TV: HBO and ‘People v. O.J. Simpson’ Prevail in Night of Emmy Surprises

The Emmys love to keep the audience on their toes. While the main comedy and drama series categories went as expected, precious little else did. Famous for their Merritt Wever like shockers, the Emmys doled out one after another as the program wore on. Jimmy Kimmel turned in a trim and entertaining show with game celebrities and many emotional moments. The political landscape was also a major factor in the telecast. From Kimmel, Reality Show winner Mark Burnett and more, the Presidential race was an overarching topic throughout. Still, all is said and done and the winners are all safe at home with their trophies. Let’s take a look at the learnings we can take from this Emmy season.

  1. HBO will always prevail.

emmys-julia-louis-dreyfus-fatherIt would be hard to top last year, when HBO won Best Drama Series, Best Comedy Series, Best Mini-Series and Best TV Movie. However, HBO was able to defend its title for Best Drama Series with “Game of Thrones” and Best Comedy Series with “Veep.” Not only that, but “Game of Thrones” was able to win both Best Directing in a Drama Series and Best Writing in a Drama Series for the episode “Battle of the Bastards.” In total, “Game of Thrones” has won 38 Emmys over its entire tenure, a record for a primetime series. “Veep” won Julia Louis Dreyfus her record breaking fifth consecutive win in Best Actress in Comedy Series. Additionally, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” was able to pick up its first win for Best Variety Talk Series.

2. The episodes still do matter.

This year we saw the Emmy voting processes change yet again. Each category is now chosen by a popular vote. Voters need only check a box to say they watched all nominated episodes in a category. Nominees in the acting, writing and directing categories submit one episode to be judged upon. Each series nominee submits six episodes. Rather than ranking all nominees, as they have done before, voters could only choose one show to vote for. Many believed this would mean more predictable or popular winners. This was not the case.

emmys-rami-malek-best-actorThe show got off to an interesting start as Louie Anderson won Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for “Baskets.” This was the show’s only nomination, but Anderson had a flashy role as Zack Galifanakis’ mother. From there, Kate McKinnon won for “Saturday Night Live,” beating incumbent Allison Janney for “Mom.” She became the first actor, outside of the guest categories, to win an acting award for a variety show. Most of this could be attributed to the fact that McKinnon played Hillary Clinton in her episode submission. Showy episodes featuring drug addiction and multiple roles propelled upsets in the drama category. Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) and Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) won for Best Actor in a Drama Series and Best Actress in a Drama Series, respectively. 

emmys-sterling-k-brown-people-vs-ojWe saw the same paradigm in the miniseries/TV movie category. Virtual unknown Sterling K. Brown beat out his much more famous fellow “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” nominees (John Travolta and David Schwimmer) due to his dynamite episode submission. Regina King was even able to repeat at Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for “American Crime” due to her emotional centerpiece scene in her episode submission. The lesson here, it pays to have a good episode submission.

3. Vote Splitting is a Thing

aziz-ansari-alan-yang-onstage-emmy-award-2016-billboard-1548Less really can be more. Many shows had multiple nominations in a single category. However, if one submission was not clearly better than the other in a given show, the show would lose. We saw this most prominently in the Writing and Directing categories. “Veep” led with three directing and two writing nominations. “Silicon Valley” also had two writing and two directing nominations. Guess how many wins they got combined? Zero. While I had predicted “Transparent” would win for “Man on the Land,” I did not expect to see Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang prevail in writing for “Master of None” for the episode “Parents.” That truly was one of the night’s best wins.

Over in the miniseries category, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” swept every category, except for directing, where they were nominated for three episodes. Instead, “The Night Manager” won, in one of the night’s many shockers. However, in the writing category, “O.J.” was able to win one of its three nominations for the episode “Marcia Marcia Marcia,” as it was one of the most buzzed about episodes of the season. The episode was not one of the three nominees for directing, thus vote splitting occurred.

Vote splitting also helps explain the drama supporting acting categories. Dame Maggie Smith won for “Downton Abbey.” This being the show’s final season was a factor. However, her win was ultimately helped by vote splitting between three “Game of Thrones” nominees – Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Maisie Williams. The most head scratching win was Ben Mendelsohn for “Bloodline” in Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Kit Harrington had the winning episode for “Game of Thrones,” while Peter Dinklage was the name check favorite. The two divided the votes which allowed for a shocker like Mendelsohn to sneak in.

4. It pays to be a lawyer.

emmys-2016-sarah-paulson-marcia-clarkIt’s no secret “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” did well. In fact, it won the most awards during the telecast, with five televised awards. However, the profession of lawyer continues to be one of the most awarded professions. From James Spader to Glenn Close, actors portraying lawyers typically pull off wins due to their grandstanding speeches. Of the three acting winners for “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” all portrayed lawyers in the case. Perhaps the most satisfying moment of the night was Sarah Paulson’s long overdue win, after seven nominations. The actress brought the real Marcia Clarke as her date for the evening and gave her a heartfelt tribute during the speech. That’s what great Emmy moments are made of.

Without further ado, see below for a complete list of Sunday’s winners:

Complete Emmy Winners

  • Drama Series: “Game of Thrones” (HBO)
  • Comedy Series: “Veep” (HBO)
  • Mini-Series: “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX)
  • TV Movie: “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (Masterpiece)” (PBS)
  • Variety Talk Series: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (HBO)
  • Variety Sketch Series: “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
  • Actor in a Comedy Series: Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”
  • Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Louie Anderson, “Baskets”
  • Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
  • Actor in a Drama Series: Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
  • Actress in a Drama Series: Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black”
  • Supporting Actor in a Drama: Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline”
  • Supporting Actress in a Drama: Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”
  • Actor in a Mini-Series or Movie: Courtney B. Vance, “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
  • Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie: Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
  • Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story”
  • Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie: Regina King, “American Crime”
  • Reality Competition Program: “The Voice” (NBC)
  • Directing for a Comedy Series: Jill Soloway, “Transparent” (“Man on the Land”)
  • Writing for a Comedy Series: Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, “Master of None” (“Parents”)
  • Directing for a Drama Series: Miguel Sapochnik, “Game of Thrones” (“Battle of the Bastards”)
  • Writing for a Drama Series: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, “Game of Thrones” (“Battle of the Bastards”)
  • Directing for a Mini-Series or Movie: Susanne Bier, “The Night Manager”
  • Writing for a Mini-Series or Movie: D.V. DeVincentis, “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”)
  • Directing for a Variety Special: Thomas Kail and Alex Rudzinski, “Grease: Live”
  • Writing for a Variety Special: Patton Oswalt, “Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping”

WHO WERE YOUR FAVORITE WINS AT THE PRIMETIME EMMYS? SOUND OFF ON YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW.