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'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' finds the Emmy Awards marvelous

Last Updated Sep 17, 2018 at 11:50 pm EST

Daniel Palladino and the cast and crew of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" accept the award for outstanding comedy series at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a new sitcom about a 1950s homemaker turned edgy stand-up comedian, took an early lead at the Emmy Awards.

Series star Rachel Brosnahan was honoured as best comedy actress, Alex Borstein earned the supporting trophy and the series creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, nabbed writing and directing awards.

In an awards ceremony that started out congratulating TV academy voters for the most ethnically diverse field of nominees ever, the first awards all went to whites.

“I want to say six awards, all white winners, and nobody has thanked Jesus yet,” co-host Michael Che said, referring back to his earlier joke that only African-American winners do.

Brosnahan used the end of her acceptance speech to give a shout-out to the show’s celebration of women power.

“It’s about a woman who’s finding her voice anew, and it’s one of the things that’s happening all over the country now,” she said. She urged viewers to exercise that power by voting.

Bill Hader collected the best comedy actor award for “Barry,” a dark comedy about a hired killer who stumbles into an acting career.

Henry Winkler, aka “The Fonz,” won a supporting actor award for “Barry,” four decades after gaining fame for his role in “Happy Days.”

“If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you. Tonight, I got to clear the table,” an ebullient Winkler said, with an equally delighted auditorium audience rising to give him a standing ovation. To his children, he said: “You can go to bed now, daddy won!”

The ceremony opened with a star-studded song celebrating the historical diversity of this year’s Emmy nominations, including nominees Kate McKinnon and Sterling K. Brown. Others who Ricky Martin, Andy Samberg, RuPaul and John Legend. “SNL” faux news anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost were hosts and mocked many of the nominated shows and actors.

They noted that NBC has most nominations for broadcast outlet. “Kind of like being the sexiest person on life support,” Jost joked. (Netflix has eclipsed all broadcast channels).

Sandra Oh, who could become the first actor of Asian descent to win a lead acting trophy played along from her seat: “Thank you, but it’s an honour just to be Asian,” said the Korean-Canadian star.

While Emmy nominees nervously wait to hear their name called, or not, there’s more on the line at the ceremony on NBC than personal glory.

“Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, producing his second Emmy telecast in 30 years, is tasked with turning viewership around after the 2017 show’s audience of 11.4 million narrowly avoided the embarrassment of setting a new low.

The ceremony clearly bears his stamp, with Che and Jost as hosts and familiar “SNL” faces, including Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin, as presenters and nominees. The long-running NBC sketch show, already the top Emmy winner ever with 71, could snare up to three more.

The pressure’s on Michaels because NBC and other broadcasters are increasingly reliant on awards and other live events to draw viewers distracted by streaming and more 21st- century options. The networks, which air the Emmy telecast on a rotating basis, are so eager for the ad dollars it generates and its promotional value for fall shows that they endure online competitors sharing the stage.

It’s Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” that’s the defending best drama series champ, with HBO’s two-time previous winner “Game of Thrones” the top rival. NBC’s “This Is Us” is the only network nominee in the category. On the comedy side, the front-runners are FX’s “Atlanta” and Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” with ABC’s “black-ish” the only network show in contention.

The telecast could see a number of record nominations for people of colour converted into awards, some historic.

Issa Rae of HBO’s “Insecure” or ABC’s “black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross could become the second African-American to win as best comedy actress, following Isabel Sanford (1981, “The Jeffersons”) by 37 years. The field, including Rachel Brosnahan of “Mrs. Maisel,” is wide open, with six-time Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her HBO series, “Veep,” sitting these Emmys out for scheduling reasons.

If the show hits a lull there’s a good chance politics will shake it up. “Weekend Update” anchors Che and Jost regularly traffic in political satire on “SNL,” and awards ceremonies have become a routine forum for celebrities to share their views on current events. It’s a trend embraced by Hollywood, at least publicly.

Politics already came up on the red carpet, with Jenifer Lewis of “black-ish” wearing a sweatshirt adorned with a metal-studded Nike “swoosh,” pushing back against criticism of the brand for featuring former San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick in its new ad campaign.

“I want to speak to the millennials today to let them know they are not alone when they speak out,” said the 61-year-old Lewis.

Yeardley Smith, an Emmy winner for voicing Lisa on “The Simpsons,” said she doesn’t object when winners use the spotlight to say more than “thank you.”

“I don’t think it’s inappropriate,” Smith said. “I think that you do need to strike a balance. I think if you’re truly passionate about something, anything, that if you have a platform, you almost have a moral obligation to speak up.”

Here is a full list of the winners at the annual Primetime Emmy Awards:

Drama Series: “Game of Thrones”

Comedy Series: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Actor, Drama Series: Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”

Actress, Drama Series: Claire Foy, “The Crown”

Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”

Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Thandie Newton, “Westworld”

Writing, Drama Series: Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, “The Americans”

Directing, Drama Series: Stephen Daldry, “The Crown”

Actor, Comedy Series: Bill Hader, “Barry”

Actress, Comedy Series: Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Henry Winkler, “Barry.”

Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Writing, Comedy Series: Amy Sherman-Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Directing Comedy Series: Amy Sherman-Palladino, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Limited Series: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Actor, Limited Series or Movie: Darren Criss, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Actress, Limited Series or Movie: Regina King, “Seven Seconds”

Supporting Actor, Limited Series or Movie: Jeff Daniels, “Godless”

Supporting Actress, Limited Series or Movie: Merritt Wever, “Godless”

Writing, Limited Series: William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, “USS Callister (Black Mirror)”

Directing, Limited Series: Ryan Murphy, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”

Writing, Variety Special: John Mulaney, “John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City”

Directing, Variety Special: Glenn Weiss, “The Oscars”

Variety Sketch Series: “Saturday Night Live”

Variety Talk Series: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”

Reality-Competition Program: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

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AP Writers Mike Cidoni Lennox in Los Angeles and Leanne Italie in New York contributed to this report.