“If your show doesn’t have a dragon or a white Bronco in it,” warned host Jimmy Kimmel at the beginning of the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards broadcast, “Go home now!”
He wasn’t entirely kidding. While the broadcast hardly lacked for entertaining or surprising moments, the horse race (or Bronco versus dragon race, if you prefer) between The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Game of Thrones remained a recurring theme throughout the evening. “This must be very strange for you,” Kimmel kidded Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark, who was in attendance. “Are you rooting for O.J. to win this time?”
While O.J. did indeed make an impressive showing Sunday night, it was Game of Thrones that once again reigned supreme. The HBO series led the field this year with11 Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series for the second straight year. The Outstanding Drama win — the show also won for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series and Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series — gave GoT its 38th Emmy in its six-season run, making it the most awarded series in Emmy history.
The People v. O.J. Simpson took home five Emmys on Sunday, including in the Outstanding Limited Series category, which saw the show triumphing over a tough field that included American Crime, Fargo, The Night Manager and Roots. The FX miniseries also earned Emmys for Courtney B. Vance (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series), Sarah Paulson, (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series), Stirling K. Brown (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series) and D.V. DeVicentes (Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series). “I have to believe that Johnnie Cochran is somewhere smiling up at us tonight,” quipped Kimmel, before adding, “Too soon?”
With the Presidential election bearing down on us, the broadcast was filled with numerous political jokes and asides, beginning with a surprise (and surprisingly funny) appearance by Jeb Bush during the opening segment. After trying to get to the Emmys in a white Bronco with A.C. Cowlings (Malcolm Jamal Warner) at the wheel, Kimmel went through a couple of other ride options with the Modern Family gang and James Corden (who roped him into a “Carpool Karaoke” version of Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”) before ending up in the front seat of the Veep limousine. “Did you know you can make $12 and hour driving for Uber?” asked Bush, dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform.
While several winners gave shout-outs to Hillary Clinton (including Courtney B. Vance, who concluded his speech with a cry of “Obama out, Hillary in!”), Donald Trump came in for plenty of abuse over the course of the night — as did producer Mark Burnett, who helped make the GOP candidate a reality TV star with The Apprentice. “Many have asked who’s to blame for Donald Trump,” said Kimmel during his opening monologue, “and I’ll tell you who, he’s sitting right there, that guy — Mark Burnett. Thanks to Mark Burnett we don’t have to watch reality shows anymore, we’re living in one. Who do you have lined up to fill in the spot on the Supreme Court,” Kimmel asked. “Miley Cyrus or Cee Lo?”
“I’d also like to take this opportunity to personally apologize for the current political climate,” said Julia-Louis Dreyfus, after winning a record fifth straight Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy. (The HBO series also took home its second straight Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.). “I think that Veep has torn down the wall between comedy and politics. Our show started out as a political satire but it now feels more like a sobering documentary.” She then sarcastically promised to “rebuild that wall and make Mexico pay for it.”
Kimmel joked during his monologue about the diversity of Emmy nominations this year, cracking that “The Emmy’s are so diverse this year, the Oscars are telling everybody that we’re one of their closest friends.” That diversity was apparent among the winners, as well as in the messages they conveyed from the podium. Transparent director Jill Soloway, who won for Outstanding Director in a Comedy Series, asked for an end to violence against trans women, closing with a battle cry of “Topple the patriarchy!” Winner of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in Transparent, Jeffrey Tambor made a heartfelt plea for Hollywood to take a chance on transgender talent. “Give them auditions, give them a story, he said. “I would not be unhappy were I the last cisgender male to play a female transgender on television. We have work to do.”
First-time Emmy winners Sunday night included Rami Malek, who won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Mr. Robot; Tatiana Maslany, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Orphan Black; Patton Oswalt, for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Special for his Netflix special Talking Over Clapping; Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series; and Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, who picked up an Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series Emmy for Master of None. Ansari kept uncharacteristically mum during their acceptance speech, ceding the microphone to Yang (though he’d later mock-ask his immigrant parents to leave the country after saying he was voting for Trump). “There are 17 million Asian Americans in this country,” said Yang, “and 17 Italian Americans. They have The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Sopranos, we’ve got Long Duk Dong. We have a long way to go.”
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