Though it seems counter-intuitive to keep score at an event where “it’s an honor just to be nominated”, HBO was the runaway winner of the 67th annual Primetime Emmys with 43 awards. During Sunday’s broadcast 14 awards were handed out to 4 HBO shows, including a sweep of Best awards (technically the award is called “Outstanding”) in comedy (Veep), drama (Game of Thrones), limited series (Olive Kitteridge), and television movie (Bessie).
The network also won twenty-nine creative arts awards, handed out at a dinner on Sept 12. Deadline notes that HBO’s haul was nearly quadruple the number of the second place network, NBC, which earned 12 awards. The cable giant was only one Emmy away from tying the record for all time wins, set by CBS in 1974 with 44 trophies.
In fact the Primetime Emmy’s have become almost entirely a cable game. While NBC won 12 awards, 11 were in the creative arts categories and divided among performance shows The Voice, Saturday Night Live, and the Super Bowl Halftime Show. ABC scored big, with Viola Davis winning best actress for How to Get Away With Murder, but only pulled in two more awards from Modern Family (sound mixing), and American Crime‘s Regina King (lead supporting actress). CBS took home 3 awards and Fox, despite nominations for Empire, Gotham, and The Simpsons, earned just 4 awards in creative arts categories.
HBO’s Game of Thrones was the belle of the Emmy ball a d their 12 statues sets the record for most wins by any show in one year. In addition to the top drama nod, Peter Dinklage won best supporting actor, David Benioff and DB Weiss garnered the best drama writing win, and David Nutter won best director of a drama. Thrones creative arts awards included casting, non-prosthetic makeup, single-camera editing, production design, sound editing, visual effects, and stunt coordination.
HBO’s Olive Kitteridge was the second big winner of the night with 2 creative awards and 6 for the overall show. Transparent (Amazon), American Horror Story (AMC), and Veep (HBO) came away with 5 awards each.
The overwhelming support for Game of Thrones caused some discussion about the inherent flaws of Hollywood awards programs. Though the show is still epic, this season was widely considered its worst and was certainly the most controversial over repetitive violence toward women. Did the voting block award the series for its previous success, reminded by this year of how great the show once was and hoping it won’t get worse? Is it even valid to award a show, as actors sometimes are, for a body of work rather than the product of this year?
Changes to voting rules this year allowed more members of the Academy to vote, which could have led to popular-choice voting. In the past, “blue-ribbon panels” watched screeners of the nominee shows at home and voted for a winner. Now anyone who can vote during the nomination round also gets to vote on the winner. And while voters had to agree that they’d watched the material and had no conflict of interest, there’s no saying if they recently watched the screeners or just relied on their overall impression of a show from catching it during the regular season.
All these questions will quickly fade however as viewers continue to revel in the great moments from Sunday’s broadcast. Tracy Morgan surprised the crowd by stepping out to present the best drama award, fifteen months after the car crash that killed his best friend and put him in a coma. After eight nominations, a low-key and humble Jon Hamm finally scored his best actor award, perhaps the Academy’s way of saying goodbye after his career making run on Mad Men wrapped this year. And Viola Davis, as the first African-American woman to win the lead actress in a drama, stole the evening with a quote from Harriet Tubman and a challenge for more and better roles for women of color. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” Davis said before thanking writers and others who are opening new and exciting opportunities.
The complete list of nominees and winners can be viewed on the Emmys website.