2019 Emmy Awards: ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Fleabag’ Win Big, One Last Time

LOS ANGELES — The dragon did it one last time.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” made television history at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, winning for best drama series and tying the record for the most wins in that prestigious category with predecessors like “The West Wing,” “L.A. Law,” “Mad Men” and “Hill Street Blues.”

The sprawling fantasy series, which had its finale in May after eight seasons of blood and intrigue, won 12 Emmys for its swan-song season, adding to its record total for the most wins of any television drama ever.

The night was also huge for Amazon, which won the best comedy award thanks to “Fleabag,” a series that grew out of a 2014 one-woman show by its creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Waller-Bridge won three Emmys on the night, including for best actress in a comedy, a win that came as an upset. The much-decorated Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the star of “Veep,” failed to win that award for the first time in the show’s seven seasons. Waller-Bridge also won in the category of best writing for a comedy series.

“Well, this is just getting ridiculous,” Waller-Bridge said, laughing, after taking center stage at the Microsoft Theater to accept her third Emmy on the night, the award for best comedy series.

She has said that the show’s second season would be its last — and seemed to be sticking with her decision to end it. “To be honest, this feels like the most beautiful way to say goodbye,” she said after the ceremony, when asked if her Emmy success would make her reconsider.

As if to emphasize Amazon’s strong performance, even Alexa made an appearance, announcing the name of the nominees for best actress in a comedy as part of a bit put on by Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, who were presenters.

Last year’s winner for best comedy was also from Amazon, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a show that won two awards on Sunday, with Alex Borstein winning for best supporting actress and Tony Shalhoub taking the prize for best supporting actor.

In keeping with Emmy tradition, HBO had a strong night over all, taking three of the top series awards, including a victory for a frequent winner, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” as the year’s best talk show. The network also won in the category of best limited series for “Chernobyl,” which won 10 awards altogether.

For his work on “Game of Thrones,” Peter Dinklage won — for the fourth time — the award for best supporting actor in a drama. In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute to the show’s top producers, David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

“Dave and Dan, we literally walked through fire and ice for you,” Dinklage said. “And I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

HBO has undergone executive-suite changes since last year’s Emmys: Richard Plepler, the network’s former chief executive, stepped down in February. He was thanked by Weiss and Benioff, as well as by Oliver and by Jesse Armstrong, the creator of the corporate drama “Succession,” who won in a writing category.

The night also represented something of a defeat for Netflix, which went away empty-handed in the biggest categories.

It was the seventh consecutive year that Netflix was nominated for best drama — this time for “Bodyguard” and “Ozark” — and failed to win. Likewise, Netflix has never won in the best comedy category in six tries.

Another streaming platform, Hulu, won for best drama in 2017 for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Billy Porter was the breakout actor of the night.

Porter, one of the stars of FX’s New York City 1980s ballroom-scene drama, “Pose,” won best actor in a drama. It was the first time an openly gay black actor had won in the category.

“The category is love, y’all. Love!” Porter said, using his character’s signature catchphrase.

One of the nominees he beat out was Jason Bateman, who did not have to wait for long before taking the stage. Bateman’s Emmy came in the drama directing category, for “Ozark.”

Jodie Comer, a star of BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” won for best actress in a drama. In doing so, she bested her castmate Sandra Oh.

Oh has been nominated for 10 Emmys, eight of them for acting, and has yet to win.

In the limited series category, HBO’s “Chernobyl,” about the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster in the Soviet Union, edged Netflix’s “When They See Us,” a series from the filmmaker Ava DuVernay about the Central Park Five, who were wrongfully convicted and sent to prison as teenagers for the 1989 rape and assault of a jogger in New York City.

“Chernobyl,” which appeared on HBO last spring without much fanfare, became an unlikely critical darling. It won a total of three Emmys on Sunday: Craig Mazin, the show’s creator, took the award for best writing, and it was honored for directing as well.

With the Emmys’ habit of rewarding the same shows in drama, variety and comedy year after year, the limited series category has become the ceremony’s most intriguing. With little chance of winning in other major series categories, Netflix was holding out hope that it would prevail with DuVernay’s show.

While it did not take the best limited series award, “When They See Us” still made an impression on Emmy voters. Jharrel Jerome won for best actor in a limited series for his role as Korey Wise, the eldest of the five. The actual Central Park Five were in attendance at the Microsoft Theater, and they leapt up from their seats when Jerome got the win.

The actor thanked his mother and DuVernay, adding: “But most importantly, this is for the men we know as the Exonerated Five.”

Beneath the competition between “When They See Us” and “Chernobyl” in the limited series category was the heated Emmys rivalry between HBO and Netflix. HBO took the crown this year, earning 34 Emmy wins compared to Netflix’s 27.

The Emmys broadcast has been losing viewers in recent years, having dropped to a new low of 10.2 million in 2018. In an attempt to shake things up, it went without a host for the first time in 16 years.

The networks take turns broadcasting the program, and this year that task fell to Fox, a network without a late-night host or sitcom star who seemed a natural fit for the job of host.

Instead of an opening monologue, there was a series of handoffs at the top of the show. Homer Simpson, a three-decade Fox veteran, stood center stage before Anthony Anderson, a star of ABC’s “black-ish,” took over — and then Bryan Cranston delivered a sincere speech about television’s cultural impact.

Producers used the time usually devoted to an opening monologue to pay tribute to several shows that went off the air this year. The casts of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” took the stage, and there was a farewell video that honored other outgoing series like “House of Cards,” “Broad City” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

The producers made other changes, too. The traditional red carpet was traded in for a purple carpet, and the orchestra was sent packing, replaced by piped-in pop songs.

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