2017 has been one of the most unpredictable years for television and the Emmys. The era of peak TV has produced a deluge of new original programs of cinematic quality everywhere from the traditional broadcast networks (“This is Us” on NBC), to basic cable (“Atlanta” and “Feud” on FX), to premium cable (“Westworld” on HBO), and to the online streaming frontier (“Stranger Things” on Netflix, “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu). So how will those changes be reflected in this year’s Emmy winners? Scroll down for our minute-by-minute analysis of this year’s winners, biggest surprises, records broken, and history made.
The big changes at the Emmys don’t just involve the shows that are nominated. The Emmy voting system has also changed, expanding from small judging panels to much wider online voting, and from a preferential ballot to a simple plurality vote. Those fundamental changes probably contributed to huge upsets in 2016 like Tatiana Maslany winning Best Drama Actress (“Orphan Black”) and Ben Mendelsohn claiming Best Drama Supporting Actor (“Bloodline”). It may also have contributed to the dominance of “Game of Thrones,” which has long been on the Emmy radar but didn’t dominate the awards until the last two years.
“Game of Thrones” is out of the running this year, though, taking a year off from the awards because its seventh season didn’t air until after the May 31 eligibility cutoff. So what will take it place? “Stranger Things”? “Westworld”? “The Handmaid’s Tale”? “This is Us”? Will “Veep” claim Best Comedy Series for the second year in a row? How will the Limited Series battle between “Big Little Lies,” “Feud,” and “The Night Of” end? Find out all that and more below.
8:18pm — Emmy night begins with an expected victory: John Lithgow won Best Drama Supporting Actor for his role as Prime Minister Winston Churchill in “The Crown.” This follows his victory at the SAG Awards for this role, and it’s his sixth career Emmy victory. Somewhere, Gary Oldman is hoping this Churchill mojo rubs off on him at the Oscars next year for “Darkest Hour.”
8:27pm — Are these Emmys going to go entirely as expected? Another frontrunner prevails: Kate McKinnon for the second year in a row for her various roles on “Saturday Night Live.” Of course, she’s best known for playing Hillary Clinton and then Kellyanne Conway. This is the third acting victory this year for “SNL” so far following guest-acting awards last weekend for Dave Chappelle and Melissa McCarthy.
8:30pm — “Big Little Lies” snaps up its first award of the night, Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress for Laura Dern. Like Lithgow and McKinnon, she was our predicted frontrunner. This is actually Dern’s first career victory. She’s been nominated six times in the last 25 years.
8:39pm — Donald Glover just won his first Emmy of the night: Best Comedy Directing for the “Atlanta” episode “B.A.N.” There could be more where that came from since he has three other bids this evening: Comedy Writing, Comedy Acting, and Comedy Series. He’s the first since Alan Alda (“M*A*S*H”) to win this award for directing himself, and he’s the first black winner in this category’s history.
8:42pm — “Saturday Night Live” wins Best Variety Sketch Series. That’s the first Variety Series prize the show has won since 1993. That wasn’t a surprise since the show had the most nominations of any program this year (22), tied with HBO’s sci-fi western “Westworld.” It has now won two awards tonight and seven total for the year so far when you count its five Creative Arts Awards victories.
8:54pm — Bruce Miller wins Best Drama Writing for penning the pilot episode “Offred” for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This is the first win of the telecast for “Handmaid’s,” and it’s also a big breakthrough for streaming service Hulu, which had never won a top Emmy category before now. The show won three awards at Creative Arts, bringing it to a total of four so far.
8:57pm — Noticing a trend? Every single frontrunner has won tonight so far. Every. Single. One. Now it’s Alec Baldwin for Best Comedy Supporting Actor for “SNL.” He originally appeared as a guest on the sketch comedy series as Donald Trump, but when Trump unexpectedly won the presidential election, Baldwin stuck around, and he appeared in too many episodes to qualify as a guest star. This is his third Emmy win, following a pair of Best Comedy Actor prizes for “30 Rock” (2008-2009). This also means a clean sweep for “SNL” in the comedy acting categories — four for four. No comedy has ever done that before.
9:06pm — “Big Little Lies” is two-for-two for the night. Jean-Marc Vallee wins Best Movie/Mini Directing for the entire seven-part series. He was the only nominee who contended for an entire limited series. His rivals all contended for individual episodes. Vallee is also known for directing to Oscar winning “Dallas Buyers Club” and the Oscar nominated “Wild,” the latter of which also featured “Big Little Lies” co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.
9:10pm — Alexander Skarsgard wins Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor on his first nomination for his role as an abusive husband in “Big Little Lies.” So far it looks like the HBO hit is on its way to a sweep of movie/mini categories similar to “Olive Kitteridge” in 2015 and “The People v. O.J. Simpson” in 2016.
9:21pm — John Oliver and his writing team win Best Variety Series Writing for the second year in a row for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” They won last year on the way to winning Best Variety Talk Series, so it could be on its way to another win there as well.
9:24pm — And we have an upset! The first major surprise victory of the night goes to Ann Dowd for her terrifying work as Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised since Emmy voters liked her enough to nominate her twice (also Drama Guest Actress for “The Leftovers”). And Emmy voters love hardworking character actors — just look at three-time Emmy winner Margo Martindale.
9:35pm — Another historic victory. After Donald Glover became the first black winner for Comedy Directing, Lena Waithe becomes the first black woman to win Comedy Writing, for “Thanksgiving” from “Master of None.” She co-wrote the episode with Aziz Ansari, who also won last year for the episode “Parents.”
9:38pm — It looked like “RuPaul’s Drag Race” would usurp “The Voice” for Best Reality-Competition Program, but to our surprise NBC’s singing competition won the award for the fourth time. Only three shows have ever won that award. “Top Chef” previous won once, and “The Amazing Race” won 10 times.
9:47pm — Reed Morano makes history by winning Best Drama Directing for “Offred,” the pilot episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” She’s only the second woman to win this category, following Mimi Leder‘s victory for “ER” in 1995. “Handmaid’s Tale” has now won every category at the telecast so far.
9:50pm — Upset victory for Charlie Brooker, who wins Best Movie/Mini Writing for “Black Mirror: San Junipero,” defeating the frontrunner “Big Little Lies” by David E. Kelley. The TV academy writers branch sure does like British writers. In recent years this award has seen upset victories for Abi Morgan (“The Hour,” 2013) and Steven Moffatt (“Sherlock: His Last Vow,” 2014). This means 10-time Emmy winner Kelley still hasn’t won an Emmy for writing since 1991.
10:03pm — “SNL” continues to clean up, picking up its fourth award on its fifth and final nomination of the night: Best Variety Series Directing for Don Roy King, who has now won seven Emmys. He won for the “SNL” episode hosted by Jimmy Fallon.
10:06pm — As anticipated, “Last Week Tonight” won its second straight Emmy for Best Variety Talk Series. This category has been prone to dynasties over the years, with “Late Show with David Letterman” winning five (1998-2002), then “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” winning 11 (2003-2012, 2015), and “The Colbert Report” winning two (2013-2014). So it might take a lot to take down Oliver in the coming years.
10:15pm — Donald Glover wins his second Emmy of the night: Best Comedy Actor. No one has ever won both of those categories in one night. This follows his Best Comedy Actor win earlier this year at the Golden Globes.
10:19pm — As most of us expected she would, Julia Louis-Dreyfus makes history with an unprecedented sixth consecutive victory for “Veep.” No one has ever won that many Primetime Emmys for the same role on the same show. No one has ever won more Emmys for Best Comedy Actress (Louis-Dreyfus has seven total). And she ties Cloris Leachman‘s record for the most Primetime Emmy victories for acting (eight). “Veep” will end after its seventh season, so there’s a distinct chance that Louis-Dreyfus will remain undefeated for the show’s entire run.
10:21pm — No surprise here, “Veep” wins Best Comedy Series for the third year in a row, netting Louis-Dreyfus yet another trophy (she’s a producer of the series). “Veep” won a total of five awards this year counting its three victories last weekend at the Creative Arts Awards.
10:31pm — Not many people can say they won an Emmy a few weeks after winning an MTV Video Music Award — well, David Fincher can — but Riz Ahmed has just won Best Movie/Mini Actor against Oscar winners Geoffrey Rush (“Genius”) and Robert De Niro (“The Wizard of Lies”). In August he won a VMA for Fight Against the System for “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done).”
10:34pm — “Big Little Lies” is up to four victories tonight with the win by Nicole Kidman. It’s her first Emmy and her second nomination in this category following a bid for “Hemingway & Gellhorn” (2012). I have a feeling she and Reese Witherspoon will be sharing another Emmy in a few minutes since they’re both producers of “Big Little Lies,” and it’s looking pretty good for Best Limited Series right about now.”
10:39pm — “Black Mirror: San Junipero” was the Emmy frontrunner for Best TV Movie going into this evening, but if it hadn’t been before it was certainly looking good following its Best Movie/Mini Writing upset. It did in fact win the top prize, which is the first top program victory ever for Netflix.
10:43pm — After sweeping almost all of its other nominations tonight, “Big Little Lies” takes Best Limited Series, bringing it to a grand total of eight awards — five tonight and three last week at the Creative Arts Awards. This gives producer Kidman her second Emmy, it gives Reese Witherspoon her first, and it gives writer-producer David E. Kelley her 11th.
10:51pm — Sterling K. Brown had a career breakthrough last year in “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” and now he already has two Emmys. He won Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for “O.J.” and now Best Drama Actor for “This is Us.” Brown is the first black winner in this category since Andre Braugher in “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1998. This also means every lead actor winner at these awards was a person of color.
10:55pm — Well it’s about time! A couple of years after “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm won his overdue Emmy, now Elisabeth Moss finally has some hardware. She wins Best Drama Actress for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the fourth victory of the night for the Hulu series. Could it win Best Drama Series next?
11:00pm — “Stranger Things” was the Emmy frontrunner for Best Drama Series, but after a great night with four other wins “The Handmaid’s Tale” takes top honors. It’s the first victory in this category for a streaming series, beating Netflix, which had three nominees this year: “Stranger Things” as well as “House of Cards” and “The Crown.” “The Handmaid’s Tale” goes away with eight awards overall this year: five tonight and three others at Creative Arts.
11:03pm — That’s a wrap on the 2017 Emmys. We were expecting the unexpected, but most of the awards went as we predicted. Counting Creative Arts and tonight’s telecast, “SNL” is the biggest winner with nine, followed by “Big Little Lies” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” with eight apiece.