Hulu makes history as first streaming service provider to win best drama Emmy

Jeffrey Nordling, Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern pose with their Emmy trophies for Outstanding Limited Series for Big Little Lies. PHOTO: REUTERS
Elisabeth Moss reacts as Oprah Winfrey (left) presents The Handmaid's Tale with the award for Outstanding Drama Series. PHOTO: REUTERS
Charlie Brooker accepting the award for Outstanding Television Movie for Black Mirror: San Junipero. PHOTO: REUTERS
Winner of Limited Series Actress, Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies), and winner of Drama Actress, Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid's Tale). PHOTOS: REUTERS
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. PHOTO: REUTERS
John Oliver accepts the award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. PHOTO: REUTERS
Alec Baldwin accepting the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Saturday Night Live. PHOTO: REUTERS
Laura Dern accepting the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for Big Little Lies. PHOTO: REUTERS
(From left) Zoe Kravitz, Angela Sarafyan and Nicole Kidman arrive at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. PHOTO: REUTERS
Sarah Hyland arrives at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. PHOTO: REUTERS
Jane Fonda arrives at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. PHOTO: REUTERS
Child actor Jeremy Maguire arrives at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. PHOTO: REUTERS
Show host Stephen Colbert (centre) helps roll out the red carpet during preparations for the 69th Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (NYTIMES) - It was inevitable that a streaming service provider would win an Emmy for best drama at some point. But no one expected Hulu to get there first.

Its dystopian adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale won TV's most prestigious prize on Sunday night, beating out competitors from HBO, NBC and Netflix.

Hulu has a smaller programming budget than streaming competitors like Netflix and Amazon. Elisabeth Moss finally won her first Emmy for her portrayal as a woman forced into sexual servitude in the show.

The success of Handmaid's Tale came during a ceremony that was decidedly political.

Saturday Night Live also stormed the Emmys, winning the Best Variety Sketch category for the first time in more than two decades.

The show's feature players swept the supporting comedy acting awards, with wins for Alec Baldwin, for his portrayal of President Donald Trump, and Kate McKinnon, who played Mrs Hillary Clinton and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions (among other characters).

Remote video URL

Mr Trump was top of mind all night. From the stage, he was invoked again and again, and it was usually charged. "I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most oppressed list," Donald Glover said as he accepted one of his two awards for FX comedy Atlanta.

In his opening monologue, host Stephen Colbert declared Mr Trump the biggest story of the year in television and then introduced a surprise guest, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

The win by Handmaid's is a blow to Netflix, which spent millions marketing its shows before Emmy voters, and once again fell short of winning Best Drama despite the fact it claimed nearly half of the nominated shows in the category.

And it was also a huge blow to NBC, which finally hit pay dirt in the ratings with its hugely popular family drama This is Us.

A broadcast network was in its first viable position to win the drama award for the first time in more than a decade but a streaming service provider stood in the way.

Here are the highlights from Sunday's ceremony:

1. Saturday Night Live has never been a favourite of Emmy voters but this year was different. After pummelling Mr Trump nearly every week and scoring some of its highest ratings in years, it took home many awards, including for best variety sketch show.

2. Colbert had been riding an anti-Trump wave all year to unanticipated ratings gold, and it was no different for his opening monologue Sunday. He spent a good chunk of his monologue on the president, declaring Mr Trump the biggest story in TV last year.

Of course, there is a risk in going political at an event that is supposed to celebrate television. The Emmys have set ratings lows for two consecutive years, and there are plenty of viewers out there who do not want to be lectured by Colbert or anyone from Hollywood about Mr Trump.

On the other hand, Colbert has the biggest audience of any host in late night, and his presence might have drawn some viewers who would otherwise skip the Emmys.

3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus' win, for Best Actress in a Comedy for her performance in Veep, tied Cloris Leachman's record for eight prime-time acting Emmys.

She also set the record for the number of wins by an actor playing one character, breaking a tie with Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) and Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show).

Holding a sheet of paper, Louis-Dreyfus declared her character (who has gone from vice-president, to president, to ex-president over the last six seasons) as the "role of a lifetime and an adventure of utter joy".

4. As movie stars and audiences gravitate to limited series, this category has gone from a wasteland to arguably the most intriguing.

HBO's soapy and glossy Big Little Lies won best variety series, beating out its main rival, FX's period drama Feud, about the Hollywood rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

Nicole Kidman won her first Emmy for Best Actress in a Limited Series for her portrayal of an abused wife in Big Little Lies, and she had some intense competition. Four Oscar winners were nominated in the category - Kidman, Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) and Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange (Feud).

"It's been an incredible year for women in television," said Witherspoon, an executive producer of Big Little Lies. Kidman called for "more great roles for women".

Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard won supporting acting categories to round out a dominant showing from Big Little Lies.

5. HBO took home the most Emmys for the 16th straight year, winning 29, compared with Netflix's 20. HBO's triumph capped a year when TV networks took Emmy campaigning to a new level, spending millions to market shows before nominations were handed out.

But there was no player more ostentatious than Netflix. It opened its own 24,000 sq ft event space this spring, holding nearly daily parties to put potential Emmy voters in front of talent, free dinners and an open bar.

Rivals grumbled that this level of financial commitment violated a tacit agreement among the networks to stick with a schedule of events that had traditionally been sanctioned by the Television Academy.

Some went as far as to suggest privately that Netflix was trying to buy votes.

Nevertheless, the result was the same.

Netflix went home empty-handed in the major acting awards and for best drama and comedy.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.