What to expect at the 2019 Emmys

“Game of Thrones” has one more Emmys to reign supreme.
“Game of Thrones” has one more Emmys to reign supreme.
Image: HBO
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The 71st primetime Emmy Awards are on Sunday (Sept. 22) at 8pm eastern on Fox in the United States. (Here’s where it will air in other countries.) This may be the last time that the annual TV showcase is so thoroughly dominated by one series.

That’s because Game of Thrones, which earned a record 32 nominations this year, is finally over. HBO hopes the fantasy drama can win some big awards—namely its fourth best drama series trophy—to wash away the bad aftertaste from the show’s divisive finale. Just as likely, Thrones winning best drama again could make viewers even angrier.

Emmy voters like to honor shows in their final years of eligibility, so don’t be surprised if Game of Thrones is the night’s big winner even if it doesn’t win the ultimate prize. Other series with several nominations include the Netflix miniseries When They See Us, HBO comedy Barry, FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon, and Amazon comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Like the Oscars in February, Sunday’s Emmys won’t officially have a host. Instead, it’ll show off a revolving door of presenters and performers to help keep the telecast moving. The Emmys last went host-less in 2003.

Here’s what else to watch for during the big night:

Can Game of Thrones be conquered?

Thrones has been nominated for the best drama Emmy every year of its existence, winning it in 2015, 2016, and 2018. Awards handicappers are unanimously predicting a fourth victory in the category this year, for the show’s final season—critical reception be damned. As the most popular show in the world in its last hurrah, Game of Thrones is in a great position to win the night’s biggest award, even though it doesn’t deserve it.

If Thrones doesn’t deserve it, then what does? For starters, HBO has another show in the running, one that’s caught fire with critics in its second season (currently airing): Succession, the comedic drama about a dysfunctional American media dynasty. Succession is probably the best drama on TV right now, but it’s not exactly a hit with audiences. (It averages about 500,000 US viewers per episode, which is about 5% of a Game of Thrones episode.) Succession has won over critics, but Emmy voters like to vote for the buzzy show, and it may not have quite enough in the buzz department. Maybe next year.

Some dark horses in the drama category include BBC America’s Killing Eve and FX’s Pose. They’re unlikely to win, but if it shockingly doesn’t go to Game of Thrones or Succession, we think it’ll be one of those two.

HBO vs. Netflix vs. everyone else

Last year, Netflix briefly stole HBO’s long-running spot as the most-nominated network. But HBO won the title back this year with a whopping 137 total nominations (20 more than Netflix)—mostly thanks to Game of Thrones, which wasn’t eligible in 2018. NBC placed a distant third in the nominations rankings this year with 58.

After last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys (the section of the Emmys that honors behind-the-scenes categories like editing, costumes, production design, etc.), HBO narrowly leads Netflix in wins, 25 to 23—again, thanks to Thrones, which won 10 on its own.

Netflix’s best chance of surpassing HBO’s number of total wins will be if its miniseries When They See Us cleans up in the 11 categories it’s nominated for. The streaming service could also use strong showings from the comedy Russian Doll and drama Ozark, though, to be honest, does anyone remember what happened on the last season of Ozark? When did that even air?

The comedy category is stacked

You can’t really go wrong with any of the shows nominated in the best comedy category, comprised of HBO’s Barry; Amazon’s Fleabag; NBC’s The Good Place; Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Netflix’s Russian Doll; Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek; and finally HBO’s Veep for its seventh and final season.

Prognosticators appear to think Veep is the tentative favorite, though this category is much less predictable than drama. Fleabag, Barry, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (last year’s winner) are all legitimate possibilities.

But just like its dragon-centric drama counterpart at HBO, Veep has the narrative going for it. It has won the award three times already (2015-2017), and Emmy voters might relish the opportunity to give it one more trophy on its way out the door. While it might not have been the best comedy on TV this year, it would be hard to argue with the TV Academy if they vote to honor one of the greatest political satires of our time.

The miniseries are great too!

The drama and comedy categories get most of the attention, but limited series is quietly one of the strongest groups every year, and 2019 is no different. In addition to the aforementioned When They See Us, the category includes HBO’s Chernobyl—one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time—and Showtime’s criminally under-appreciated Escape at Dannemora.

And that’s to say nothing of HBO’s Sharp Objects, though that aired so long ago (August 2018) that it seems strange to be going up against series that aired just a few months ago. Alas, that’s how Emmy eligibility works. (The window is from June 1, 2018 to May 31 of this year.)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus record watch

The Veep star already owns the record for the most Emmy wins for the same role for her turn as US vice president Selina Meyer on the HBO comedy. But with one more win, she will become the winningest performer in Emmy history. She’s currently tied with Cloris Leachman with eight total acting wins. (Louis-Dreyfus has won once for Seinfeld, once for The New Adventures of Old Christine, and six times for Veep.)

Frankly, it’d be a surprise if Emmy voters don’t ensure the legendary actor breaks the record Sunday night. If anyone spoils her coronation, it’ll probably be either Rachel Brosnahan (last year’s winner for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Veep and Louis-Dreyfus weren’t eligible) or Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

O host, where art thou?

After all that brouhaha over the Oscars electing to air without a host, it doesn’t seem like anyone particularly cares that the Emmys will do the same this year. Perhaps that’s because the Oscars showed that not having a host might not be such a bad thing. Or perhaps it’s because not as many people care about the Emmys as they do the Oscars. Perhaps it’s a mix of both.

In any event, Fox and the TV Academy decided to follow the Oscars’ lead and try to produce a seamless, entertaining show without a single host to guide the evening’s events. It could get messy, but it could also give some of the presenters more moments to shine on stage. This year, they include Lin-Manuel Miranda, Zendaya, Amy Poehler, and many, many more.