Emmy Nominations 2019: HBO Ascendant

Game of Thrones dominated a surprisingly open-minded slate of nods that recognized critical favorites.

Ken Jeong and D'Arcy Carden announce the nominations for the 71st Emmy Awards on July 16, 2019.
Ken Jeong and D'Arcy Carden announce the nominations for the 71st Emmy Awards on July 16, 2019. (Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP)

The question that’s going to define the future of television is a simple one: Quality or quantity? Last year, Netflix’s throw-shows-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks business model led to a major Emmy Awards triumph when the streaming service landed more nominations than its rival HBO for the first time. For the previous 17 years, HBO had dominated the Emmy landscape unchallenged, and today the premium-cable network reclaimed its crown, scoring an astonishing 137 Emmy nominations to Netflix’s 117. The final season of Game of Thrones, HBO’s ratings juggernaut, received 32 nominations all on its own, a new record for any TV series.

While the dragons-and-decapitation drama is the shiniest sword in HBO’s Iron Throne (and its loss will be felt), what was notable was how many different HBO products were recognized in the major categories. There was Chernobyl, Craig Mazin’s astonishingly detailed miniseries about nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union, getting 19 nominations. Barry, Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s bleak comedy about a disaffected hitman with Hollywood ambitions, was next up on HBO’s slate, with 17. True Detective and Veep—the noirish crime drama and the long-running Washington, D.C., satire starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, respectively—each scored nine nominations. Deadwood, the movie follow-up to David Milch’s Western drama, and Sharp Objects, Marti Noxon and Jean-Marc Vallée’s Gothic murder-mystery, each got eight. HBO commanded the category for Outstanding Television Movie, with nominations for Deadwood, Brexit, and My Dinner With Hervé. It also led in documentaries, scooping up nods for The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, and Leaving Neverland.

Without Game of Thrones and Veep, of course, the landscape for HBO in 2020 is a more challenging one. While Netflix has fewer star shows in its constellation at the moment—the most nominations it received was 16, for Ava DuVernay’s superb When They See Us, followed by 13, for Russian Doll—it has so many current series and so many more in development that its flood-the-market strategy might well see it through. That’s a model that other networks, including HBO, are looking to emulate, as Jonah Weiner reported in an insightful article about Hollywood’s streaming wars for The New York Times Magazine. HBO’s brand of boutique television, tightly controlled for quality and meticulously curated, might help it on the road to Emmy glory. But as the competition for viewing eyeballs intensifies, quantity could win out.

One thing that was notable about today’s nominations was how surprisingly open-minded they were. While Game of Thrones’ swan-song season led to its cast members dominating the supporting-actor categories, for the most part the nominations eschewed old chestnuts and embraced critical favorites. The Outstanding Comedy Series category honored not only Barry, Veep, and Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but also more innovative shows such as Russian Doll, Amazon’s Fleabag, and Pop TV’s Canadian import Schitt’s Creek. The drama category recognized a host of old reliables (Thrones, Better Call Saul, Ozark, This Is Us), as well as FX’s Pose and HBO’s Succession. (The spectacular work done by many of the stars on Pose was one casualty of the Game of Thrones crest, although the series’ Billy Porter was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama.)

The limited-series acting categories were the most intriguing, with a wealth of names claiming their first-ever Emmy nomination. Jharrel Jerome, whose role in When They See Us required him to convey his character’s journey from innocent boy to wrongly incarcerated man, was nominated for lead actor, alongside other Emmy first-timers including Sam Rockwell for Fosse/Verdon, Benicio del Toro for Escape at Dannemora, and the sprightly unknown Hugh Grant for A Very English Scandal. In the lead-actress category, Amy Adams (for Sharp Objects), Aunjanue Ellis (When They See Us), Joey King (The Act), and Michelle Williams (Fosse/Verdon) all scored their first Emmy nomination.

One major movie star went un-nominated this year: Julia Roberts, who played a woman trying to pull together her fragmented memories in Sam Esmail’s Amazon series Homecoming. The show was snubbed in relative terms, receiving a single nomination for cinematography. Pamela Adlon’s Better Things, a critical darling that received nods in its first two seasons, failed to score any this year. But the 11 nominations for Fleabag and the recognition for stellar series such as Chernobyl and Russian Doll make griping harder than usual this year, even if the amount of love for Netflix’s Ozark feels disproportionate at best. The Television Academy, its chairman and CEO, Frank Scherma, said in an opening statement, has “a commitment and an obligation to spark creativity, honor innovation, advocate for inclusion, and celebrate excellence.” And for once, it’s tough to argue that the Emmys didn’t manage to do just that.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Barry, HBO
Fleabag, Amazon
The Good Place, NBC
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon
Russian Doll, Netflix
Schitt’s Creek, Pop
Veep, HBO

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul, AMC
Bodyguard, Netflix
Game of Thrones, HBO
Killing Eve, BBC America
Ozark, Netflix
Pose, FX
Succession, HBO
This Is Us, NBC

Outstanding Limited Series

Chernobyl, HBO
Escape at Dannemora, Showtime
Fosse/Verdon, FX
Sharp Objects, HBO
When They See Us, Netflix

Outstanding TV Movie

Bandersnatch, Netflix
Brexit, HBO
Deadwood, HBO
King Lear, Amazon
My Dinner With Hervé, HBO

Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, Netflix
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, HBO
Jane Fonda in Five Acts, HBO
Leaving Neverland, HBO
Love, Gilda, CNN
Minding the Gap, Hulu

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Laura Linney, Ozark
Mandy Moore, This Is Us
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Billy Porter, Pose
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us

Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Natasha Lyonne, Russian Doll
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Don Cheadle, Black Monday
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Bill Hader, Barry
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Amy Adams, Sharp Objects
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora
Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us
Joey King, The Act
Niecy Nash, When They See Us
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Mahershala Ali, True Detective
Benicio del Toro, Escape at Dannemora
Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Jharrel Jerome, When They See Us
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Sarah Goldberg, Barry
Sian Clifford, Fleabag
Olivia Colman, Fleabag
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Carrigan, Barry
Stephen Root, Barry
Henry Winkler, Barry
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tony Hale, Veep

Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones
Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve
Julia Garner, Ozark

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul
Alfie Allen, Game of Thrones
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Michael Kelly, House of Cards
Chris Sullivan, This Is Us

Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Patricia Arquette, The Act
Emily Watson, Chernobyl
Margaret Qualley, Fosse/Verdon
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects
Marsha Stephanie Blake, When They See Us
Vera Farmiga, When They See Us

Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Stellan Skarsgård, Chernobyl
Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora
Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal
Asante Blackk, When They See Us
John Leguizamo, When They See Us
Michael K. Williams, When They See Us

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, Comedy Central
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, TBS
Jimmy Kimmel Live, ABC
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, HBO
The Late Late Show With James Corden, CBS
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, CBS

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

At Home With Amy Sedaris, TruTV
Documentary Now!, IFC
Drunk History, Comedy Central
I Love You, America, Hulu
Saturday Night Live, NBC
Who Is America, Showtime

Outstanding Competition or Reality Series

The Amazing Race, CBS
American Ninja Warrior, NBC
Nailed It!, Netflix
RuPaul’s Drag Race, VH1
Top Chef, Bravo
The Voice, NBC