Many fans did not like the final season of HBO’s epic fantasy drama Game of Thrones, but the voting members of the TV Academy certainly did, awarding HBO’s epic drama 12 Emmys, including outstanding drama, as the show took its final victory lap.
Game of Thrones hauled in a record-setting single-year number of nominations at 32, tying its own record set in 2015 with 12 wins. Peter Dinklage also broke Aaron Paul’s record for winning the most Emmys for playing a single role when he was awarded best supporting actor in a drama for the fourth time.
Game of Thrones’ and Chernobyl’s wins in the outstanding limited series, writing and directing categories, as well as Bill Hader’s lead actor in a comedy win for Barry, and Last Week Tonight’s outstanding variety/talk show win allowed HBO to lead the field with 34 total wins, including wins earned at the Creative Arts Awards Sept. 14-15. Netflix followed with 27, including a big upset win for When They See Us’ Jharell Jerome for lead actor in a limited series. Amazon came in third with 15 wins, but many of those were splashy and helped Amazon take over Emmy-night buzz.
Even with HBO scoring win after win, the night was in many ways Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s, who won three Emmys for outstanding comedy, lead actress in a comedy and outstanding writing in a comedy for Amazon’s Fleabag. Fleabag upset HBO’s Veep, which, like Game of Thrones, ended its run in 2019 and was expected to win a few trophies on Sunday night after being the show to beat since its 2012 debut. Waller-Bridge even upset Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was poised to become the most Emmy-winning actor of all time. Louis-Dreyfus remains tied with Cloris Leachman with the most acting wins at eight each.
Also significant on Emmy night were the number of Brits who snagged Emmys with Brits involved in 13 of the 27 on-air wins, including Game of Thrones, Fleabag, Killing Eve, Last Week Tonight, Chernobyl and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
That British invasion, which has come about due to co-productions and streaming deals, reflects the overall global change that TV is undergoing, which Sunday night’s ceremony reflected.
That disruption is also partly why ratings for the Sunday night Emmycast plunged 33 percent to hit an all-time viewership low with 6.9 million viewers tuning in. There are several reasons for that, among them fierce competition on other channels, including Sunday Night Football on NBC and Succession on HBO, which won an Emmy Sunday night for best writing in a drama.
Another issue the Emmys face is that while prestige shows such as Fleabag, Barry and Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel get a lot of buzz, they may not be getting a lot of viewers. Many TV viewers don’t subscribe to all of the different streaming services and can’t watch many of the nominated shows. Meanwhile, Emmy juggernaut Game of Thrones averaged 44 million viewers per episode once all views across all platforms were counted.
TV’s most accessible shows still air on free over-the-air broadcast television, but very few of those shows earn Emmy nominations. NBC’s This Is Us was the only broadcast drama to be nominated outstanding drama, while NBC’s The Good Place was the only comedy to be included among outstanding comedy. Neither of those won any awards on Sunday night.
Next year, however, Game of Thrones, Fleabag and Veep all will have ended and new streaming service HBO Max, Disney+, Apple TV+ and Peacock all will have come online, making Emmys night a whole new game with many new players.