LOS ANGELES: Hollywood´s elite gathered Sunday as television´s glittering Emmys got off to a distinctly political start, in a race seen by critics as the most suspenseful in a decade.
The glitzy ceremony in downtown Los Angeles — the first under the administration of President Donald Trump — was widely expected to have a strongly political flavor, and host Stephen Colbert set the tone in his opening monologue.
“However you feel about the president, and you do feel about the president, you can´t deny that every show was influenced by Donald Trump in some way,” he said.
“All the late night shows, obviously, ´House of Cards,´ the new season of ´American Horror Story.´”
Politics was also in the air as John Lithgow picked up the first award of the night: best supporting actor in a drama for his acclaimed turn as Winston Churchill in Netflix´s British royal drama “The Crown.”
“In these crazy times his life even as an old man reminds us what leadership and courage in government really looks like,” the US actor said.
NBC´s long-running comedy sketch show “Saturday Night Live” received 22 nominations — the joint-highest total alongside “Westworld” — after a year of mercilessly spoofing the new commander-in-chief.
Its haul of five Creative Arts statuettes included outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for Melissa McCarthy, whose “Unhinged Spicey” take on Sean Spicer came to embody early criticism of the administration.
The former White House press secretary, whose full-throated defense of Trump earned him derision on television, delighted his former tormentors in a surprise appearance at the opening of the show.
SNL was one of a number of shows with three statuettes as the ceremony reached the halfway point, with Kate McKinnon tearfully accepting the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series for her portrayal of Hillary Clinton.
Alec Baldwin was tapped as best supporting actor in a comedy for his Trump impersonation.
“I suppose I should say at long last, Mr President, here is your Emmy,” he joked, in a dig at Trump´s oft-stated annoyance at never having won a statuette for NBC reality show “The Apprentice” or its celebrity spin-off.
The show also picked up the award for best variety sketch show, and is in the running for more gongs at the main ceremony.
Wide open field
HBO´s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” has a record 38 awards, but is ineligible for the 69th Primetime Emmys, having started its seventh season too late.
That left the field clear for numerous much talked-about first-timers, including HBO sci-fi Western show “Westworld,” Hulu´s dystopian “The Handmaid´s Tale” and Netflix´s 1980s-set horror series “Stranger Things.”
The three series already have a huge 13 statuettes between them from last weekend´s Creative Arts Emmys, which recognize behind-the-scenes talent as well as guest acting appearances.
“Not since ´Mad Men´ began its… winning streak in 2008 has there been such a wide open field for the night´s most prestigious trophy: best drama series,” said weekly trade paper Variety.
That category — to be announced at the end of the night — includes five debutants, “Westworld,” “The Handmaid´s Tale,” NBC´s family drama “This Is Us,” and two Netflix shows, “Stranger Things” and British royal drama “The Crown.”
“The Handmaid´s Tale,” based on the 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, had three statuettes going into the halfway point.
Its writer Bruce Miller was first on stage, followed by Ann Dowd, picking up her first Emmy at age 61 for her portrayal of brutal instructor Aunt Lydia.
“Well, I think this is a dream, you know. I know it´s an actor´s dream and I´m deeply grateful to you,” she said.
“I have been acting for a long time and that this should happen now, I don´t have the words.”
The show´s Reed Morano also picked up a statuette for directing.