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Though the TV Academy honored a slew of familiar faces during Sunday’s Emmy telecast, there were shake-ups in the night’s top two races. HBO’s Game of Thrones filled the vacancy left by Breaking Bad, topping Mad Men in its last year of eligibility, and Modern Family was denied a record sixth Emmy trophy by Veep‘s somewhat surprising triumph in the category.
The tide was in Veep‘s favor from the top of the night. Although there was also a lot of love for Amazon’s Transparent — creator Jill Soloway nabbed a directing nod and lead actor in a comedy went to Jeffrey Tambor — Veep had a very key win in writing as well as wins for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale. It’s a fair assumption that voters were aware that this was the last hurrah for creator Armando Iannucci, who departed the show at the end of its recent fourth season.
“We’ve made history by being the first time we’ve won best comedy,” Iannucci told The Hollywood Reporter backstage about ending the Modern Family streak. “So, in many ways, the tradition is maintained.”
Veep, coupled with Game of Thrones, made it a banner night for HBO. Game of Thrones, stealing thunder many assumed might be reserved for the last year of Mad Men, now has 26 wins to its name. And despite its strong showings since its first appearance in 2011, the top prize had eluded it until tonight. It was not exactly a surprise, though. Directing and writing wins made its eventual victory at the end of the show something of an obvious choice. (Peter Dinklage also nabbed his second supporting win for his work on the fantasy-drama.)
Mad Men did not go completely without. The AMC drama, famous for its so-called “Emmy curse” of never having anyone in its cast awarded, saw Jon Hamm win for his eighth and final year of eligibility. The response when the actor’s name was read and the standing ovation he received capped off months of industry-wide predictions that no one else stood a chance in the race.
Speaking of firsts, Viola Davis winning lead drama actress for How to Get Away With Murder ended the Emmys‘ streak of never awarding a black woman in the category. She was also one of the few broadcast victories of the night. Her win for the ABC drama, coupled with Regina King‘s supporting trophy for network neighbor American Crime, were the only scripted victories for the Big Four. (Allison Janney also won for Mom, and The Voice nabbed topped reality competition — stealing it back, again, from The Amazing Race.)
In the streaming race, Amazon just slightly upstaged Netflix with its two wins. As for the Emmys‘ original streamer, it saw Uzo Aduba single-handedly soften the blow of Orange Is the New Black‘s move from comedy to drama with a win in the supporting actress race. She joins Ed Asner as the only performer to get drama and comedy nods for playing the same part. (She won guest actress in a comedy in 2014.)
For anyone who hasn’t yet caught HBO’s Olive Kitteridge, it’s near-sweep of the mini categories provided a gentle reminder. The four-part drama nabbed wins for stars Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins and Bill Murray — as well as for directing, writing and the top mini prize.
Looking at the big picture, the night’s unsung winner might be Comedy Central. The cable network boasted four awards, more than anyone other than HBO. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart closed out its two-decade tenure with three more Emmys, and Amy Schumer wrapped her rather epic summer with a win in the first-ever variety sketch show race for Inside Amy Schumer.
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