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6 things you missed at the 2015 Emmy Awards

The big winner was a network, not a show

Host Andy Samberg and actress Jane Lynch (posing as the "shame!" nun from Game of Thrones) joke during Samberg's opening monologue at the Emmys.
Host Andy Samberg and actress Jane Lynch (posing as the "shame!" nun from Game of Thrones) joke during Samberg's opening monologue at the Emmys.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The 67th Annual Emmy Awards were always going to be a little bit weird.

Even aside from warmly dorky host Andy Samberg, there were a number of rule changes and new nominees that ensured a different set of wins than we've come to expect from the normally stodgy Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

And that gave the ceremony a feeling of being new and distinctive, even as several (HBO) shows began to sweep their respective categories towards the end of the night. For the first time since 2009, a show other than Modern Family won the Comedy Series prize, and for the first time since The Sopranos won in 2007, an HBO drama won Drama Series. (The shows, respectively, were Veep and Game of Thrones.) Jon Hamm and Jeffrey Tambor finally won acting prizes after years (and, in Tambor's case, decades) of trying.

If you just want to read a list of winners, go here. But if you missed the show and wish you hadn't, here's a roundup of the major moments from this year's Emmy Awards.

1) The big winner wasn't a show. It was a network.

67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room

Members of the cast and crew of Game of Thrones celebrate the series' Emmy win backstage.

Mark Davis/Getty Images

Okay, technically, it's hard to overlook Game of Thrones' 12 Emmy wins, which didn't just break The West Wing's old record for most wins by a series in a single year. It shattered it. (West Wing could only manage a paltry nine awards.) And in terms of prizes awarded on Sunday's show, the miniseries Olive Kitteridge proved the biggest winner, taking home six total awards. (Game of Thrones won four at Sunday's awards and eight at the Creative Arts Emmys the week before.)

But if you're paying attention, you'll notice something: Both of these programs were on HBO. So was the Comedy Series winner, Veep (which took home an additional three awards). In fact, HBO dominated three of the four major branches of the awards, with only Variety (where Comedy Central held sway) standing firm.

All told, HBO won 14 awards, spread among the three shows that performed best for it. Add those to the 29 awards it won at the Creative Arts Emmys, and you have a total haul of 43 trophies. That's the second-most won by a single network in a single year ever.

And consider this: The record holder is CBS for 1974, when it had M*A*S*H and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family. CBS won 44 prizes that year, just one more than HBO. And its competition was minimal, just ABC, NBC, and PBS. HBO had to compete not just against the broadcast networks, but numerous other cable networks, and two streaming services (Netflix and Amazon). And it won 43 prizes.

And there's nothing saying it can't repeat this performance next year, and maybe even improve upon it. The Variety categories were mostly won by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a show that's no longer airing, and HBO has Last Week Tonight with John Oliver just waiting in the wings in those categories. There are very few places where the network is not hugely competitive.

This is both hugely impressive and not actually that impressive. On the one hand, airing as much quality programming as HBO does is a hard thing to do. (There are numerous shows on the network that didn't receive any nominations or barely a handful of nominations, and most of them were just as worthy as many of the bigger names.) The only other network that can come close to HBO in terms of sheer volume of quality shows is FX, and FX traditionally struggles at the Emmys.

However, because of its long-time success at the Emmys, HBO also commands a large voting bloc within the Academy. That bloc can't explain all of the network's wins (after all, voters in the Academy's acting branch can't vote for writing winners and vice versa), but it certainly doesn't hurt when it comes to the program categories, which are open to everyone in the Academy to vote on. Yeah, HBO still needs people from other networks to vote for its programs, but when the network remains the most desirable spot in all of TV land, that's not hard to do.

2) There weren't any big losers, though

67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Show

Uzo Aduba accepts the Emmy for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

To be honest, nearly every section of the TV landscape had a good night in one form or another. Broadcast networks might have struggled the most, but they could boast a couple of prime acting wins in Viola Davis's win for ABC's How to Get Away with Murder and Allison Janney's prize for CBS's Mom. Basic cable had Comedy Central's dominance of the Variety categories, thanks to The Daily Show and Inside Amy Schumer. Plus, AMC's Mad Men finally took home an award for Jon Hamm. And though the only pay cable network to win any awards was HBO, it did win those 14.

Even streaming had its best night yet. Amazon won the biggest award yet for a streaming service, with Jeffrey Tambor's Lead Actor in a Comedy prize for Transparent, while Jill Soloway took home the directing award for the same show. Meanwhile, Netflix's Orange Is the New Black won a single prize for Uzo Aduba's work in the supporting category.

Streaming services continue to struggle just a bit at the Emmys, but they're breaking through much more quickly than cable networks did in the 1980s and '90s. Transparent's loss to Veep in the series category (and Orange's loss to Modern Family last year) suggest that it will be a while before a streaming series can win one of the very top prizes, but it's not like they're being shut out entirely.

The TV landscape is diversifying in terms of content providers almost faster than anybody can keep track of it. That leaves the Emmys sometimes feeling like they're playing defense and failing miserably. But it's not like they're not trying. Heck, Andy Samberg's opening song and dance number was all about this.

And speaking of Samberg...

3) Andy Samberg is just the right kind of goofy for an awards show

67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Show

Andy Samberg proved to be a hugely enjoyable host.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

There are very few people who can host an awards show without immediately inducing eyerolls. Even consummate professional Neil Patrick Harris wore out his hosting welcome by the Oscars, before he torpedoed it for good with the ironically named Best Time Ever.

But Andy Samberg beat the odds to deliver a consistently solid performance that traded in on his particular brand of silly charm. His lengthier opening bit was a song that made fun of just how much television there is to get through these days, with clutch cameos from Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington, Will Forte, and a particularly game Nathan Fillion (who asked if Samberg watches his ABC procedural Castle, only to have the host back away in a panic).

Eventually, Samberg delivered the only logical message for this night devoted to all things television:

Samberg's monologue — which was short but hilarious — continued the hot streak. It referenced the changing Emmy rules ("Orange is the New Black is now technically a drama, while Louie is now technically jazz"). It managed to call out racism and sexism in the industry without backing off or making light of the issues:

The big story this year, of course is diversity. This is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history, so congratulations, Hollywood, you did it! [Applause] Yeah. Racism is over!

Don't fact check that.

At one point, Samberg even gave out his HBO Now password, and it totally worked —until it didn't.

Throughout the show, Samberg had the bearing of someone who loved the pageantry of a show like the Emmys while simultaneously poking fun at its expense. This is a very delicate balancing act to maintain, but it's less surprising that Samberg managed it so well when you consider that his writers for the show all came from Comedy Bang! Bang! That bonkers IFC show — born of an absurdist podcast — excels at pointing out existing tropes and indulging them with a wink. Also, Comedy Bang! Bang! host and writer Scott Aukerman was Samberg's head writer at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, so the team wasn't exactly starting from scratch.

All told, Samberg did a bang-up job at one of the most visible, but thankless gigs in Hollywood. It's just too bad he can't win an Emmy for that Emmy performance. (Sadly, the Emmys are the only TV broadcast ineligible for the Emmys.)

4) A wave of new winners made for some truly touching speeches

67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room

Transparent creator Jill Soloway celebrates her win for directing.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Since there were so many new winners when compared to years past, the speeches were also less routine than usual. Transparent creator Jill Soloway accepted her award for Best Directing in a Comedy Series with a deeply personal reminder that transgender visibility does not equal transgender equality: "We don't have a trans tipping point yet. We have a trans civil rights problem."

Orange is the New Black's Uzo Aduba had previously won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress, but she didn't get to give a speech on the main broadcast for that award. When she won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Aduba was overwhelmed. She cried through her acceptance speech, ending on a particularly lovely note of gratitude for her sister, who was crying right back at her from the audience.

Jon Hamm's overdue win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series inspired a standing ovation, which he apparently didn't expect, having just scrambled over the stage in a very ungainly fashion to hug presenter (and friend) Tina Fey.

67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Show

Hamm climbs the stage to get to Fey, hilarity ensues.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

There was too much to get through in the speech — especially since he is officially the first and only Mad Men actor to ever win an Emmy — but he managed to deliver a sweet and heartfelt speech that touched on both this monumental role and the enormous toll it took on his personal life.

Later, yet another Fey co-star inspired a standing ovation. Tracy Morgan, of 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, appeared on the Emmys stage 18 months after getting into a debilitating car wreck. Since he has spent the last year-and-a-half recovering, he was genuinely touched to be there and see such a show of support. Morgan's next major appearance will come soon. He is set to host Saturday Night Live on October 17.

The best speech of the night, however, belonged to Viola Davis.

5) Viola Davis made history, and a truly gorgeous speech

It was a stacked category, so not everyone had pegged Viola Davis to win Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her turn as a steely lawyer in How to Get Away With Murder. But her win made her the first African-American woman to ever win that category, and Davis did not let that fact go unnoticed in her passionate, vital speech:

"In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful, white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can't seem to get there no how. I can't seem to get over that line."

That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.[ Applause ] You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

It was a stunning, elegant way to indict the structural biases inherent in institutions like Hollywood.

In other words, it was not a speech you hear at the Emmys very often.

But it was indicative of how TV is changing, very, very slowly. Of course, some things are the same as they've always been.

6) In 2015, everybody wants to work for HBO

67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room

The team behind Olive Kitteridge celebrates backstage.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

If there was a theme to the evening, it was that of the opening number: peak TV. The Emmy voters feel just as overwhelmed by all of the TV choices they have as you do, and they have more than a little anxiety about where this is all headed. (They're right to.)

Macleans TV critic Jaime Weinman has often said that the Emmys each year reflect not necessarily the best in TV, but what people in TV most wish they were working on. And in 2015, it seems like everybody wishes they were working for HBO, whether on a massive behemoth like Game of Thrones or a smaller, more intimate and personal story like Olive Kitteridge. (Or, hell, maybe they just want to swear with Armando Ianucci and everybody on Veep.)

It's easy to see why industry insiders might want to be at HBO, above all else. HBO is the network with stability. HBO is the network with enough cash to spend some of it on quirky little personal projects. And HBO is the network that seems most likely to be able to weather the coming storms.

Yes, it likely won many of its awards because it has lots of voters within the Academy. But it also puts on great TV shows. If you want to feel like you have a safe, stable career going forward, your voting preferences at the Emmys just might reflect the place you'd love to be working someday. And that? It's not TV. It's HBO.

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