For the first time in the show’s six season history, HBO’s Game of Thrones took home the best drama series award on Sunday night’s Emmy awards in Los Angeles, beating nine other competitors including AMC’s Mad Men.
The show racked up a record-breaking 12 awards from its 24 nominations, the most any series has won in a single year. The previous record holder was The West Wing which won nine awards at the 2000 Emmys.
In addition to best drama, Game of Thrones also took home Emmys for best directing and best writing. Peter Dinklage, who has previously won an Emmy for his role as Tyrion Lannister, won for best supporting actor in a drama again tonight.
The win capped a huge night for HBO, which won a total of 43 Emmys, more than any other network. In addition to winning best drama, the cable network also claimed best comedy series for Veep and best miniseries for Olive Kitteridge.
Based on the Pulitzer prizewinning short stories by Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge won almost every category for which it was nominated, winning six awards, while Veep’s victory denied Modern Family the chance of a sixth consecutive win in the category.
Veep’s creator, Armando Ianucci, was the only British nominee to win, with others including Mark Rylance, who was nominated for Wolf Hall, going home empty-handed.
It was a good night for women. Viola Davis made history as the first woman of colour to to take the prize for outstanding actress in a drama for her role in How to Get Away With Murder. In a moving speech charged with emotion, she quoted the civil rights activist Harriet Tubman and said “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” Davis said when accepting the award. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.
Two other female actors of colour also won awards: Uzo Adubo for Orange is the New Black and Regina King for American Crime, which lost out to Olive Kitteridge in the other awards for which it was nominated.
Amy Schumer won the inaugural outstanding variety sketch series award, which she dedicated to “my sister Kim, who’s the only reason I’m alive and breathing.” She also thanked the makeup artist who gave her “this sort of smoky eye. I love it.”
Meanwhile Transparent, the Amazon Prime show about a transgender woman and her family netted a prize for its director Jill Soloway, and the outstanding lead actor in a comedy award for Jeffrey Tambor, who at 71 is the oldest person to take the prize. He dedicated his win, and his performance, to the transgender community, concluding “thank you for letting us be part of the change”.
In his final season on Mad Men, John Hamm won the prize that had eluded him for eight years: outstanding lead actor in a drama for his role as the tortured, womanising ad executive Don Draper. Tripping on his way to the podium, he received a standing ovation
There was also an elegiac mood inspired by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which won three awards, including outstanding variety talk series. The show, which went off air in August, shut out Stephen Colbert and David Letterman’s final seasons as talk show hosts. A bearded Stewart took to the stage, describing life after TV as “a barren wasteland. Out in the world, there are tables with food, but you can’t take it! It costs money! Very little of it is gluten-free or vegan.”
The Emmys were presented by Andy Samberg, who mocked Donald Trump in his opening monologue, saying: “Donald Trump, of course is running for president, to the delight of uncles everywhere. I’ve got to say, sure, Donald Trump seems racist — What else?
He added that Bernie Sanders “always looks like his flight was delayed”. Samberg went on to discuss Paula Deen’s controversial appearance on Dancing With the Stars, saying “I wanted to see an intolerant lady dance, I would have gone to one of Kim Davis’s four weddings.”
The Rowan county clerk briefly went to jail because she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won best actress in a comedy series for Veep for the fourth consecutive year, also mentioned Trump in her speech, saying: “What a great honour it must be for you to honor me tonight. I’m sorry, Donald Trump said that. It’s getting trickier and trickier to satirise this stuff.”