HBO’s record-breaking fantasy epic Game of Thrones stormed back onto the Emmys stage on Monday, winning the coveted best drama series prize on a night full of surprises, including an on-air marriage proposal that stunned the audience.
The other big story of the gala, television’s answer to the Oscars, was the huge success of eight Emmys overall for best comedy series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Amazon’s story of a 1950s housewife-turned-stand-up comic. The Handmaid’s Tale — last year’s best drama and an early favorite for more hardware — went home empty-handed from the event at the Microsoft Theater, having won three minor awards handed out a week ago.
The ceremony hosted by Saturday Night Live regulars Colin Jost and Michael Che took on a decidedly political hue, with a barrage of edgy jokes on hot-button issues such as diversity in Hollywood, #MeToo and President Donald Trump. The gala also saw a handful of sentimental favorites take home their first Emmys.
Matthew Rhys won for best drama actor for spy thriller The Americans, Claire Foy was named best drama actress for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown and Henry Winkler triumphed for supporting comedy acting on Barry.
But the coveted drama prize went to Game of Thrones, which was ineligible for last year’s Emmys. Peter Dinklage took home the best supporting actor prize for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister. “Writing for these actors behind us is the honor of a lifetime,” said series co-creator David Benioff, “But we didn’t invent these characters. That was George R.R. Martin. The show could not be without the mad genius of George.”
It won nine Emmys this year, meaning the blood-spattered tale of the battle for the Iron Throne — which returns in 2019 for an abbreviated eighth and final season — now has 47 awards overall. That breaks the programme’s own record as the most decorated fictional show since the Television Academy first handed out prizes in 1949.
Mrs Maisel breaks through
In the comedy categories, Mrs Maisel bested all comers in its first year of eligibility, sweeping the female acting prizes (star Rachel Brosnahan and co-star Alex Borstein) and best series honors. Earlier this year, the series won two Golden Globes.
“One of the things I love the most about this show, while I have you captive for another two seconds — it’s about a woman who is finding her voice anew,” Brosnahan said. “It’s something that’s happening all over the country right now. One of the most important ways that we can find and use our voices is to vote. So if you haven’t already registered, do it on your cell phone right now.”
HBO dark comedy Barry notched two acting wins — for Winkler and series star Bill Hader.
Politics and #MeToo
The show opened with a daring song-and-dance number poking fun at myriad controversies including diversity in Hollywood. “We solved it!” crooned Saturday Night Live nominees Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson, with back-up from pop stars John Legend and Ricky Martin — and even RuPaul.
They then yielded the stage to Jost and Che — who let the zingers fly. “This year, the audience is allowed to drink in their seats. Hope you’re excited about that — because the one thing Hollywood needs right now is a bunch of people losing their inhibitions at a work function,” Jost said, a reference to #MeToo.
An Emmy-winning proposal
Looking to boost audience ratings, Emmys organisers said they were hoping to shake up the broadcast — and indeed they did, intentionally and unintentionally. A surprise marriage proposal from Emmy-winning director Glenn Weiss won over the audience — and the internet.
As Weiss accepted his award for directing the Oscars, he asked Jan Svendsen, who was sitting in the audience, to marry him. “You wonder why I don’t like to call you my girlfriend? Because I want to call you my wife,” he added to cheers, applause and a few teary-eyed actors in the audience.
Svendsen then joined Weiss on stage as the director got on one knee and formally proposed. The moment was especially poignant as Weiss revealed his mother had recently passed away — and offered Svendsen the ring his father had given his mom.
Other big winners included FX’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which won Emmys for best limited series and best lead actor in a limited series for Darren Criss, who took a dark turn as the designer’s killer Andrew Cunanan.
Thandie Newton won the best supporting actress in a drama statuette for her work on HBO’s futuristic western Westworld. “I don’t even believe in God but I’m going to thank her tonight,” Newton quipped.
Saturday Night Live won the award for best variety sketch series. In the emerging battle of traditional networks vs new platforms, streaming giant Netflix and HBO ended in a dead heat at the top — at 23 Emmys each.
2018 Emmy winners list
Here is a look at who has won
what at the annual Primetime
Emmy Awards, announced by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Best Drama Series: Game of Thrones
Best Comedy Series: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best Actor, Drama Series: Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Best Actress, Drama Series: Claire Foy, The Crown
Best Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Best Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Thandie Newton, Westworld
Best Writing, Drama Series: Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, The Americans
Best Directing, Drama Series: Stephen Daldry, The Crown
Best Actor, Comedy Series: Bill Hader, Barry
Best Actress, Comedy Series: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Henry Winkler, Barry
Best Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best Writing, Comedy Series: Amy Sherman-Palladino, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best Directing Comedy Series: Amy Sherman-Palladino, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Best Limited Series: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Best Actor, Limited Series or Movie: Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Best Actress, Limited Series or Movie: Regina King, Seven Seconds
Best Supporting Actor, Limited Series or Movie: Jeff Daniels, Godless
Best Supporting Actress, Limited Series or Movie: Merritt Wever, Godless
Best Writing, Limited Series: William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, USS Callister (Black Mirror)
Best Directing, Limited Series: Ryan Murphy, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Best Writing, Variety Special: John Mulaney, John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City
Best Directing, Variety Special: Glenn Weiss, The Oscars
Best Variety Sketch Series: Saturday Night Live
Best Variety Talk Series: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Best Reality-Competition Program: RuPaul’s Drag Race