Andy Samberg more than proved his ability to host a major awards show, but it was Veep and Game of Thrones — as well as Viola Davis and Jeffrey Tambor — who really made history at the 67th annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
HBO cleaned up in the Outstanding Comedy and Drama Series awards, with the network's political satire breaking Modern Family's six-year winning streak in the former category. "If Veep is about one thing, it's about hope," said the show's creator Armando Ianucci. "The hope that anyone in America, no matter what their race or creed, anyone can just miss out on getting the top job." (The award is a bittersweet victory, as last season was Ianucci's final season with the show.) The adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series swooped in to take Best Drama, an unexpected but welcome win for the insanely popular fantasy series. "Thank you, HBO, for believing in dragons," co-creator David Benioff said.
Davis, who won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for How to Get Away With Murder, became the first African-American woman to win an award in that category. Tambor, who won Outstanding Lead Actor on a Comedy Series for his role in Transparent — which also won for Comedy Directing in a Series — became the first male or female actor to win an Emmy for playing a transgender character. The actor dedicated his award to the transgender community, thanking them "for letting us to be part of the change."
The actress delivered the evening's most moving acceptance speech. "'In my dreams and visions, I seemed to see a line, and on the other side of that line were green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white ladies, who stretched out their arms to me over the line, but I couldn’t reach them no-how,'" said Davis, quoting Harriet Tubman.
"Let me tell you something," she continued in her own words, "the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there."
In terms of sheer numbers, the evening's big winner was the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, which took home six statuettes: Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Richard Jenkins), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie (Frances McDormand), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Bill Murray), Miniseries Directing, and Miniseries Writing. Game of Thrones and Veep each took home four — the former snagged Outstanding Drama Series, Drama Directing, Drama Writing, and an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award for Peter Dinklage, while the latter won Outstanding Comedy Series, Comedy Writing in a Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series award for Tony Hale, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus' fourth straight Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Mom's Allison Janney won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy, while Uzo Aduba of Orange is the New Black took home the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Amy Schumer, who lost out to Louis-Dreyfus in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category, emerged victorious nonetheless, as her Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer was named the winner for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart won for Outstanding Variety Talk Show, as well as the Writing and Directing awards in the same category. The triple crown was a sweet going-away present for Stewart, who took the podium to say, "To everyone on television — cling to it… It is a barren wasteland out there. You have craft services, right? Well, out in the world, there are tables with food, but you can't take it… and very little of it is gluten-free or vegan."
Mad Men’s Jon Hamm also got a going-away present from the voters, finally winning his first Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series after seven unsuccessful tries. "There's been a terrible mistake, clearly," he joked after climbing onto the stage like a parched man crawling towards a desert oasis.
Even in a night that included appearances by comedy greats Mel Brooks, Ricky Gervais and Tracy Morgan — the latter making a triumphant surprise appearance to present the final award of the evening, during which he promised to impregnate several women at the Emmys after-party — Andy Samberg more than held his own. Whether taking gleeful potshots at Donald Trump and the second season of True Detective, traipsing gamely through the musical tribute to binge-watching that opened the show, or revealing his HBO Now login and password to the public (it actually worked, at least for a bit), the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star was the best Emmys host in years. He even dared to lampoon Hollywood's current tendency to congratulate itself for "diversity."
"Racism is over!" he cheered during his opening monologue. "Don't fact-check that!"