Television's most glamorous lovefest is behind us now, clearing the way for the prestige-film onslaught known generically as "award season" to start taking shape. But while we're not sure if the night's nominees, or the eventual winners, or CBS' choice of host, or anything that went on after the stars strode down the red carpet in all their finery is going to be the glue that manages to hold the increasingly disparate pieces of the TV complex together, some damn fine shows and equally worthy performances were honored.
Jokes were told, moments were made and the caliber of stars in attendance continued to illustrate just how much TV is the medium that's offering the juiciest roles, the most compelling stories and the best reflection of what society really looks like. And what it might look like if we don't get a grip on things.
Here's what rocked our Emmys world:
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1. Oh Yes, It's Ladies' Night: "Big Little Women," "The Handmaid's Triumph"—whatever pun you want to make of it, stories about women that came together because women first created them on paper and then played key roles in shepherding them toward the finish line onscreen, were at the forefront last night.
The Handmaid's Tale was named Best Drama Series and finally made a Best Actress Emmy winner of Elisabeth Moss, a seven-time nominee before this year who now has two because she's also a producer on the Hulu series. (Hulu was quick to point out that it was the first streaming service in history to take home outstanding drama series—aka suck it, Amazon and Netflix). Overall the dystopian drama based on the classic 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood—who thrilled the literary nerds among us when she joined the cast and crew onstage at the end of the night—collected eight Emmys. Creator-executive producer Bruce Miller also won for writing in addition to the series win, Ann Dowd also won for Supporting Actress in a Drama, and Reed Morano won for directing. Alexis Bledel had previously won for guest actress in a drama at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend.
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Meanwhile, the David E. Kelley-produced Big Little Lies was the main breadwinner for HBO, winning Best Limited Series for the gloriously styled drama based on the novel by Liane Moriarty. The show, about festering secrets among the female residents of a picture-perfect coastal California enclave, won six Emmys overall: Nicole Kidman, who also produced along with Reese Witherspoon, won Best Best Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her achingly complex portrayal of a victim of domestic violence who looks to have the life from the outside; Alexander Skarsgardwon Best Supporting Actor for playing her coolly monstrous husband; Laura Dern was Best Supporting Actress for her nuanced role as the queen bee corporate executive who knows people view her as the town bitch for being unapologetic for her success; Jean-Marc Vallée won for directing and casting director David Rubin deservedly took home a statue last weekend as well.
"It has been an incredible year for women, can I just say," Witherspoon said at the end of the night. "Bring women to the front of their own stories." "More great roles for women, please," added Kidman.
After Dern, Kidman, Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz all presented the first award of the night together, Colbert had quipped afterward, "They're actually friends and you could tell, because they didn't try to push each other down the stairs."
Hardy-har. But no matter the stereotypes (in any other year, Feud: Betty and Joan would have run away with the category), women are taking the narrative back, one graceful step at a time.
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2. Sterling's Gold: If the king of the Pearson family couldn't win, then This Is Us fans were just as happy to see the Emmy go to the crown prince. Besides, barring a tie, either Milo Ventimiglia or Sterling K. Brown had to lose, having both been nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
Anyway, Brown won, and just was the case last year when he won for supporting actor in a limited series or movie for The People v. O.J. Simpson, watching him win was like watching an episode of This Is Us, in that there were tears, laughter and all sorts of quirky adorableness. Only we didn't know that's what we were feeling last year because the 2016 Emmys took place two days before This Is Us premiered, changing our family-drama-watching lives forever.
And praise be, season two premieres on Sept. 26, nine days from now. We're not crying, you're crying.
3. The Meyer Dynasty: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is not to be stopped. Not by Lily Tomlin, not by Pamela Adlon, not by Tracee Ellis Ross, not by anybody! What do you think this is, the Golden Globes?
After her sixth straight Best Actress in a Comedy Series win for Veep, Louis-Dreyfus now holds the record for most Emmys won for a single role on a single show. Her grand Emmy total is now eight, because she's got a pair for The New Adventures of Old Christine and Seinfeld too.
With those sorts of poll numbers, why wouldn't Selina Meyer want to run again?
4. Art Reflects Strife: The critical resurgence of Saturday Night Live, which tied the robots vs. humans vs. simulation vs. reality drama Westworld with a leading 22 nominations this year, was no fluke. Nor were wins for Alec Baldwin, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy and Dave Chappelle. Rather, viewers latched onto the impersonations being dished out weekly on SNL like a baby to sustenance from mom and didn't let go all season. Ratings were up and so were people's spirits after watching the parody versions of the events unfolding in Washington.
But it wasn't just laughter that viewers were seeking out, though Veep's third straight win for Best Comedy Series further proved that we can't get enough of laughing at the inherent inanity of politics. Shows that reflected our biggest fears, that featured life run through the authoritarian wringer, were also big hits with critics and the Academy this year. The Handmaid's Tale, written in 1985 and possibly spooking readers and now audiences more than ever in 2017 with its not-that-far-fetched world in which women are stripped of their freedoms and, if fertile, are turned into slaves meant for child-bearing.
"I have heard 2017 described as being trapped, like being trapped in one long, unending Black Mirror episode," writer-producer Charlie Brooker, accepting the Best TV Movie Emmy for the British sci-fi series, which presents one hellishly familiar scenario after another that could be modern society but isn't...yet. "But I like to think if I had written , it wouldn't be quite so on the nose with all this sort of Nazis and hate. [The installment] 'San Junipero' was a story about love and love will defeat hatred. Love will win, but it might need a bit of help.
"So maybe if all the beautiful people in this auditorium could start to physically make love with each other, or yourselves, on the count of three, this world would be a far better place. Three, two one—go."
Now that would have been a happy... OK, never mind.
5. Stephen Colbert Didn't Hold Back: We didn't think he wouldn't mention President Donald Trump at all, but... he went pretty hard. Once he got to talking about the "biggest TV star of the last year" (valid point), his Emmys monologue was fairly indistinguishable from one of his Late Show monologues. Meaning, he wasn't concerned that that vein of humor wasn't going to sit well with 65 million people. Who, then again, probably weren't watching the Emmys anyway once they heard Stephen Colbert was going to host it. The showbiz folk in the room watching him in person certainly didn't seem to mind.
But to help make light of the precarious political climate and state of the world in general, Colbert enlisted former White House press secretary Sean Spicer to come out and insist the Emmys was enjoying biggest audience ever. While his appearance rubbed many the wrong way (both at home and in the room), that, combined with Colbert's spirited but largely benign digs at Hollywood pomp and circumstance, at least served as a reminder that, despite the laudatory air in the room, it wasn't a night for taking one's self too seriously. Not when there were so many issues still awaiting everyone's attention once the show was over.