Entertainment

Emmy nominations 2019: Biggest surprises and snubs


HBO seized the Iron Throne Tuesday when the TV academy handed out its annual Emmy nominations.

The premium cable channel walked away with a whopping 137 nods, largely due to the overwhelming love for “Game of Thrones,” whose controversial final season received a record 32 nominations, the most for any series — ever. The producers were not penalized for their sloppiness — that stray Starbucks coffee cup left on the set, for example, or that large sections of “The Battle of Winterfell” that could not be seen by the human eye. Some noms, in particular the writing of the series finale, seemed outrageous. Ten of its actors — even the mediocre ones, like Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington — were nominated, which seems excessive. The only entity from the show not nominated was Drogon, the dragon who carried off Daenerys’ dead body in the finale.

What can I say? When the academy loves you, they stalk you.

I could carp that continued nominations for shows that never win such as “Better Call Saul” irk me, but it’s not going to win against the “Throne.” Nothing is. If there’s an open bar at the theater where the Emmys are given out, that’s where you’ll find its competition.

HBO did not score the most nominations for a comedy series. That distinction went to last year’s winner, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which was given 20 this year, including one for star Rachel Brosnahan as Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.

But the real reason to get excited about the comedy category is to celebrate the inclusion of “Schitt’s Creek,” the Pop satire whose stars, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, might be the funniest people on the planet, and Amazon’s “Fleabag.” This idiosyncratic British comedy has been under the awards radar for a while, but this is the year Hollywood finally caught up with its clever creator Phoebe Waller Bridge — who has been given the gird-your-loins task of saving the latest James Bond script — and her nutty cast, which includes her fellow nominees, Oscar winner Olivia Colman and the deadpan Sian Clifford, who plays Fleabag’s miserable sister Claire.

Mystifyingly, the academy left out Andrew Scott, who stole the entire season as the Hot Priest. By the time they figure out what they did wrong, Scott will win an Olivier award for the Old Vic revival of “Present Laughter.”

There were so many cool choices among the nominees that one doesn’t have to be embarrassed about watching the actual ceremony in September. Patricia Arquette, one of the last real actresses left in Hollywood, turned in not one but two gutsy performances, in Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora,” for which she has already won several awards, and Hulu’s “The Act” and was recognized for both.

Sixteen of the 117 nominations that Netflix picked up went to “When They See Us,” the explosive Ava DuVernay limited series about the trial of Central Park Five and its shameful aftermath. Eight members of its powerful cast, including stars Jharrel Jerome and Niecy Nash of TNT’s “Claws,” received nominations, and makes this show a serious contender. Jerome’s devastating courtroom scene as Korey Wise is cross-examined by prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer (Vera Farmiga), could steal the whole thing.

HBO’s excellent and bleak “Chernobyl” also received a boatload of nominations, 19, for its grave examination of the 1986 nuclear disaster and what the Soviet government did to protect its citizens: almost nothing. Beloved character actor Jared Harris was the heart and soul of this unstinting production and his nomination as Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series was well deserved.

While fame-craven West Coast awards watchers were betting on George Clooney’s tepid “Catch-22” to scoop up some nominations, the television academy gained my respect by staying away. And we’ve all managed to get through the workday even though Julia Roberts was not nominated for the Amazon series “Homecoming.’” I’m not fond in general of film stars slumming in TV projects because their Hollywood wattage has dimmed. Any number of well-known actresses from television could have played her part just as well as she did, if not better.

The unsung Mandy Moore was finally nominated for her work on “This Is Us,” helping NBC secure third place with 58 overall nominations. Another smart move: nominating Jodie Comer for the award she should have won last year for “Killing Eve.” Theater actor Ben Whishaw won a Golden Globe for his courtroom monologue in “A Very British Scandal.” It was a great year too for Joey King of “The Act” and Billy Porter on “Pose” and their nominations gave hope that maybe the members of the academy have finally stopped nominating their friends and took the time to watch the shows.

Sandra Bernhard and Emmy nominee Billy Porter appear in a scene from the second season of "Pose."
Sandra Bernhard and Emmy nominee Billy Porter appear in a scene from the second season of “Pose.”Macall Polay/FX

I could quibble about Golden Globe winner Richard Madden being overlooked for “Bodyguard,” but I suspect that Robb Stark has a greater destiny awaiting him.

The major snub of the year was ignoring Chuck Lorre, whose “Big Bang Theory” finale drew 18 million viewers and whose “Kominsky Method” drew nominations only for stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin.

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