HBO Leads Emmy Count with Big Wins by Game of Thrones and Chernobyl, Prime Video Flies High with Fle
Courtesy of Emmy Awards
Who needs an iron throne when you can have Emmy gold? As many critics forecasted, the final season of HBO’s powerhouse Game of Thrones was yet again hard to beat (even if many of its characters weren’t so lucky in those final, turbulent episodes) in many categories at the 71st Emmy Awards, which were held in downtown L.A.’s Microsoft Theater.
A bigger winner than even GoT was HBO, which between last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys and tonight’s Fox telecast, snagged 34 Emmys, the most wins of any network. Netflix followed with 27 on the year, while Amazon’s Prime Video brought home 15.
Even though GoT was the target of a sly aside in black-ish star Anthony Anderson’s opening (he pushed away a Starbucks cup, referencing the coffee cup accidentally left in the background of the HBO show this season), it was no surprise the dragons-and-swords epic took home its fourth win in the Outstanding Drama Series category. The show received a record-breaking number of nominations for one program in a single season with 32 nods and took home the most awards of any individual production with 12. “I can’t believe we did it, and we finished it, and it’s over,” said producer David Benioff in accepting the win.
“This is just getting ridiculous,” said Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator and star of Prime Video’s Fleabag, as she accepted the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. On the night, the show also prevailed in three other categories — writing and Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, both of which went to Waller-Bridge — and directing, won by Harry Bradbeer. Between the Creative Arts and the telecast, Fleabag captured a total of six Emmys. When the producers and cast gathered on stage for the Outstanding Comedy award, Bradbeer stepped to the microphone to admit that earlier, in accepting his directing award, “I forgot to thank my wife when I was up here before. We’ve had a very difficult hour.”
Despite tough competition and seven nominees in the crowded category, Peter Dinklage earned his fourth win in the supporting actor drama category for his performance as Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones — a feat that no other actor has ever matched. After mumbling an expletive in accepting the award, Dinklage shrugged and said, “Hey, it’s over. I don’t care.”
GoT didn’t deliver a complete sweep, however. Ultimately, the four nominees from Game of Thrones in the Supporting Actress in a Drama category led to what some regarded as a surprise win: Julia Garner for Netflix’s Ozark. It was her first Emmy and first nomination. “This looks like a chocolate in a candy wrapper — I want to give a piece to everybody who’s been involved in my life,” she said from the stage. Later, her co-star Jason Bateman won for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series. It was the first of his career as well.
The award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series bypassed Game of Thrones‘ nominee Kit Harington to tap Billy Porter, who stars as Pray Tell, a master of ceremonies during New York’s ballroom scene of the 1980s in FX’s Pose. “I am so overwhelmed and I am so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day,” said Porter. “James Baldwin said, ‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had the right to be here.’ I have the right, you have the right, we all have the right.” The performer edges a little closer to an EGOT with his Emmy. Already a Tony and Grammy winner for the stage production of Kinky Boots, he now only needs an Oscar to complete the set.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama went to Jodie Comer one of the stars of BBC America’s Killing Eve. Clearly thrilled, albeit stunned, by her victory, Comer said, “I want to thank my mum and dad in Liverpool, who I didn’t invite because I thought this wasn’t my time,” adding that she would be taking the award home.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, which was presented by Bob Newhart and Ben Stiller, went to Tony Shalhoub for Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, After admitting he hated long lists on awards shows, but the audience had to “just deal with it,” Shalhoub thanked show creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino for producing, writing and directing, referring to Palladino in comically different iterations: “Is it Danny or Donny?” This was the fourth career Emmy for Shalhoub, who won on three previous occasions as a lead actor for the USA comedy Monk.
With eight nominees and two each from the two Prime Video comedies Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series was difficult for critics and odds-makers to call. But Alex Borstein took her second consecutive Emmy for the role of hard-charging comedy manager Susie Myerson in Maisel. After apologizing for not wearing a bra last year, Borstein said she wasn’t wearing underwear, then took a serious turn to tell a story about how her grandmother, while in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, stepped out of a line that would have resulted in her execution, thus saving her own life. “So step out of line, ladies! Step out of line!” she urged the audience.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series went to Bill Hader, who won for the second straight time in the category for the title role of assassin (and truly awful wannabe actor) Barry Berkman in the HBO series Barry. It was a busy night for Hader, who also nabbed nominations for writing and directing the series, as well as another nomination for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series for the IFC show Documentary Now! Backstage, Hader admitted that the next season of Barry might be even darker than this one. Saying that he has no idea how the next season will start or how the series might end, he added, “Season three, we just met on it last week, and it’s really f—ed up.”
The absence of hosts was a theme for presenter jokes throughout the evening, “If we let this slide, they’ll start using Alexa to present the nominees,” deadpanned presenter CBS’s Late Show host Stephen Colbert, who was joined by a fellow talk-show host, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, as the voice of Amazon’s ubiquitous digital device chirped on to name Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the winner for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, thwarting Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ chance for a record-breaking 12th Emmy.
VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race was the winner for Outstanding Competition Series. “Thanks to the Academy for voting for us because we love you for that,” said creator and host RuPaul Charles, who extended the theme to encourage audience members to perform their civic duty: “And speaking of voting and love, go and register to vote. Go to Vote.gov — Vote.gov — and register to vote!”
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie went to Patricia Arquette for her role in Hulu’s The Act, based on the true story of the murder of DeeDee Blanchard by her daughter Gypsy Rose. “I’m grateful to be working, and I’m grateful at 50 to be getting the best roles of my life,” Arquette said, before admitting her sadness over the death of her sister, Alexis Arquette, in 2016. “Trans people are still being persecuted, and I will be in mourning for the rest of my life… They’re human beings, give them jobs.” Backstage, she admitted that, though she feels lucky to be working so much, she hasn’t had the time to process Alexis’s death. “I feel like I’m just starting the process. I felt it would be inauthentic not to talk about where my heart is, where my thoughts are. Trans people have a life expectancy of 35 years… we need to really change this.”
HBO scored another win when Directing for a Limited Series or Movie went to Johan Renck for Chernobyl, based on the true story of the 1986 nuclear meltdown in the former U.S.S.R. After he took the stage, Renck made a humorous call-out to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who had talked about her Fleabag “family” during her acceptance speeches. “Phoebe, you’re not the only one who has a family, I have the Chernobyl family, and my family is better than yours.”
Ben Whishaw, who previously won a Golden Globe for his performance in Prime Video’s A Very English Scandal, admitted, “I’m hung over. My agent took me out for drinks,” before thanking co-star (and fellow nominee) Hugh Grant, his agents, and his partner Mark. Of his real-life character, Norman Scott — the target of a murder plot by his former lover, a member of Parliament — and how he might feel about the series, Whislaw said, “I hope he’s happy, and maybe feels like a little bit of justice has been done.”
Chernobyl scored another win when Craig Mazin won the award for Outstanding Writing of a Limited Series or Movie, which he dedicated to those who died during the nuclear disaster. “I’m very pleased to accept this in their memory.” Mazin also accepted when the production, which had 19 nominations overall, won Outstanding Limited Series or Movie. Mazin praised true stories that “taught people the value of the truth and the danger of a lie. We can make stories be known permanently,” he added
The Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie went to Jharrel Jerome for his performance as Korey Wise in the Netflix series When They See Us, Ava Duvernay’s take on the true story of the so-called Central Park Five, in which Jerome was the sole actor to play both the 16-year-old and adult versions of his character. “I feel like I should be in the Bronx right now, chilling, waiting on my mom’s cooking,” he said, before praising the innocent real-life survivors of the unjust incarceration: “This goes to the Exonerated Five.” Netflix also scored a win for Outstanding Limited Series or Movie with the choose-your-own-ending Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie went to Michelle Williams for her portrayal of real-life singer and dancer Gwen Verdon (as well as spouse of director Bob Fosse) in FX’s Fosse/Verdon. “I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they’ll be heard.” Praising FX’s commitment to the show, she added, “They understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. And then where do they put that value? They put it into their work.” Backstage, Williams guessed at what Verdon, who died in 2000, would have thought of the series. “I’m sure she would have had nothing but warmth and loveliness and hope and champagne bubbles.”
HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which has won the category since 2016, took home the award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. John Oliver accepted the show’s award for Outstanding Variety Series, saying, “Thank you to Game of Thrones for the lead-in over the years… It’s been so fun working out how to lose your audience each week.” Backstage, Oliver described winning as a “bizarre” feeling. “It feels even more bizarre,” he added, “when you’re standing next to Billy Porter,” whose large asymmetrical hat, from milliner Stephen Jones, was one of the evening’s most memorable fashion flourishes. “I’ve never felt more hatless than at that moment.”
HBO scored another win when Jesse Armstrong took the award for Writing for a Drama Series for Succession. “Lot of British winners, maybe too many,” the Brit Armstrong joked. But with Game of Thrones and Fleabag both having such strong showings, as well as wins by Whishaw and Comer, to say the evening had a British flair wouldn’t be wrong, either.
NBC’s Saturday Night Live, which has received a record-breaking 270 nominations over the years, won the award for Outstanding Variety Sketch Program, as well as directing, which went to Don Roy King. Producer Lorne Michaels accepted for the series win, recalling that the nominated episode was hosted by former SNL castmember Adam Sandler, who payed tribute to his late friend Chris Farley. “It’s rare that you see a cameraman tear up or a boom crew crying, but it was a very, very chilling moment and very powerful. And it’s those kind of moments which is why we’re going into our 45th season. And that sort of thing is what keep us there — that, and the politics.”
Given how phenomenal all of the nominated programs — and television in general — were this year, those kinds of moments were in rich supply on Sunday night.