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Emmy Awards: 'Handmaid's Tale' And 'Veep' Win In Multiple Categories


Last night's Emmy Awards featured some unusual moments, including a song and dance from host Stephen Colbert.


STEPHEN COLBERT: (Singing) The world's a little better on TV.

GREENE: Which turned into a rap from Chance the Rapper.


CHANCE THE RAPPER: (Rapping) What a beautiful segue. Let me take over.

GREENE: Yeah, which eventually became a controversial cameo by former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.


SEAN SPICER: This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period.

GREENE: OK. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here. Eric, were there awards actually given out last night?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: (Laughter). I heard they gave out a few.

GREENE: Good. That's good because I heard a lot of people talking about that part of things. All right. I can't believe we're going to start talking about the Emmys by talking about a political figure, but let's get it out of the way - to bring politics into television, but Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary, here we are. What happened?

DEGGANS: So I think it was a bit of a gimmick that did not go over well. I mean, he was making fun of the moment in January when he told the press that President Trump had had the biggest inauguration crowd in history, although several news organizations pointed out that that wasn't accurate. And on social media, people accused him and the Emmys show of trying to laugh it off, and they didn't appreciate it.

GREENE: OK. So he was trying in the Emmys show to - to kind of go back to that but in a humorous way. It didn't go over well. OK. It was not all gimmicks, though. Last night the Emmys - I mean, some historic wins, right? Let's talk about a big win for Hulu.

DEGGANS: Yeah. Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" won as best drama series, and this is the first time an original series on a streaming service won that award. Now, think about that. I mean, Netflix is going to spend $6 billion this year on content. They spent more money hyping their Emmy nominees. Amazon spends a lot, too. But Hulu was the first streamer to take this award, and I think it's because "Handmaid's Tale" is a hit that really defines their service well and is talking about issues of misogyny and authoritarianism that feel really relevant now.

GREENE: Well, also, I mean, it was a night for - for women and stories about women, right?

DEGGANS: Oh, yeah. And, you know, HBO's "Veep" won as best comedy series, and when you think about it, "Veep" and "Handmaid's Tale" star female characters. And in fact, the winner for best limited series, HBO's "Big Little Lies," is also about women. And women made some history. I mean, "Veep's" star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, won a record six consecutive Emmy as best comedy actress, and Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win a comedy-writing Emmy with Aziz Ansari on "Master Of None." And Waithe, who co-wrote an episode where a character comes out to her family, had a message for her fans in her acceptance speech. Let's check it out.


LENA WAITHE: And last but certainly not least, my LGBQTIA family. I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers - every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren't in it.

GREENE: What a moment.

DEGGANS: Now, awards like these show that the Emmy academy is rewarding shows when they're vital, they're in the zeitgeist. And there was other diversity. I mean, Donald Glover became the first black man to win an Emmy for comedy-directing along with winning best actor in a comedy. And the lesson to me is that empowering people from marginalized groups that tell their own stories makes for great television.

GREENE: OK. Eric. And before I let you go - Stephen Colbert as host. How'd he do?

DEGGANS: He did OK. I mean, he had a lot of great ideas. He had this parody of "Westworld" where Colbert played an android and Ru Paul - this talk with Ru Paul as an Emmy statue, but it just wasn't funny. There weren't a lot of great jokes. And I expected more from somebody who, you know, does so well as a late-night host.

GREENE: Yeah, you want your host to be funny if he's normally funny.

DEGGANS: Generally, that'd be a good idea.

GREENE: Yeah. All right. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Thanks, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.