If you want to know who won an Emmy and who got snubbed at the 2016 Emmy Awards, there are a million articles out there for you. If you want to know about whose dress was best or whatever, there are probably places for you to do that too. It seems like the sort of thing some website would run.
But if you want to know who the actual winners and losers of last night’s Emmys were, you’ve come to the right place. Success is not judged by awards or accolades (well, it’s not entirely judged by awards or accolades), but by being included on this list. So, let’s break it down.
Winner: Jimmy Kimmel
In the old world of talk show hosts, Jay Leno was the ratings king; David Letterman his smarter, funnier competition and Craig Kilborn was the slyly excellent underdog. These days, Fallon has taken Leno’s spot as the champ and the superior Colbert nips at his heels. Kimmel is the Kilborn of the bunch, never dominating the conversation the way they do but frequently just as funny and interesting. He gamely hosted the evening with mercifully brief bits and jokes that really landed (the resurrection of his longstanding feud with Matt Damon was excellent television). The Emmys had an all-around great night on Sunday, and Kimmel has to take most of the credit for its success — if only because he knew when and how to get out of the way.
Loser: Mark Burnett
Donald Trump is sort of an obvious target for award shows these days, but Kimmel went about his Trump digs inventively by laying the blame for his rise at the feet of a member of the audience: reality TV producing superstar Mark Burnett.
The case could be made. Burnett was the producer of The Apprentice, the show that turned Trump from b/millionaire business mogul to household name. Without The Apprentice, Trump’s most dangerous weapon — his name recognition — would be blunted. Burnett later tried to talk the audience into laughing with instead of at him when he accepted his award for The Voice, saying Hillary Clinton was upset about Kimmel giving free airtime to Trump. Come on, man.
Winner: Heartfelt Award Speeches
There were too many genuinely thoughtful, moving award speeches on Sunday to highlight just one. From Transparent director Jill Soloway’s “Topple the patriarchy!” to Alan Yang’s funny, impassioned cry for more Asian American talent onscreen to Jeffrey Tambor’s appropriate cry for more transgendered representation to Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ eulogy for her father, most Emmy winners took the stage with a lot more on their minds than just a list of names to rattle off. That makes for a more interesting awards show and a better use of a huge platform.
The biggest and dumbest upset of the night. Beyoncé isn’t used to Ls, and that she got this one shows that the Emmys still isn’t as in touch as they think they are.
Winner: Jessie Graff
Jeff Kravitz captured professional stuntwoman and American Ninja Warrior badass Jessie Graff in one of the great red carpet photos of all time.
Loser: The Stranger Things kids
Look, this is not a knock on Millie Bobby Brown, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo and Finn Wolfhard, all of whom seem very bright and charming in addition to being remarkable young talents who will hopefully go on to have long and happy careers. But at this point, they’re being trotted out on every respectable platform like little windup dolls to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos while singing “Panda” or whatever. Being young and famous is difficult enough without being treated like a sideshow amusement for adults to gawk at. This story is old enough now for us to guess the ending.
Winner: The future of television
Again and again, the Emmys went for the less obvious choice and affirmed that the future of TV is, for the time being, looking bright. Jimmy Fallon may host the most popular variety show on television right now, but Emmy voters had the foresight to give the Emmy to the most daring and original vision in late night: John Oliver. Kyle Chandler and Liev Schreiber are beloved stars and old friends of many Emmy voters, but they still gave best drama performance to newcomer Rami Malek for his astonishing Mr. Robot performance. Award shows like to honor legacy, but on Sunday they honored originality.
A lot of places will be writing today about all the “diversity” at the Emmys, as well they should. Twenty-one out of the 97 acting nominees were people of color — a record for the Emmys and a middle finger to places like the Academy who infamously protested that they just couldn’t find any non-white people to nominate.
But the truth is, when diversity is recognized, it’s a win for everyone. Sterling K. Brown and Courtney B. Vance (The People VS O.J. Simpson); Regina King (American Crime), Key and Peele; Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang (Master of None) all deserved their wins by any measurable standard, and those victories elevate the entire medium.
Hollywood talks a big game about diversity, (as Kimmel noted: the only thing Hollywood likes more than diversity is “congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity”) but what was really on display on Sunday night wasn’t some intangible virtue called “diversity,” but a realistic look at what America’s television viewing audience looks like: black, white, Asian, Latino, gay, trans, straight, female, male and whatever else. It’s important because it’s accurate.