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It was a night flush with surprises.
Jeff Bezos has got to be feeling pretty good about his TV business. While the focus of the annual Primetime Emmys is so often on the battle between top-nominated outlets HBO and Netflix, Sunday brought a slew of early wins for Amazon Studios comedies The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Fleabag — including a coup of a victory for Fleabag creator-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who scored wins for best comedy series and best comedy writing and a surprise acting nod over heavy favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The fact that Game of Thrones’ best drama win for its sprawling, pricey (and divisive) final season was the night’s most forgone of conclusions makes the relative tumult in comedy that much more intriguing. TV Academy voters are clearly still very high on Mrs. Maisel, giving another win to supporting actress Alex Borstein and tapping Tony Shalhoub after he lost out to Barry actor Henry Winkler in 2018, but Fleabag’s triple score in writing, directing and lead actress made the eventual series win seem more likely than it had at the top of the night. It was the undisputed breakout during a night that was not at all short on surprises.
And Amazon didn’t take every comedy award. Bill Hader repeated his lead win for Barry — helping HBO on its path to be the biggest Emmy winner of 2019, especially after factoring in the strong showing at the previous weekend’s Creative Arts ceremonies.
Game of Thrones’ big win seemed like it was almost in danger when the evening turned to the drama races — by far home to the biggest variety of winners. Billy Porter scored a semi-surprise for his work on Pose, its shock value overshadowed by Jodie Comer’s Killing Eve nod. Ozark was an equally unlikely top performer, with Jason Bateman edging out the Game of Thrones guys in directing and Julia Garner earning her first Emmy for her supporting work on the Netflix drama. Best writing also didn’t go to Game of Thrones, with fellow HBO drama Succession sneaking in with a win. The only other Game of Thrones win for the night came with Peter Dinklage, long an Emmy favorite, getting one final nod for his supporting work on the series.
Chernobyl proved to be the darling among the limited series, scoring wins for writing and directing as well as in the main race — no doubt a boon to HBO, which has seen its miniseries kudos largely shared by FX in recent years. The acting categories for limited and movie proved more balanced, with performance awards going to Patricia Arquette (The Act), Ben Whishaw (A Very English Scandal), Jharrel Jerome (When They See Us) and Michelle Williams (Fosse/Verdon). And, for best movie, anthology Black Mirror scored its third consecutive win.
Variety is becoming the most staid portion of the Emmy evening — with obligatory wins for both HBO’s Last Week Tonight and NBC’s Saturday Night Live seeming almost unnecessary for the televised portion of the show. On the bright side, SNL’s recently dependable showing on Emmy night has proven to be a saving grace for broadcast. Without the venerable sketch show, the Big Four would have been shut out on the evening. The lack of broadcast representation is proving to be the least surprising part of the night.
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