Netflix and HBO may have had the most nominations; Veep, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Big Little Lies may have won the most major awards; but the person most on the minds and tongues of those with microphones at Sunday night’s Emmys Awards was President Trump. And before you dive down to the comments section to tell me that’s why you didn’t watch the show hosted by Stephen Colbert and that Hollywood is full of libtards, let me say I understand your reaction completely. I find nothing funny about Trump’s presidency either, and few things could have been more predictable than celebrities taking shots at him. Merely by dominating the onstage conversation, the president won in the arena he values most: pop-culture domination.
Indeed, the only effective Trump mention I heard over the course of three-plus hours on CBS was the one that was never meant to carry any humor: It was when Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton took the stage as presenters in a mini-9 to 5 reunion. Fonda said, “In 9 to 5 we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotist, lying hypocritical bigot.” Tomlin followed with, “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotist, lying hypocritical bigot.” (Dolly Parton — shockingly denied an Emmy this night for Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors — looked a little nonplussed at such direct, unadorned commentary but remained serenely dignified throughout.)
There were many Trump jokes scattered throughout the night, from Alec Baldwin’s suggestion that, since he won for impersonating Trump, there was a sense in which the former star of The Apprentice had won his first Emmy, to winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus saying that they’d had an impeachment storyline for the upcoming season of Veep but had dropped it because “someone might get to it first.” (Wink-wink to Robert Mueller.) But the night’s primary political shock occurred early on, when former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer came onstage with a mobile podium, in the manner of Melissa McCarthy’s SNL parody of Spicer. This nauseating opportunity for Spicer to plug himself — the same Spicer who earlier in the week told Jimmy Kimmel that, while serving as press secretary, he worked for Donald Trump, and by implication not for the American people — by making a joke about the untruths he told as press secretary was appalling. That Colbert signed off on that bit of humor is a blot on his record.
Colbert got off a few good non-Trump jokes and did a funny Westworld bit as a replicant quizzed by Jeffrey Wright, but he lost in the Variety Talk Series category to John Oliver, and thereafter (by coincidence, I’m sure) Colbert seemed to fade largely from view. It was left to others, the winners, to provide the night’s surprises and jolts. Ann Dowd’s Handmaid’s Tale supporting-actress win was surprising to many (This Is Us’s Chrissy Metz was the odds-on favorite, although I did pick Dowd as a “should win”). And when Handmaid’s won best drama at the end of the evening, the woman who made it all possible — author of the novel, Margaret Atwood — was revealed to have winged in from Canada to take the stage among the winning crew.
I was thrilled to see Donald Glover win two Emmys for his superb FX show Atlanta — for both directing (the first African-American to win the directing award in this category, I’m told) and as best actor in a comedy. Big Little Lies shut out its chief Limited Series competitor, Feud: Bette and Joan, and This Is Us’s biggest win was for Sterling K. Brown as best drama actor. Brown — who won last year for his work in The People v. O.J. Simpson miniseries — was extravagantly fun and moving during his speech.
He gave a shout-out to, among others, Andre Braugher — the last black actor to win a best actor Emmy, in 1998, for his work on Homicide: Life on the Street … but soon after this, the producers cut off Brown’s microphone, thereby robbing us from hearing the rest of what he had to say. This was terrible: I didn’t see or hear anyone playing Nicole Kidman or Julia Louis-Dreyfus or any number of other winners off the stage during numerous lengthy acceptance speeches. Even this slight, however, could not dim the bright good news that this was one of the most diverse as well as well-deserved bunch of Emmys handed out in a long time.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
• Emmys 2017: Sean Spicer drives podium onstage
• Emmys 2017: The Complete Winners List
• Emmys 2017: All the red carpet arrivals
• Emmys 2017: Stars on why they cry at ‘This Is Us’
• Emmys 2017: Stars reveal what reality show they’d like to compete on
• Emmys 2017: Stephen Colbert’s best monologue jokes