When Alec Baldwin won the Emmy on Sunday night for portraying Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” this season, he used his speech to take notice of the president’s fruitless quest to ever win an Emmy for his show “The Apprentice.”
“At long last, here, Mr. President, is your Emmy,” Baldwin said.
But in truth, Mr. President, most of Sunday night’s Emmy show was for you.
After all, this might well have been the most political Emmys show ever, with win after win going to shows dealing explicitly or implicitly with politics — racial politics, sexual politics, every kind of politics.
The Outstanding Drama Series victory for “The Handmaid’s Tale?” The show is a potent allegory about a dystopian future where religious conservatives hold power and women are brutally subjugated — and when the first trailers dropped for the show months ago, they were met with immediate criticisms from conservatives who thought it was taking shots at Trump. (Author Margaret Atwood pointed out that she wrote the novel in the 1980s, to little avail.)
The comedy-series win for “Veep,” and the sixth consecutive win for its leading lady Julia Louis-Dreyfus? How could a story about rampant ineptitude in Washington not be timely?
The four awards won by “Saturday Night Live,” including its first series award since 1993? Those never would have happened if this hadn’t been the season that “SNL” spent leading up to, and then reacting to, the presidential election.
The two awards for Donald Glover? The star, creator and director of the offbeat but politicized comedy “Atlanta” said it himself: “I want to thank Trump for making black people No. 1 on the most oppressed list. He’s the reason I’m probably up here.”
The two awards for “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver?” Chalk it up to to his political acuity, though in fairness he was competing against a bunch of people — Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher — who were equally outspoken.
Even the other award-winning shows could be seen to strike a blow for tolerance and acceptance: “Big Little Lies” was a rare show dominated by women and dealing in part with abuse; “Black Mirror” used its “Twlight Zone”-style approach to tell an LGBT story; “The Night Of” dealt with Islamaphobia and incarceration; “Master of None” won the first comedy writing Emmy that ever went to an African-American woman.
If you were looking for an Emmy that had nothing to do with politics, I suppose you could point to the reality-show victory of “The Voice” over “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” or John Lithgow’s win for “The Crown.”
But overall, this Emmys show was aimed squarely at the occupant of the White House, from host Stephen Colbert’s opening shots to “The Handmaid’s Tale’s” final victory three hours later.
It celebrated minority voices in a way that the Emmys have been doing in recent years, gave numerous awards to shows fronted by and giving voice to powerful women, and offered a racially, sexually and culturally diverse view of America that could be seen as a direct affront to today’s political climate in the guise of an awards show.
Granted, Emmy voters have never particularly liked Trump, even when he was on television himself, stewing (and tweeting) over the fact that “The Apprentice” was regularly beaten out by “The Amazing Race” in the reality-competition category.
But they really haven’t liked him since he became president — and if that puts them at odds with some of the viewers they’re hoping to lure to their TV shows, so be it.
You could say that the tone for this television season was set by election coverage and then by “Saturday Night Live,” late-night shows from Colbert, John Oliver, Bill Maher and others and fictional shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Atlanta” – and that’s certainly what this Emmy show suggested.
“Stranger Things” might have been one of the season’s hot shows, but it wasn’t the message Emmy voters were looking to send. “Westworld” may have been dazzling, but it wasn’t timely. “Feud: Bette and Joan” may have been entertaining, but what did it tell us about today?
It wasn’t a surprise, really, that Emmy voters went this way. “The Handmaid’s Tale” wasn’t a complete surprise by any means: It went into the show in what was thought to be a neck-and-neck battle with “This Is Us” and “Stranger Things” to become only the fourth first-year show in 20 years to win the big prize.
And for most of the night, the winners were pre-show favorites: Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon from “SNL,” Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern from “Big Little Lies,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus and “Veep.”
It wasn’t until 85 minutes and 11 awards into the show before the first result that could be considered an upset, when Ann Dowd won the supporting-drama award for “The Handmaid’s Tale” over Chrissy Metz for “This Is Us” and Millie Bobby Brown for “Stranger Things.”
And with that, voters made it clear: They were sending a message.
Were you listening, Mr. President?
And more to the point, will you have something to say about this tomorrow morning on Twitter?