Colbert — a beneficiary of anti-Trump sentiment with the surge in ratings for his “Late Show” — made Trump a centerpiece of his opening material and song. Indeed, he blamed Emmy voters for depriving Trump of an award during his “Apprentice” days that might have kept him out of politics, saying, “I thought you people liked morally compromised antiheroes,” later adding, “Unlike the presidency, Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote.”
Still, those not-entirely-unexpected gags (Colbert joked about having the “courage” to lampoon Trump in a room whose politics tilt heavily left), and a genuinely surprising appearance by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, were only the tip of the iceberg. The president’s presence hovered throughout the evening, beginning with “Saturday Night Live’s” strong showing, honoring Alec Baldwin — who played Trump on the show — and Kate McKinnon, who thanked her alter ego, Hillary Clinton, for her grace.
“At long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy,” Baldwin quipped in his acceptance speech.
Trump-themed barbs came from various directions, including a reunion of “Nine to Five” stars Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, who spoke of giving a bigot his comeuppance then and now; and “Veep’s” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who dryly suggested an impeachment storyline was jettisoned because the writers feared someone else might beat the HBO comedy to the punch. Even John Lithgow’s praise of Winston Churchill, who he played in “The Crown,” had a political tinge to it.
The Emmys also featured a seemingly effortless display of diversity, in a way the Oscars might envy. That aspect of television was celebrated both in a video package and on an impromptu basis by Donald Glover’s dual wins for “Atlanta,” Sterling K. Brown for “This is Us,” and Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe claiming the writing award — Waithe being the first African-American woman to receive that prize.
Additional context applied to the strong showings by “Big Little Lies,” which dealt with domestic abuse; and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel that many saw as a perfectly timed drama when women’s issues and abortion rights remain heated topics.