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20 Best, Worst and WTF Things We Saw at Emmys 2017

From Stephen Colbert getting political to Sean Spicer getting a podium – the highlights, low points and headscratchers from last night’s Emmys

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

The 20 best, worst and most WTF moments at Emmys 2017 – from Stephen Colbert getting chummy with Sean Spicer to some truly historic wins.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Lester Cohen/WireImage, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

That’s a wrap on the 2017 Emmys, and despite some bumps – and one very large, Spicey-shaped elephant in the room – the 69th annual ceremony went off with very few hitches, and not just because it ended almost exactly 11 p.m EST.

Despite some obvious misses in the nominees (no Insecure? The Americans? The Leftovers?), last night’s winners felt pretty spot-on. Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and HBO’s Big Little Lies cleaned up, as did old favorites like Veep and Saturday Night Live. Thanks to a more diverse crew of winners – including Riz Ahmed for The Night Of, Lena Waithe for Master of None and Donald Glover for Atlanta – it seemed like Emmy voters may have actually been listening to those who’ve criticized the #EntertainmentIndustrySoWhite norm.

And under the auspices of host Stephen Colbert, the whole thing was sprightly and – unsurprisingly, given the fact that we’re living in Donald Trump’s bizarro world – politically charged. Here are our picks for 20 of the night’s best, worst and most genuinely headscratching WTF moments.

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

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Best: Sterling K. Brown’s Stirring (If Shortened) Speech

The Emmys finished in crisp and timely fashion this year thanks to a strict enforcement of short acceptance speeches … but there’s always someone who soldiers on over the play-off music. This year it was Sterling K. Brown, who won Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his morally complex turn in This Is Us and delivered the night’s most memorably charming address. “Like, Walter White held this joint? Dick Whitman held this joint?” the actor said, brandishing his Emmy in joyous disbelief; he also paid tribute to Andre Braugher, the last African-American man to win in the category in 1998. That blasted music cut Brown off just as he was getting going, but that didn’t stop him: He finished his speech backstage in a flurry of thank-yous. JS

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

Alex Berliner/Invision/AP

Worst: ‘Westworld’ Going Home Empty-Handed

After Game of Thrones swept the floor last year, it seemed like the Emmys had finally come around to taking genre TV seriously. Though it earned the most nominations of the year (22, tied with SNL), a big win was not in the story loop for Westworld, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s fearlessly strange and twisty sci-fi thriller about robots, gunfights and the nature of human consciousness. Along with the Duffer brothers’ Stranger Things, which was also snubbed last night, it was the water cooler show of 2016, and also featured a web of outstanding performances, especially from nominees Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood and Anthony Hopkins. But the show took home no Primetime statuettes. Still, at least we got to see that weird but compelling sketch of Colbert “glitching” and getting taken backstage for in-the-buff repairs with Wright and Tituss Burgess. JS

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Best: Standout ‘Black Mirror’ Episode ‘San Junipero’ Cleans Up

Charlie Brooker’s British import is a Twilight Zone for our time, a pitch-black anthology serial about the ways humans warp and are warped by the technology at our fingertips. It’s both surprising and encouraging that the usually cynical series’ most hopeful episode, “San Junipero,” won Black Mirror its first pair of Emmys — for Outstanding Television Movie and Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special. As a standalone mini-movie, it’s a glistening piece of television: a beautifully filmed and acted love story between two women that delivers both on style and emotional heft. We could’ve done without Brooker awkwardly calling for a spontaneous orgy in his acceptance speech, but the sentiment is there: “Love will win.” JS

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Best: The Tasteful ‘In Memoriam’ Segment

Almost everything about the Emmys tribute to the celebs who’ve recently passed away was extremely classy and well done. (We’ll get to that almost in a second.) The producers tapped theater heavyweight Christopher Jackson, best known for playing George Washington in Hamilton, to sing Stevie Wonder’s “As” while the memorial – to stars like Mary Tyler Moore, John Heard, Florence Henderso, and Jerry Lewis – played in the background. It ended with a clip of the final moments of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which the star, who passed away in January, turns out the lights of the WJM-TV newsroom, and exits. It was simple and poignant, which is the best you can hope for. AP

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Worst: … And Then Roger Ailes Gets a Spot

Perhaps Matt Taibbi said it best when Ailes, the chief architect of Fox News and, arguably, our current political predicaments, died this past May: “He left behind an America perfectly in his image, frightened out of its mind and pouring its money hand over fist into television companies, who are gleefully selling the unraveling of our political system as an entertainment product.” Still, despite all that – and the fact that more than a dozen women claimed that he sexually harrassed them during his tenure at Fox – the man was given a place of prominence during the In Memoriam segment. (So, Charlie Murphy and Dick Gregory, no; Ailes, yes. Got it.) If anyone is wondering how behavior like Ailes’s continues to happen, here’s a clue: It’s because of things like this. AP

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Best: ‘Big Little Lies’ Wins Big

You’d be forgiven for thinking the film industry had invaded last night, with the likes of Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon popping up everywhere, looking like they’d taken a wrong turn on the way to the Oscars. But they made waves on the small screen with Big Little Lies, David E. Kelley’s moody HBO miniseries (based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel) about a murder in an affluent community. The show tied with The Handmaid’s Tale for most Emmys of the year, taking home prizes in eight categories, including Outstanding Limited Series, Lead Actress (Kidman), Supporting Actor (Alexander Skarsgard), Directing (Jean-Marc Vallée) and Supporting Actress in a Limited Series (Laura Dern). As many of the winners hastened to emphasize, Big Little Lies is more than its sleek surface and clever plotting; it’s a story about women’s lives and the cost of domestic abuse. Witherspoon called for the TV world to “bring women to the front of their own stories and make them the hero of their own stories,” and Kidman echoed her sentiment: “More great roles for women, please.”

best and worst things from the primetime emmys

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Gets the Gold

Bruce Miller’s adaptation Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel turned out to be the most upsettingly relevant show of 2017 – so it’s no surprise that The Handmaid’s Tale was a big drama winner tonight, nabbing eight statuettes including Outstanding Lead Actress (Elisabeth Moss), Writing (Miller), Supporting Actress (Ann Dowd) and Directing (Reed Morano. In addition to being a timely meditation on the way society polices women and their bodies, it’s also a vividly realized piece of television – from Moss’s haunted and haunting central performance to the show’s visceral cinematography and pointed writing. And it was particularly lovely to see veteran actor Dowd nab a much-deserved win (for her turn as the fearsome Aunt Lydia) after decades of memorable but often unrecognized work on TV, film and stage. JS

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