Emmys 2017: Australia comes home swathed in victory

Australia came out of the 69th annual Primetime Emmy awards swathed in glorious victory, with actress Nicole Kidman taking top honours for a career-defining performance in Big Little Lies.

"Sometimes when you're acting you get a chance to bring a bigger message and with this [role] we shine a light on domestic abuse," Kidman said. "It's a complicated, insidious disease and by you acknowledging me, it shines a light on it even more."

Kidman dedicated the award to husband Keith Urban and their two little daughters who, she said, sacrificed much so that she could work as an actress.

The Emmy, she added, would sit on a shelf on their bedroom so they could look at it and know "every time my mum didn't put me to bed it's because of this, so [they] got something," she laughed.

Geoffrey Rush, nominated for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie, lost to Riz Ahmed from the HBO drama The Night Of. (That win also stunningly displaced rival nominee, and acting legend, Robert De Niro.)

Judy Davis, nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie, lost to Big Little Lies' Laura Dern.

And Australian director Kate Dennis, nominated for outstanding directing for a drama series for her work on The Handmaid's Tale, lost to fellow Handmaid's Tale director Reed Morano.

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But the nomination alone was a career-changer for Dennis, aligning her name with some of Hollywood's most venerated directing talent, including Vince Gilligan and Lesli Linka Glatter.

Australia went into this year's awards with two statues already tucked in its back pocket; fashion designer Perry Meek (outstanding costumes, for RuPaul's Drag Race) and creative director John McKelvey (outstanding commercial, for Being John Malkovich .com) won at the Creative Arts Emmys, which were held the previous weekend.

With those two early Emmys, Kidman's win and Bruna Papandrea's win (as producer of Big Little Lies) for outstanding limited series, that brings our total haul to four.

Accepting that award, Papandrea's co-producer Reese Witherspoon said the year had been significant in terms of the quality and quantity of women's roles on television.

The night's biggest category – outstanding drama – has historically heaved under the weight of its obligations. (A reprieve came this year with the absence of Game of Thrones, which aired outside the qualifying airdates.)

The Handmaid's Tale won, capping off an extraordinary night for the series, and in the process defeating The Crown, Westworld, Stranger Things, This Is Us, Better Call Saul and House of Cards.

In the drama acting categories, it was hard to go past This Is Us' Sterling K. Brown for outstanding actor in a drama series. He was luminous. And he deservedly won.

For outstanding actress, Elisabeth Moss was an easy prediction for The Handmaid's Tale, outpacing even The Crown's brilliant Claire Foy.

In outstanding comedy, Veep won. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus won for the sixth time as outstanding actress in a comedy series.

The win brought Louis-Dreyfus's total Emmy haul to eight, edging her past the legendary Mary Tyler Moore, who won seven.

In a night of mixed fortunes, bruised egos and and political satire, the simultaneously opposite and identical worlds of Hollywood and Washington were in host Stephen Colbert's cross-hairs.

And despite not being in the room, the night's inevitable star - US president Donald Trump - managed to cast a long shadow over proceedings.

Ahead of the ceremony, the host and comedian Stephen Colbert said Trump - an obvious target in both host commentary and acceptance speeches - was ironically the biggest TV star of the year.

"No one's close," Colbert said. "Like The Bible outsells every book of all time, Donald Trump is The Bible of the 2016-2017 television season. If you don't include Donald Trump as a TV star this year, you're lying."

Despite a media profile that frequently put him on television, Trump has never himself won an Emmy Award; the reality series with which he is most associated, The Apprentice, was nominated for outstanding reality competition program in 2004 and 2005 but did not win.

But Trump's comedy alter-ego, Alec Baldwin, who plays the president on Saturday Night Live, won the best supporting actor in a comedy series for his acclaimed parody.

The telecast itself was a pastiche of safe punchlines and musical numbers, glued together by the collective fame of those in the room: the who's who (and the what's left) of Hollywood's A-list.

Of their hubris, host Stephen Colbert fired a sharp but accurate broadside. "[Tonight is] is celebrating us," he said. "Tonight we binge ourselves."

After all, what is the Emmys (and the Oscars, Grammys, Tonys and Logies along with it) but one large popularity contest.

"[And] unlike the presidency," Colbert quipped to his packed house, "... the Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote."

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