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‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Fleabag’ claim top Emmy prizes on night of old and new

Posted: 11:18 PM, Sep 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-22 23:18:40-04

(CNN) — “Game of Thrones” capped its epic run with its fourth Emmy as best drama series, entering exclusive company among all-time dramas and equaling its single-year record of a dozen trophies at the TV industry’s most prestigious honors.

Amazon’s “Fleabag” was a major upset winner for best comedy, picking up four awards in all, including acting and writing honors for its star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

“Well this is just getting ridiculous,” Waller-Bridge said, garnering laughs.

The Emmys smiled on familiar faces and but stood out with a surprising number of newcomers, on a historic night that saw a breakthrough win for “Pose” star Billy Porter — and several speeches citing LGBTQ and women’s rights.

Amazon delivered in the comedy categories, with five early prizes for the second-year series “Fleabag” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

In terms of the familiar, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” became a four-peat winner in the variety talk balloting, in much the way “The Daily Show” owned that category for a decade. Peter Dinklage also walked away with his fourth supporting actor Emmy for “Thrones.”

Still, all that glittered was not old, in a night that spread the wealth among networks and series, reflecting the breadth and depth of the current TV landscape.

Voters also recognized first-time nominees like Jodie Comer for BBC America’s “Killing Eve,” “Ozark’s” Julia Garner and Jharrel Jerome for the limited series “When They See Us.”

Jerome overcame a field filled with veterans and Oscar winners for the fact-based Netflix limited series “When They See Us,” writer-director Ava DuVernay’s Netflix limited series about the Central Park Five, to whom he dedicated the prize, along with his parents.

“Chernobyl” was named best limited series, with additional honors for writing and directing in a loaded category that included “When They See Us” and “Fosse/Verdon,” whose star, Michelle Williams, took lead actress.

Accepting for “Chernobyl,” writer-producer Craig Mazin said he hoped the story about the nuclear-plant disaster in 1986 would remind people “of the value of the truth, and the danger of a lie.” It was one of several not-so-subtle political messages woven into the early part of the telecast.

A relative newcomer, Jerome triumphed against a field of veteran actors and Oscar winners for “When They See Us,” writer-director Ava DuVernay’s Netflix limited series about the Central Park Five, to whom he dedicated the prize, along with his parents.

Williams, meanwhile, was one of several honorees to speak of female empowerment and hearing women, after winning for her portrayal of actress/dancer Gwen Verdon, in another example of Hollywood having a fondness for Hollywood stories.

In her accepting speech, Patricia Arquette — a supporting actress winner for Hulu’s “The Act” — teared up speaking about the death of her sister, actress and transgender activist  Alexis Arquette , while making a plea for rights and acceptance of transgender people.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge was a dual winner, as lead actress and for writing her comedy “Fleabag.” That victory deprived Julia Louis-Dreyfus a chance to make Emmy history, as a win would have made the “Veep” star the most-honored performer for acting, leaving her tied with Cloris Leachman, with eight in her career. (Louis-Dreyfus has three more awards for producing the show.)

“Fleabag” also won the Emmy for directing, while Emmy voters again smiled on the period dramedy “Mrs. Maisel,” which mounted a near-sweep of those awards last year (with “Veep,” notably, sitting out the race). Alex Borstein claimed her second consecutive supporting actress win for the Amazon dramedy, while Tony Shalhoub received his fourth Emmy overall.

Bill Hader was a repeat winner as lead actor for HBO’s “Barry,” breaking up what was otherwise an Amazon block party.

Repeat winners, in fact, dominated the early part of the show, with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” running off with the prize for best competition program. Host RuPaul injected the first note of politics into the evening, urging viewers to go register and vote.

Once the comedy categories ended, the show quickly conjured several emotional moments, including standing ovations for the casts of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep,” the two long-running HBO series that ended their runs in the spring.

Netflix’s interactive episode “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” was honored with best TV movie, topping a field that included HBO’s “Deadwood” revival.

HBO and Netflix entered Emmy night with 25 and 23 awards, respectively, from the Creative Arts Emmys, which were presented last weekend. That puts those two programmers — who tied in overall awards last year — far ahead of any other networks or streaming services.

Like the Oscars, the Emmys were produced without a host, but as usual was presented as a broad celebration of the medium. “Television has never been this damn good,” Bryan Cranston said, in the show’s introduction.

Fox televised the ceremony, and used the pre-show as a springboard to help promote the return of its musical reality show “The Masked Singer.” Traditionally,  ratings dip  when the awards play on Fox, coming off what was already record-low tune-in in 2018.

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