Well, I watched this year's ceremony late, but I did watch them. Jimmy Kimmel delivered a thoroughly watchable, intermittently entertaining Emmy telecast, helped out so much by the fact that the awards themselves were actually exciting. While a lot of the expected contenders like "The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story," "Veep," and "Game of Thrones" cleaned up, there were also some genuine surprises.
First, we should talk about the boring bits about voting. Last year was the first time that all eligible voters were allowed to vote for winners, instead of the decision being in the hands of smaller "blue ribbon" voting panels. Also, all the voting is now done electronically, and watching the tapes for nominees is more or less based on the honor system. The preferential/ranked voting system has also been tossed, so nominees can win without getting anything close to the majority of the votes. That's had the effect of making the races a bit more of a popularity contest, and considerably friendlier toward genre programming, which has traditionally had a tougher time getting awards recognition.
And so, after four years of everyone gushing over Tatiana Maslany playing innumerable clone characters on "Orphan Black," she got the statuette for Lead Actress in a Drama Series. And Rami Malek got the Lead Actor Emmy for the pilot episode of "Mr. Robot." This trend did not extend to the supporting categories , however, with Ben Mendelsohn and Maggie Smith scoring wins over several "Game of Thrones" actors, for "Bloodline" and "Downton Abbey" respectively. This is the end of the line for Maggie Smith, however, as "Downton Abbey" ended this year, so Lena Headey and the rest will get a few more chances to win. What's really exciting about these races, however, is the possibility that it'll get more viewers to take a look at "Orphan Black," "Bloodline," and "Mr. Robot."
The Limited Series categories have made a remarkable turnaround over the past few years. I haven't seen "The People v. O. J. Simpson," being a little burned out on O.J. media, so I can't say anything about its quality. Still, I was disappointed that it shut out "Fargo" and "The Night Manager" from nearly every category. After seven nominations, they're going to have to give an Emmy to Hugh Laurie for something eventually. Still, I can't say I'm too disappointed to see longtime character actors Courtney B. Vance and Sarah Paulson getting some recognition for playing Christopher Darden and Marcia Clake - and how great was it that Paulson brought Clarke to the ceremony? Also, "The Night Manager" did manage to win one major award, Susanne Bier's statuette for Outstanding Direction of a Limited Series. I'd say she's now one step closer to that James Bond movie gig.
Speaking of female directors, Jill Soloway's win for "Transparent" means that Outstanding Direction for a Comedy has been won by a woman for four years in a row. The winners in the comedy categories seem more entrenched at the moment. Julia Louis Dreyfuss won again for "Veep," and Jeffrey Tamboy won again for "Transparent." However, the supporting categories were a nice surprise, with Louis Anderson winning for "Baskets" and Kate McKinnon winning for "SNL." And I should point out that McKinnon's award was one of only four statuettes that went to the major networks this year. The others were Regina King's Supporting Actress award for Limited Series, plus "Grease Live!" and "The Voice" in the Variety Special and Reality Show. HBO, Netflix, and FX were the big winners. New media is here to stay.
In the end, lots of people I liked won this year. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang won for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for "Master of None" and Patton Oswalt won Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special. John Oliver won for "Last Week Tonight," Key and Peele won for their show's final season, and "Sherlock" won, though as a Television Movie instead of a Limited Series. There was only one win that really made me seethe, but I'll keep it to myself. The Emmy ceremony went swimmingly, with the kids from "Stranger Things" handing out sandwiches, the requisite Matt Damon feud callback, and a perfectly delightful Jeb Bush cameo.
All in all, it was a very good year, and I hope we get more like it.