Emmy Awards: 5 takeaways from TV's big night

The Emmy Awards battled the dwindling audiences for award shows with a few genuinely happy moments, a jaw-dropping onstage proposal and Saturday Night Live ... from Los Angeles.

Streamers Netflix, Amazon make a big splash with major wins

The 70th annual Emmy Awards kicked off with a self-deprecating musical number that included appearances by, from left, Sterling K. Brown, Kristen Bell, Tituss Burgess, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson and RuPaul. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

With ever-dwindling audiences for award shows, the 2018 Emmy Awards faced an uphill battle to draw eyeballs Monday night. 

The three-hour TV awards ceremony, held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, had a few truly genuinely happy moments (yay for Barry's Henry Winkler, a supporting actor winner 43 years after his last nomination). It also attempted to evade some of the pitfalls that have befallen other award shows, with few overt political statements of the sort that audiences have deemed reason to tune out.

Didn't get a chance to watch? Here are five key takeaways from the ceremony.

The musical opener

Musical openers are a mainstay of award shows, so of course the Emmys had one, kicking off with two of Saturday Night Live's strongest recent players — Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson — singing a tune called We Solved It and poking fun at Hollywood's smug self-satisfaction over inclusion efforts and attempts to oust controversial figures. Tituss Burgess, Kristen Bell, Sterling K. Brown, Ricky Martin and Andy Samberg also took part, Sandra Oh and Aidy Bryant played along from in the audience and John Legend brought it home.

Social media reactions were divided, but it was just witty and punchy enough to steal the spotlight from ... oops, show hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost's low-key opening monologue (or was it a duologue?).

The proposal 

Emmy-winning director Glenn Weiss, left, turned his acceptance speech into a proposal to his girlfriend Jan Svendsen. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

It's rare for a highly orchestrated awards show to have a true jaw-dropping moment, but Sterling K. Brown, Leslie Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch and countless others were astounded when director Glenn Weiss (winner of best direction of a variety special for this year's Oscars telecast) turned his moment in the spotlight into a marriage proposal — making a brief detour to pay tribute to his recently departed mother as well. 

"You wonder why I don't like to call you my girlfriend. Because I want to call you my wife," he declared to his bewildered and ecstatic partner ​Jan Svendsen. An honest-to-goodness whoop rippled through the star-studded audience the second he finished the sentence. 

Thankfully, she said yes and the Emmy Awards got its first-ever onstage proposal.

The comedian

Hannah Gadsby delighted the audience with her presentation of outstanding directing for a drama series. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

Presenter banter is often awkward and typically groan-inducing. At best, it might make you smirk. Leave it to Hannah Gadsby to seemingly effortlessly turn what some might consider a ho-hum category (direction of a drama series) into a smashing minute-and-a-half of relevant and resonant comedy. And if you haven't seen it already, add Nanette to your Netflix queue

The SNL cast

The Emmys were just like Saturday Night Live, but on a Monday and from Los Angeles. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Producing his second Emmy telecast in three decades, SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels most definitely put his signature stamp on the evening.  ​

From co-hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost's chilled-out, Weekend Update-feeling repartee to the alumni who popped up at every turn (Tina Fey! Maya Rudolph! Fred Armisen!) to Leslie Jones's utterly joyful, ebullient reactions both onstage and while sitting in the audience, you couldn't escape the feeling that the entire broadcast was a black-tie, awards-show version of SNL. They even hired the SNL band!

That the long-running sketch show picked up yet another Emmy — for best variety sketch series — during the telecast (bringing its record-setting haul to 72) was simply icing on the cake.

The streamers

Claire Foy won lead actress in a drama series for Netflix's The Crown, just one of the many trophies captured by streaming services at Monday's Emmy Awards. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

Finally, the ceremony proved beyond any doubt that streaming services have upended the TV industry and are a force to be reckoned with.

Out of the 26 categories handed out on the telecast, Amazon triumphed in five (all thanks to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) while Netflix ran away with seven trophies (including multiple wins for The Crown and Godless). HBO was still a serious contender with six trophies captured during the telecast, but the cable network and reigning Emmy champion ultimately tied with Netflix when it came down to overall Emmy wins (they each nabbed 23).

The streamers' message to traditional TV network and cable companies was clear: watch your back. We're taking over.

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