Louie Anderson’s upset win for “Baskets” was considered a unusual surprise for a ceremony not known for straying off script. Turns out it was just a harbinger of things to come.
Yes, “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” repeated in the 68th annual Emmy Awards most-watched categories, best comedy and best drama. But the TV academy proved its superiority to the Oscars in terms of embracing new blood, people of color and strong women.
Diversity was well represented, in large part thanks to “The People v. OJ Simpson,” the big winner of the evening with nine Emmys, including best limited series. Acting awards went to Sterling Brown and Guthrie veteran Courtney Vance, both black, and to Sarah Paulson, who is openly gay.
Kate McKinnon, who also is gay, became one of the few performers in “Saturday Night Live’s” 40-plus years on the air to be recognized for individual performance.
“Transparent” director Jill Soloway and lead actor Jeffrey Tambor both repeated in their categories for Amazon’s bold dramedy about a transgender woman’s relationship with her family.
Regina King, who is black, won her second Emmy in a row for ABC's "American Crime," a tonic of sorts for those who might be disappointed that Viola Davis didn’t repeat for “How to Get Away With Murder.” Instead the award for best actress in a drama went to Tatiana Maslany of “Orphan Black,” who was criminally overlooked by the Emmys for years despite juggling more than a dozen characters on the BBC America show.
“I feel so lucky to be on a show that puts women in the center,” said Maslany, 30. Also representing youth — at least by Emmy standards — was Remi Malek of “Mr. Robot,” who topped veteran Kevin Spacey in the race for best actor in a drama. At 35, Malek is the youngest winner in that category since Bruce Willis won for “Moonlighting” in 1987.
Two young Asian-Americans, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, shared the award for best writing in a comedy for Netflix’ “Masters of None.” But Emmy also showed respect to its elders — just not the ones viewers might have expected.
PBS’s Sherlock Holmes adventure, “The Abominable Bride,” topped favorites “Confirmation” and “All the Way” as best TV movie. It was first time since TNT’s “Door to Door” in 2003 that HBO hasn’t won in the category. “Downton Abbey’s” Maggie Smith and “Bloodline’s” Ben Mendelsohn kept “Game of Thrones” from a clean sweep with awards for their supporting work.
Host Jimmy Kimmel made light of Smith’s absence. She got off relatively easy compared to Mark Burnett, producer of “The Apprentice,” whom Kimmel blamed for the rise of Donald Trump, and the late Johnnie Cochran (“I have to believe he is somewhere smiling at us tonight”). They were just a couple of targets in a snarkier-than-usual evening that by and large helped animate what can be often be a chore for viewers to get through.
He also benefitted from a taped cameo from a self-deprecating Jeb Bush and a live appearance from fake nemesis Matt Damon, who rubbed it in when Kimmel lost out to the younger, hipper John Oliver for best variety talk show.
Don’t feel too bad for the old guard. Julia Louis-Dreyfus earned her fifth Emmy in a row for “Veep.” It was her sixth in the lead actress category, putting her ahead of Mary Tyler Moore and Candice Bergen. No actor has won that category more times.
The beloved actress gave an emotional shoutout to her family, honoring her father, who passed away just two days ago: “His opinion was the one that really mattered.”
“Game of Thrones” didn’t dominate the evening as many expected, but its three non-acting wins — along with nine technical awards last weekend — put the HBO show’s all-time tally at 38. It has now surpassed “Frasier” as the most honored prime-time series in history.