Emmy voters get it right (mostly) as ‘Game of Thrones’ rides high

Posted at 11:03 AM, Jul 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-16 13:03:04-04

“Game of Thrones” might not win a single award this year, but Emmy voters saw past the complaints and controversy and came to the obvious conclusion: The final season of the epic HBO drama couldn’t be ignored.

The show’s six-episode eighth season amassed a staggering 32 nominations— a record for any series — in bids for the 71st annual Emmys unveiled Tuesday, including nods to seven supporting actors as well as lead contenders Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington. The show leads the charge in the sentimental-value quadrant of this year’s awards — including HBO’s final season of “Veep,”another three-time best-series winner — as the Television Academy mostly did an admirable job of lauding the old and recognizing the new and relatively new.

The Emmys helped its cause in that regard by expanding the drama-series category to include eight contenders, making room for perennial choices like “Thrones,” “Better Call Saul” and “This is Us” as well as fresh blood in “Succession,” “Pose” and “Bodyguard,” and two deserving members of the sophomore class, “Killing Eve” and “Ozark.”

Similarly, beyond the three shows with an actual chance to win — “Veep,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Barry” — the comedy balloting found spots for NBC’s quirky “The Good Place” and critical-darling streamers “Russian Doll” (Netflix) and Amazon’s “Fleabag.” That also included a nom for creator-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who, as the creator of “Killing Eve,” is truly the “It” Emmy personality of the year.

As usual, the TV Academy looked a little star-struck when it comes to movie stars venturing into television, even if the limited series has made such forays less of an occasion.

The roster of high-profile actors — some of whom already have Oscars on their mantles — include Mahershala Ali for “True Detective,” “Fosse/Verdon’s” Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams, Amy Adams (“Sharp Objects”), Hugh Grant (“A Very English Scandal”), Don Cheadle (Showtime’s “Black Monday”) and Michael Douglas (already a Golden Globe winner for “The Kominsky Method”), which, as an also-ran in the comedy series bracket, ranks among the most glaring oversights.

Other big names with golden tickets include Matt Damon, Adam Sandler and Robert De Niro as guests on “Saturday Night Live.”

The academy packed a whole lot of power into the limited series category, with an impressive number of actor nominations for Netflix’s “When They See Us,” whose main competition would appear to be “Chernobyl”and “Escape at Dannemora” — a can’t-go-wrong troika.

In terms of other things the academy got right, it was nice to see Billy Porter break through for FX’s “Pose” and both “Killing Eve” stars, Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, recognized in the lead-actress field. “The Tonight Show,” meanwhile, remains the odd-show-out in the latenight variety series race, reflecting how Jimmy Fallon’s vanilla-flavored comedy struggles to compete with edgier fare in the current political environment.

Among the conspicuous oversights, it would have been nice to see “The Big Bang Theory”earn some love for a near-perfect sendoff, and its companion, “Young Sheldon,” generally hasn’t received the appreciation it deserves. By contrast, there was a surprising amount of love for Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek,” including nods to its stars.

Even padded by “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s gaudy 137 nominationsreflects how the Emmys have essentially turned into a battle of prestige-seeking heavyweights, although Amazon’s 47 nominations — more than double its total from last year — indicate that it comes with its own war chest and is eager to play.

As popular as it is to focus on Emmy “snubs,” the truth is with a dizzying amount of content available, there’s no pleasing everybody. Viewed that way, the TV Academy appears to have gotten its annual honors mostly right, whether or not “Game of Thrones” matches its episodes by going out in a blaze of glory.