The biggest night in television came and went, and boy, were we in for a slew of surprises! Maybe this is what every year in the seemingly neverending “Golden Age” of TV feels like, but the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards had exceptionally strong contenders across multiple categories. That said, those who fell by the wayside should get a moment of acknowledgment, too, even amid the prestige and glory that feels more or less earned this year. Let’s examine some of the highlights of the ceremony (that have nothing to do with Glenn Weiss‘ marriage proposal).
The year of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Although the comedy category has never been stronger, featuring the likes of Atlanta, Black-ish, and GLOW (and thankfully missing The Big Bang Theory), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel emerged as top dog of the Emmys this year, sweeping five of its six nominations. First off, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has made Emmy history, collecting awards for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. She is the first woman in the institution’s 70-year run to do so.
It’s about time that Sherman-Palladino was properly recognized for her quickfire witty dialogue and sprightly female characters, anyway. Back during Roseanne‘s original run, Sherman-Palladino was once nominated in the writing category for an episode of the show. Her longest-running series, Gilmore Girls, reached the Emmy big leagues in just one technical category (Outstanding Makeup) despite its enduring place in pop culture otherwise.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel sails on a more grounded sense of historicism, but it doesn’t lose Sherman-Palladino’s signature acuity. The series pilot, which was the episode honored at this year’s Emmys ceremony, perfectly set the tone for a confident woman-led show that’s both rich and effervescent.
And The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel likely wouldn’t have made such an impact without its stellar cast, as well. The show received nominations in three acting categories. In the end, Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein took home the honors for Outstanding Lead Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, respectively.
Borstein actually received two Emmy nods this year, with her Supporting Actress trophy bolstered by a win for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance thanks to her work on Family Guy. And against the formidable strength of actresses like Zazie Beetz, Betty Gilpin, and Laurie Metcalf, her win is particularly special.
Meanwhile, Brosnahan’s Lead Actress triumph not only feels overdue (she was once nominated in the Guest Actress slot for her role in House of Cards). It’s also laudable because of the greats she was competing alongside. To be tapped in the same category as Lily Tomlin, Allison Janney, and Tracee Ellis Ross is dreamy enough, and Brosnahan came out victorious.
Excellent first-time acting winners
Brosnahan wasn’t the only first-time Emmy winner of note. Matthew Rhys finally took home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, his long years cycling through numerous wigs on The Americans paying off at last. Moreover, right as The Crown preps a major cast changeover, Claire Foy has nabbed the award for Outstanding Lead Actress. Not a bad Monday for the latter, either, seeing as a new trailer for The Girl in the Spider’s Web also premiered. This is truly Foy’s time to shine.
After having been an Emmy-nominated actor for over 40 years, Henry Winkler received the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on Barry. Thandie Newton‘s excellent turn in Westworld is finally celebrated with the Outstanding Supporting Actress trophy.
Finally, in the arena of limited series, it’s a little surreal that Darren Criss is now an Emmy winner. The erstwhile star and writer of A Very Potter Musical, as well as the old Glee favorite, is the talk of the town since The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story first aired. He now has the award to immortalize it.
But The Americans deserves better
So, Rhys won his Lead Actor prize. After three consecutive years of nominations in varying categories, The Americans scribes and executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg are the victors in the Outstanding Writing race.
But what about Keri Russell and her bubbling undercurrent of intensity as Rhys’ co-lead? Admittedly, this snub is a little complicated. All the nominees who were up for Lead Actress in a Drama Series have done absolutely phenomenal work in the last year, Foy and Russell included. Tatiana Maslany’s chameleonic skills in Orphan Black, Elisabeth Moss’ quiet fury in The Handmaid’s Tale, Sandra Oh’s revolutionary nuance in Killing Eve, and Evan Rachel Wood’s unapologetic ruthlessness in Westworld deserve the utmost praise. It’s one of those situations that makes me wish they all could win somehow.
Nevertheless, Russell’s loss honestly stings even more in the wake of The Americans losing to Game of Thrones in the Outstanding Drama Series category. In its last year of eligibility, one of TV’s greatest spy thrillers should’ve come out on top.
The Americans gave us one of the best TV pilots ever (so did Game of Thrones, but the former ranks higher for us). The show is a consistent masterclass of character-driven storytelling, crafting the ideal slow-burning narrative that feels fulfilling by its end point. A final big Emmy win would’ve been the perfect send-off for The Americans, and certainly one that’s absolutely merited.
Ryan Murphy is still ahead of the TV game
Yet, all is peachy in Ryan Murphy land. Along with Criss’ success, The Assassination of Gianni Versace was awarded Outstanding Limited Series, and Murphy himself took home the prize for Outstanding Directing. This doesn’t strike me as the biggest surprise ever, given the immense popularity of the first season of American Crime Story. Nonetheless, with three wins in total, The Assassination of Gianni Versace is the second-most decorated show of the night, and that’s worth a mention.
Stephen Daldry, two-time Olivier Award winner and nominee of many an Academy Award since the early 2000s, surprisingly edged past helmers of The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, and Ozark to win Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Game of Thrones triumphed in two of their seven nominations, including Peter Dinklage‘s win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
Which brings me to some other fantastic repeat Emmy winners, namely Bill Hader (Barry), Regina King (Seven Seconds), and Godless‘ Merritt Wever and Jeff Daniels. And finally, my current favorite comedian John Mulaney received the award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for his magnificent Netflix special Kid Gorgeous at Radio City, and that feels like a suitably pure note to end things on.