Viola Davis made history at the Emmys tonight by becoming the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a leading role on a drama. She gave a powerful speech, with an eloquent quote from Harriet Tubman about the lines that African-American women have been unable to cross over the years, and saying “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
But that wasn’t the only big moment of the night: Jon Hamm had his moment at last. After years of nominations, Hamm finally took home a best actor award for his work on “Mad Men” in its last year. He gave a brief speech, thanking family members, the network and the fans of the show, before stepping off.
The show wasn’t quite done with huge moments, though: Tracy Morgan unexpectedly appeared to present the best drama award (to “Game of Thrones”), earning a standing ovation.
Andy Samberg broke into his Emmy hosting gig with a long number about the sheer number of scripted programming to watch, in a scripted bit. When a cameo-heavy dinner party makes it clear how many shows he still hasn’t seen, he runs into an underground bunker to watch every show he can. The people who see him emerge at the end (Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington) are more horrified at how he smells after a year without showering in his bunker than impressed with his TV watching.
Samberg looked a little nervous onstage. More than a few of his jokes fell a little flat, though he got a laugh when, in reference to Paula Deen joining “Dancing with the Stars,” he joked “If I wanted to see an intolerant lady dance, I would have gone to one of Kim Davis’ four weddings.”
The first award of the night went to Allison Janney, for best supporting actress in a comedy, which was her seventh win.She thanked Chuck Lorre, creator of “Mom,” for creating such a “flawed character, and immediately thinking of me to play her.” Though she started out with jokes, tossing a makeup blotter away onstage, she ended on a more serious note, by saying how glad she was that her show offered a vision of hope to people suffering from addiction.
The night also featured some big winners for the Amazon show, “Transparent,” which took home both a directing award for creator Jill Soloway and a best actor award for Jeffrey Tambor. Both of them used the opportunity to speak up for the trans community, with Soloway pointing out that her parent could legally be turned down for renting an apartment in 32 states just for being trans. Tambor, when his moment came up, dedicated the award to the transgender community and thanked them for their patience, courage and stories.
One person who sadly went home empty-handed was Amy Poehler, who didn’t end up winning in her final year for “Parks and Recreation.” Instead the award went to Julia Louis Dreyfus for the fourth year in a row for “Veep.” Louis Dreyfus looked honestly flustered, and jokingly pretended to quote from her own show, only to reveal that “What a great honor it must be for you to honor me tonight” was actually a Donald Trump quote.
An early contender for quickest speech went to Frances McDormand, who, after winning for “Olive Kitteridge,” said only, “We’re all here for the power of a story well-told. Sometimes that’s enough. Thank you.” It wasn’t the only victory for “Kitteridge,” which also took home honors for writing and directing, as well, for Jane Anderson and Lisa Cholodenko, respectively.
Samberg also had a little fun at the expense of “Mad Men,” by spoofing its big end of series meditation/Coke ad moment. In his version, he wanted to give everyone an Emmy, which was a beautiful concept until he tossed one of the awards at Jim O’Heir (Jerry/Gary/Larry from “Parks and Recreation”) and the award’s famed prongs went right into O’Heir’s chest. Kids, don’t throw Emmys at each other.
And Tatiana Maslany, the Internet’s favorite actress, also had her moment to shine, in a little taped bit where she used the empty red carpet as a good opportunity to search for some loose change and discarded jewels. She didn’t find anything too expensive, but she did get a can of beans, which turned out to be a hot ticket item – she ended up battling “Veep” actor Tony Hale for it until they were both dragged out of the place by security.
Another theme of the night was sister love: Both Amy Schumer (best sketch series) and Uzo Aduba (best supporting actress) used their speeches to thank a whole list of people, and then finally their sisters, with Schumer giving hers credit for keeping her alive and breathing, and Aduba telling hers she was “humble” to call herself her sister.
Jon Stewart also earned more trips up onto the stage, as “The Daily Show” picked up some trophies. Stewart described the struggles of life off screen, complaining that the Emmys were the first time anyone had applauded for him in weeks.
“Game of Thrones” continued its reign, winning writing, directing and best drama awards, as well as a nod for Peter Dinklage’s acting on the show. He credited the show’s writers and George R.R. Martin for giving him good material, as well as co-star Lena Headey for providing inspiration as a scene partner.