2019 Emmy Awards: What to Watch for Tonight

2019 Emmy Awards: What to Watch for Tonight

For months, conventional wisdom has held that the HBO hits “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” will, once again, take the top show categories at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday night.

Emmy voters love to pick a thoroughbred and stick with it. And the two series are making their final stands, giving people in the TV industry an incentive to reward them.

But prognosticators have noted that “Veep,” a leading candidate in the best comedy category, faces a tough challenge from Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

Last year, with “Veep” taking a year off production, the two comedies did not go to head-to-head. Tonight, the fight is on.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has proved popular with Emmy voters, and its shrewd marketing campaigns — including an initiative in August providing 1959 prices at some Los Angeles hotels, restaurants and even a gas station — could give it an edge.

Could another Amazon show, the critical darling “Fleabag,” pull off a surprise win? Its creator and star, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, scored big on nomination day, and “Fleabag” won for casting at the Creative Arts Emmys last week, which is often a bellwether.

“Game of Thrones,” the favorite in the drama category, earned more Emmy nominations than any other show in TV history this year. If it does take the big prize, it will tie series like “The West Wing,” “L.A. Law,” “Mad Men” and “Hill Street Blues” for the most wins for best drama.

And yet there’s the pesky matter of that final season. Critics and fans had issues with its head-snapping plot twists, dramatic character shifts and hasty resolutions. Will that hurt the show’s chances? If so, could another HBO series, “Succession,” play the role of spoiler?

Sandra Oh has been nominated 10 times, eight for her work as an actor, but has yet to win an Emmy. Will her luck change tonight?

Oh is nominated for the second straight year for her performance as an investigator in BBC America’s “Killing Eve.” She’s the favorite this year — narrowly ahead of her co-star, Jodie Comer — and if she wins, she will make history by being the first woman of Asian descent to take home the Emmy for best actress in a drama.

And if Julia Louis-Dreyfus hears her name called once again as the winner in the category of best actress in a comedy for her final turn on “Veep,” she will have won her ninth acting Emmy, breaking the record she shares with Cloris Leachman for most ever. (Louis-Dreyfus has won six acting Emmys for “Veep,” as well as one for “Seinfeld” and one for the CBS sitcom “The New Adventures of Old Christine”).

Television Academy members will be rooting for her to close out her “Veep” run on a high note, particularly after her battle with breast cancer. But she will face competition from Rachel Brosnahan, the star of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and Waller-Bridge, of“Fleabag.”

Television has never been more popular, and there has never been more money spent in Hollywood on original television series. But the town hasn’t felt very celebratory in the days leading up to the ceremony.

More than 7,000 television and movie writers are in a bitter standoff with their former talent agents five months after having cut ties with them en masse on the advice of the Writers Guild of America unions. Amid the acrimony, the four major agencies canceled the Emmys parties they usually host this weekend. And many people in the industry are wondering whether any writers or producers will bring up the dispute in an acceptance speech.

Then there’s the show itself: The Emmys broadcast is losing viewers, having dropped to a new low of 10.2 million last year. In an attempt to shake things up, it will go without a host for the first time in 16 years.

Part of the reason has to do with logistics. Fox, the network for this year’s show, doesn’t have a late-night host or sitcom star who would be a natural fit for the job. The last time Fox broadcast the Emmys, in 2015, it turned to its “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star Andy Samberg. That show was canceled by Fox last year — and is now part of the NBC lineup.

The producers have also made changes meant to keep the audience involved. The orchestra has been sent packing. In place of the musicians, piped-in pop songs will fill the Microsoft Theater. And Fox has tapped the actor and comedian Thomas Lennon to offer commentary as the winners make their way to the stage.

The Oscars broadcast went without a host this year and had a ratings increase, with nearly 30 million tuning in. Whether it works for the Emmys is an open question.

It’s hard to predict the winner of the best actor in a drama category, but whoever takes the Emmy is likely to be a first-time winner. The race is shaping up to be a three-way showdown. Billy Porter, a breakout star from FX’s “Pose,” goes up against Bob Odenkirk, of “Better Call Saul,” who has won two writing Emmys but none for acting, and Jason Bateman, the star of Netflix’s “Ozark,” who has been nominated three times as an actor.

In the best actor in a comedy category, look for Bill Hader to win for a second straight year for his role as the tortured hit man on HBO’s “Barry.”

A close look at the teenage boys known as the Central Park Five will compete against a re-examination of the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster in Russia. Which will prevail?

The best limited series category is expected to be a showdown between Netflix’s “When They See Us,” created by Ava DuVernay, and HBO’s “Chernobyl,” created by Craig Mazin.

With the Emmys habit of rewarding the same shows in drama, variety and comedy year after year, the limited series category has become the ceremony’s most intriguing. And with little chance of winning in other major show categories, Netflix has its best chance at landing a top series award with DuVernay’s show.

Beneath the fight for the award between “When They See Us” and “Chernobyl” is the Emmys rivalry between HBO and Netflix. The scoreboard is already lit up after last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys, where HBO won 25 Emmys and Netflix got 23.

HBO had won the most Emmys for 16 years in a row until last year’s ceremony, when HBO and Netflix tied for the lead, with each taking home 23. If Netflix outscores HBO on Sunday, it will have passed another marker in its rapid ascent in Hollywood.


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