There has never been more on television. What is on television has arguably never been better (or worse). And on Sunday night, at the 70th Emmy Awards, a wide variety of it was recognized.
This year, longtime Emmy nominations leader HBO was out-nominated by Netflix. Netflix then won the most Emmys on the main telecast, with seven noms to HBO’s six. But earlier HBO won one more award than Netflix at the Creative Arts Awards ceremonies, 17 to 16. So, by the time the curtain came down on the 70th Emmy Awards, technically — and sort of poetically — Netflix and HBO had fought to a draw.
Almost all of the major content providers left with several wins to celebrate. Netflix scored its biggest win yet in the drama categories when outgoing monarch Claire Foy won best actress for The Crown (the show’s Stephen Daldry won for his direction), and limited series Godless’ lead actor Jeff Daniels and supporting actress Merritt Wever — both past winners for other shows — also walked away with statuettes. The streamer even snagged a shocking win for Regina King, who was recognized for Seven Seconds, a show it canceled — making this the third ceremony in a row that the actress has left with a statuette, and the second for a show that ended prematurely. And John Mulaney also won variety writing for his Netflix standup special.
Fellow streamer Amazon Prime arrived in a major way, running the comedy tabled with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the winner for series, directing and writing (with those two prizes going to the top-hatted Amy Sherman-Palladino), lead actress (Rachel Brosnahan) and supporting actress (Alex Borstein). Prime doesn’t have as many major shows as Netflix, but it still becomes the first streamer ever to win a comedy series prize, a year after Hulu became the first streamer ever to win a drama series prize, for The Handmaid’s Tale.
HBO’s Game of Thrones returned from a year away to reclaim the top drama distinction from Handmaid’s (which was surprisingly shut out on the main telecast), as well as best supporting actor honors for past winner Peter Dinklage. The network’s drama Westworld was the surprise winner for supporting actress, with Thandie Newton prevailing in that category. Its comedy Barry also won, as expected, in that genre’s best supporting actor race, with TV icon Henry Winkler called to the podium for the first time in his illustrious career; few expected the show’s creator and star Bill Hader to upend last year’s best actor, Atlanta’s Donald Glover, but he too walked away a winner. And, for the third year in a row, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver was chosen as top variety talk series.
FX, meanwhile, had plenty to celebrate. While its hallmark drama The Americans exhausted its final year of eligibility without series or lead actress (Keri Russell) wins, the critics’ darling did bag its first two major prizes: actor (Matthew Rhys) and writing. And The Assassination of Gianni Versace, the second installment of the network’s American Crime Story anthology series, was crowned top limited series, just like the series’ first installment The People v. O.J. Simpson — Ryan Murphy has owned that category — and its star Darren Criss won actor in a limited series. Murphy also won for his direction. (Writing, however, went to Netflix’s Black Mirror installment “USS Callister”, which also won the TV movie race at the Creative Arts Awards — despite not really being a TV movie.)
Even VH1 got in on the action, with RuPaul’s Drag Race winning reality competition series over past winners The Amazing Race (CBS) and The Voice (NBC), just days after RuPaul also won for his hosting. (Spared from having to speak was The Voice’s producer Mark Burnett, who has faced scathing criticism for his tacit defense of President Trump, his former collaborator on The Apprentice, and who also got in a fight with Tom Arnold at a pre-Emmys party on Sunday night.)
All in all, it was a terrible night for broadcast networks — even as NBC aired the show and its talent, Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che and Colin Jost, hosted. SNL won the variety sketch award for the second year in a row, and ABC’s The Oscars won for best direction of a variety show (that award’s winner, Glenn Weiss, stole the night with his on-stage marriage proposal), but other than that CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and PBS had nothing to show for their work of the past year.
The times have certainly changed.