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ONE LAST TIME

“Game of Thrones” beat HBO’s best show for the top Emmy prize

hbo game of thrones
HBO
Burning down the house.
  • Adam Epstein
By Adam Epstein

Entertainment reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

For just a little longer, Game of Thrones will reign over the TV kingdom.

The HBO fantasy drama, which concluded in May after eight seasons, won the Emmy award for best drama series last night—the fourth time it has won the night’s biggest prize. Only four other dramas—Mad Men, The West Wing, Hill Street Blues, and L.A. Law—have ever won the award that many times. Thrones also tied its own record of 12 total wins in a year.

While it was a fitting sendoff for what was one of the most popular TV shows ever (and the winningest show in Emmy history), Game of Thrones‘s night could have been even bigger. Of its nine acting nominees, only Peter Dinklage, who played fan-favorite Tyrion Lannister on the show, won. In fact, Dinklage is the only member of the Game of Thrones cast to ever win an Emmy for acting during the show’s eight-season run.

Thrones also missed out on this year’s drama writing and directing prizes, which went to HBO’s Succession and Netflix’s Ozark, respectively. Emmy voters were clearly not as impressed with the show as in prior years—due both to its deeply divisive finale and the strength of the other shows nominated.

Succession, the far more critically acclaimed HBO drama, very well could—and, frankly, should—have won best drama, but the TV Academy was always unlikely to slight Thrones to that degree. Succession will be one of the favorites to win the award in 2020, when Game of Thrones is no longer eligible.

Here’s what else went down during the 2019 Emmys:

HBO beat Netflix (and everyone else)

Between last week’s Creative Arts Emmys and yesterday’s Primetime Emmys, HBO took home 34 awards in total—seven more than Netflix. HBO’s continued Emmys dominance in the age of streaming is impressive (Amazon, for instance, had a solid year of its own, with 15 wins), but it’s only going to get harder. Next year, Disney+, Apple TV+, and Peacock could have shows in the running, in addition to Netflix, Hulu, and the major US cable and broadcast networks.

HBO may even have to compete against original shows on HBO Max—the upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service which shares a brand with the prestige network but is not, technically, HBO. With Game of Thrones over, this is now everyone else’s chance to finally loosen HBO’s awards stranglehold.

There were a ton of ads for streaming

As the majority of Emmy viewers watched the telecast live on their TVs via traditional cable subscriptions, the streaming services all used the opportunity to market their new stuff. Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, Amazon, and Facebook Watch all advertised new shows during the Emmys. Disney+ aired the very first commercial of the evening, while Apple aired several throughout the show.

Next year, these services could have their own content nominated for Emmys. Both Disney+ and Apple TV+ launch in November, so we’re likely to see a lot more marketing for the streaming services in the coming weeks.

“Fleabag” made its mark

The biggest surprise of the night was the success of Fleabag, the British comedy on Amazon that’s won over the hearts of critics, but was considered to be more of a niche show. Emmy voters, however, blasted the show into the mainstream last night, when it won awards for best comedy series, lead actress in a comedy, directing for a comedy, and writing for a comedy.

Series creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge won awards for both acting and writing—an Emmys feat that’s only been accomplished a few times before. She also ruined a chance at Emmys history for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who would have set the record for most acting wins of all time had she won for her lead role on the HBO comedy Veep.

Billy Porter made history

Porter, who plays the drag ball emcee Pray Tell on FX’s Pose, became the first openly gay black man to win the award for best lead actor in a drama. The Emmy puts Porter three-fourths of the way toward the mythic “EGOT” (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award victories), as he’s already won a Grammy and a Tony for his role in the broadway musical Kinky Boots.

Michelle Williams demanded pay equity

The best speech of the night came from Michelle Williams, who won the award for best lead actress in a limited series or movie for playing Gwen Verdon in the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon. Williams used the platform to call out the gender pay gap in Hollywood, making the case that pay equity is not just the right thing to do—it’s also good business.

Netflix lost out on the top awards again

Netflix has won dozens of Emmys since it started making original content in 2013, but none has been one of the top three awards: best drama series, best comedy series, and best limited series. The streaming service has 23 total nominations across those categories without a win.

Compare that to HBO, which routinely cleans up in the top Emmy categories. The last time HBO didn’t win at least one of the those three awards was in 2014. Netflix’s $15 billion content budget has been more than enough to catapult it into awards relevance, but the streamer is yet to break through in the most coveted categories. There’s a distinct possibility it wins an Oscar for best picture before it secures its first-ever Emmy series victory.

Jharrel Jerome paid tribute to the “Exonerated Five”

After winning best lead actor in a limited series for his role in the Netflix miniseries When They See Us, Jerome dedicated the award to the five men wrongly convicted of the assault and rape of a woman in New York’s Central Park in 1989. The “Central Park Five,” as they were known in the media then—Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam—had their convictions vacated in 2002. They were in the audience to watch Jerome’s win:

The whole thing was a big commercial for The Masked Singer

If Jerome’s tribute was the night’s high point, then its low point was probably the shameless advertising Fox arranged for its costumed-based reality TV singing competition, The Masked Singer (returning for its second season on the network this week).

Costumed monsters were everywhere during the Emmys—on the Red Carpet, on stage, and in commercials. It’s not unusual for the network airing the Emmys to sneak in marketing for some of its content, but there was something extra creepy about the “Thingamajig” appearing on stage as an Ernst & Young accountant.

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