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A year of firsts, diversity, and no host: 5 takeaways from the 2019 Emmys


The 71st annual Emmy Awards aired on Sunday, September 22, and celebrated the best in television.

During the broadcast, the Television Academy’s Chairman and CEO Frank Scherma delivered an inspiring speech about the impact television has on our lives, saying this platinum age of television serves not only as entertainment but as a shortcut to understanding one another better.

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“Have you noticed,” he asked, “how our standard greeting has changed? We’re still doing the obligatory ‘Hi, how are you?’ But we really begin to connect when we ask, ‘What are you watching?” When we ask that question, we open ourselves up to moments of humor, good-natured disagreements, and ‘No, don’t tell me. I haven’t seen it yet.’”

“When someone tells you, ‘You’ve got to see this,’” he continued, “what they’re really telling you is ‘I want to share this experience with you.’”

As the night concluded and all statues were given out, HBO topped the charts with a total of 34 Emmy wins. And while Game of Thrones won for Outstanding Drama Series, the only actor from the show to win in their category was Peter Dinklage. Netflix came in second with 27 wins, but most surprising was that Amazon is inching closer to these two leaders, taking home an impressive 15 trophies, including awards in major comedy categories.

We’ve published a full list the winners in all major categories, but here are some big takeaways from the broadcast.

Streaming is king, Fleabag wins the night

Besides the fine showings by HBO, Netflix, and Amazon, Hulu also picked up four wins. YouTube also took home four awards and Apple Music nabbed one. Amazon Prime Video, however, was most surprising, raking in awards for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Fleabag.

The British comedy-drama Fleabag, about an angry and confused young woman with a healthy sexual appetite living in London, was the big winner of the night, taking home statues for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. In total, series star and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge took home three awards, and the series itself earned six wins.

Netflix, meanwhile, got wins for Ozark, Russian Doll, and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. HBO was honored for Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, Barry, and more; and Hulu was recognized for The Handmaid’s Tale (in Creative Arts categories) and The Act.

It was a year of firsts and upsets

There were upsets in almost all of the major acting categories, with the biggest applause given to the young Jharrel Jerome for his role as one of the Central Park Five in When They See Us, a story based on the five black and Latino teenagers who were convicted and served time for a 1989 rape they did not commit. Mahershala Ali, who was expected to win for his role in True Detective, was on his feet clapping for the 21-year-old, with whom he appeared in the Oscar-winning movie Moonlight.

Other first-time nominees and winners included Jodie Comer for Killing Eve, Billy Porter for Pose, who became the first openly gay black man to win in the category, and Julia Garner for Ozark.

The ceremonies really need a host

This was also the first time the ceremonies did not have a host since 2003. The telecast started off with an odd bit that included an animated Homer Simpson in a tuxedo appearing on stage for a short moment until a piano fell from the sky and crushed him, in the style of Charlie Harper’s exit from Two and a Half Men. Anthony Anderson then jumped on stage to save the day, frantic to find the perfect person to “save the Emmys” while simultaneously having his mother stuff Emmy Awards in her purse backstage (Anderson has been nominated multiple times for Black-ish but has never won.) In the end, Bryan Cranston walked out and delivered a speech about the state of television.

“Television,” he said in his best Walter White voice, combined with a Heisenberg-like stare, “has never been this damn good.”

As the ceremony went on, backstage narrator Thomas Lennon delivered bits about each award recipient as they walked up on the stage, which elicited a few chuckles with his on-the-fly humor — but it wasn’t enough. Even Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel made fun of the lack of a host, noting that hosts are needed.

“It’s all we know how to do!” they joked, adding that pretty soon, Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa will be doling out awards (she then preceded to name the next set of nominees).

Michelle Williams’ stirring speech

One of the biggest moments of the night, if not the biggest, was Michelle Williams’ acceptance speech for her leading role in Fosse/Verdon, in which she urged the industry to treat female actors with respect, give them what they deserve, pay them equally, and listen to their needs. After discussing how she had asked FX for multiple accommodations during filming to help her perform at her best, to which the network happily obliged, she said about her award: “I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they will be heard … when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value. … When the next woman, and especially a woman of color – because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white, male counterpart – tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her. Believe her.”

Game of Thrones gets its send-off

While Game of Thrones didn’t sweep the categories as some had expected, the series still received a fitting send-off, winning for Outstanding Drama Series. In total, GoT took home 12 awards this year, including 10 in creative arts categories and two during the broadcast, including the fourth for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Peter Dinklage. The cast was also met with an eruption of applause when they all appeared on stage to announce the nominees for the Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie category.

See a complete list of all of the winners at the Emmy Awards website.

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