Hulu's 'The Handmaid's Tale' Gets Top Drama Emmy

Los Angeles — The Emmys telecast started with a song-and-dance number from host Stephen Colbert, touting the merits of television in tough times with a tune called “Everything is Better on TV.” “Troubles aren’t so troublin’,” he warbled, “when you see them in HD.”

Colbert characterized the Emmys as “us celebrating us.” He added, “Tonight, we binge ourselves.”

CBS’ late night host reminded the winners to thank everyone who helped them win, including Game of Thrones for not being eligible for a 2017 Emmy.

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Colbert singled out Netflix for its 92 nominations, noting how, five years ago, Netflix’s biggest hit was a “scratched DVD of Finding Nemo.”

Jokes poked fun at politicians President Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and TV’s diversity efforts. “I did not know you could applaud while patting yourself on the back at the same time,” he said.

Colbert spoke about Trump’s influence on television, singling out late night, House of Cards, the new American Horror Story and “next year’s Latin Grammy’s, hosted by Joe Arpaio.”

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Sean Spicer made a cameo, talking up the Emmys’ ratings might from a podium.

The cast of Big Little Lies then came out, awarding top supporting actor in a drama to John Lithgow of Netflix drama The Crown.

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy went to Kate Mckinnon of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. She was one of three SNL cast members up for supporting actress, with Leslie Jones and Vanessa Bayer, along with a pair from Transparent. “It’s all about the writing,” she said, then thanked Hillary Clinton for her grace.

Top supporting actress in a limited series went to Laura Dern of Big Little Lies on HBO. She thanked the “incredible tribe of fierce women” on the series.

Outstanding directing in a comedy series was given to Donald Glover of FX’s Atlanta. Glover thanked FX chief John Landgraf “for letting us tell these stories.”

The award for outstanding variety sketch series went to Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michaels spoke of standing onstage the first time SNL was awarded in 1976, and thinking there would never be another season as "crazy, as unpredictable, as frightening, as exhausting, as exhilarating. Turns out I was wrong." Saturday Night Live and HBO’s Westworld led the series pack with 22 nominations apiece.  

Outstanding writer for a drama series was given to Bruce Miller of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. He credited author Margaret Atwood, “who scared the living crap out of me when I was in college.”

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy was claimed by Alec Baldwin of Saturday Night Live. "Thank you to Lorne—always Lorne," he said.Of the arts, he added, "what we do is important."

Following a musical number from Rachel Bloom of The CW's My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the outstanding directing for a limited series or movie award went to Jean-Marc Vallée of Big Little Lies. He thanked HBO, including Richard Plepler and Casey Bloys, for being “such great partners, amazing partners.”

Outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie went the way of Alexander Skarsgard of Big Little Lies, his first win.

Outstanding writing for a variety series was given to HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. “I’d like to thank Oprah because she’s sitting there and it would be inappropriate not to,” quipped Oliver.

The award for top supporting actress in a drama was given to Ann Dowd of The Handmaid’s Tale. It was her first win. “This is a dream,” she said, full of emotion.

She thanked Margaret Atwood and Hulu, among others. “They’re very lovely, Hulu,” she said.  

The award for outstanding writing for a comedy series went to Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe of Netflix’s Master of None. Waithe is the first African American woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. She thanked the judges for singling out Ansari, an Indian kid from South Carolina, she said, and her, an African American girl from Chicago. “We appreciate it more than you will ever know,” Waithe said.  

The outstanding reality competition series prize went to NBC’s The Voice. “It’s the fun and the heart and the love we have that somehow translates onto screen,” said executive producer Audrey Morrissey.

Reed Morano of The Handmaid’s Tale won outstanding directing for a drama series, Morano’s first win. She directed the pilot. She called Margaret Atwood “my idol.” Of star Elisabeth Moss, she said, “This is as much her as it is me.”  

Charlie Brooker won the outstanding writing for a limited series or movie race for Black Mirror: San Junipero. He thanked Netflix for being “supporting and smart and funny.”

Outstanding director for a comedy series went to Don Roy King at Saturday Night Live, his seventh win. He thanked Lorne Michaels, and saluted “the best television all-star team ever, especially the writers.”

The outstanding variety talk series award was given to Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The host thanked “HBO for everything, my wife for everything.”   

Lead actor in a comedy series honors went to Donald Glover of Atlanta. “I’m so happy, wow!” he gushed. He thanked his mother and father, the city of Atlanta and FX, among others.  

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series was bestowed upon Julia Louis-Dreyfuss of HBO’s Veep. She saluted the “fine and wonderful and powerful” women in the category, and gave “massive thanks” to HBO. She promised “a lot of surprises” in the final season, and described her part as Selina Meyer as “the role of a lifetime.”

Outstanding comedy series was given to Veep. David Mandel singled out “other shows that truly inspire us,” mentioning Atlanta, Black-ish, Master of None and the Trump White House.”

Lead actor in a limited series or movie honors went to Riz Ahmed of HBO’s The Night Of. He said of co-star John Turturro, who was also in the running for that Emmy, “It’s amazing to watch you up close. I share this with you.” He credited Richard Price for his “quick wit and sharp pen,” and saluted “the late, great James Gandolfini,” who was involved in the limited series before his death.

The award for outstanding actress in a limited series or movie went to Nicole Kidman of Big Little Lies. “Thank you to HBO for never wavering in your belief in us,” she said. Kidman added that the award shines a light on domestic abuse.

Outstanding television movie was claimed by Black Mirror: San Junipero. Charlie Brookner thanked his parents and kids, acknowledging he’d forgotten to thank them the last time he was at the podium.

The outstanding limited series prize was given to Big Little Lies. “The power of television—it has astounded us,” said Nicole Kidman. “We are so grateful that you told your friends to watch the show.”

Reese Witherspoon said, “It’s been an incredible year for women in television.”

Oustanding lead actor in a drama series was given to Sterling K. Brown of This Is Us on NBC. He shared how he is foremost a fan of television, and of his fellow nominees. He mentioned Andre Braugher winning for Homicide: Life on the Street years ago, and said it’s “my supreme honor to follow in your footsteps” as an Emmy winner. Brown thanked Bob Greenblatt and Jennifer Salke of NBC Entertainment for their support.  

Outstanding lead actress in a drama series went to Elisabeth Moss of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s her first win after nine nominations. She cited Hulu and MGM, saying, “thank you so much for supporting our show.” She also saluted the “incredible” cast on Handmaid’s Tale, and thanked her mother for showing her one can be “kind, and f***ing badass.”

The outstanding drama prize went to The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. Bruce Miller returned to the stage for the award. He called producer Warren Littlefield “my soulmate” and saluted MGM and Hulu. “It’s been lovely. Go home, get to work,” he concluded. “We have a lot of things to fight for.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.