… We dedicate this to awareness and stricter hate crime laws." Backstage, he elaborated, "I was in L.A. five years when [Giannai Versace's killer] Andrew Cunanan started his spree, and I really felt it was a story that needed to be told, because the issues were as important as ever... One in four LGBTQ Americans will be a victim of a hate crime, when I was told I couldn't even write a gay character when I started in 1988, to be able to [do this] 20 years later [is so important]."
The award for Outstanding Comedy Series went to the night's biggest winner, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. "Let the backlash begin," joked Daniel Palladino backstage.
"All I can think of is food right now," Amy Sherman-Palladino added. "It's like something in a turkey."
Though Game of Thrones didn't win every category in which it competed, the HBO hit took home the final award of the night — Outstanding Drama Series. The award marked the fourth time the show has won in the category.
Between the Creative Arts and the Primetime telecast, HBO and Netflix tied for most Emmys overall, with 23 each. NBC was second with 16, followed by FX with 12 and Amazon and CNN with eight each.
Other programmers receiving multiple Emmys this year included National Geographic and VH1 with five each, Hulu with four, Fox with three and Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CBS and Starz with two each.
Executive producers of the 70th Primetime Emmys were Lorne Michaels and Ian Stewart.