Taking the one final victory lap that was expected from here to Westeros, "Game of Thrones" won its fourth best drama award at Sunday's 71st annual Primetime Emmys. That arguably makes "Thrones" the most celebrated drama in TV history, with only four other dramas in the four-timer club, but none of them — incidentally — starring a single dragon, let alone three.
Or this: Up until the 71st Emmys, "Thrones" had earned more nominations (160) and more wins (47) than any other drama. Had Sunday's victory lap been denied, that would have been the shock wave felt from here to Westeros. Instead, spectacle triumphed over the traditional ("This is Us"), the political ("Pose"), the critically beloved ("Better Call Saul"), the esteemed newbies ("Killing Eve," "Bodyguard," "Possession"). It also means HBO beat Netflix ("Ozark"). Though certainly not for lack of trying, Netflix has yet to win either a best comedy or drama Emmy.
Billy Porter, who plays the flamboyant ballroom emcee Pray Tell in FX’s “Pose,” made Emmy history by becoming the first openly gay black man to win the lead actor in a drama category. "God bless you all. The category is love, y'all, love. I'm so overjoyed and so overwhelmed to have lived long enough to see this day," said an exuberant Porter. He then went on to paraphrase author James Baldwin to say "we all have the right" to be here.
In a major upset, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was denied her seventh outstanding lead actress in a comedy Emmy for "Veep," and eighth overall. The winner was Phoebe Waller-Bridge, star of Amazon Prime sophomore series "Fleabag" — which also won best comedy series, beating out "Veep" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." "This is getting to be ridiculous," joked Waller-Bridge upon accepting the best comedy award. She also won for best comedy writing.
One of the night's most emotional moments — which got an instant standing ovation — Jharrel Jerome, who played Korey Wise on Ava DuVernay's Netflix limited series, "When They See Us," about the Central Park Five, won for outstanding lead actor in a limited series. "This is for the men we know as The Exonerated Five," he said to cheers.
In the limited series category — maybe the most contested category — HBO's brilliant "Chernobyl" took top honors.
Creator Craig Mazin said in his acceptance speech of the series about the Soviet-era nuclear disaster, "I hope that in some small way our show has helped remind people of the value of the truth."
The 71st were also host-less, a first since 2003. These Fox Emmys suggested — comically — that that was not the intention. In the opening moments, Homer Simpson stepped on to the stage at Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater, in all his CGI glory. When a piano fell on him, Anthony Anderson (nominated for "black-ish") took to the stage, and — after stealing as many Emmys as he could grab backstage — handed the reins to Bryan Cranston, who offered the reason why the 71st Awards did not have a real host: "Television has never been bigger, never mattered more, and television has never been this damned good."
Among the best in history, Louis-Dreyfus was accorded her own mini-tribute Sunday too. As presenter for best actress in a limited series — which went to Michelle Williams of "Fosse/Verdon" — she came on stage at the Microsoft Theater with the rest of "Veep's" brilliant cast. When she opened the envelope, her co-star Tony Hale — who played "Veep's" resident sycophant Gary Walsh — jumped on her punchline, whatever that would have been. The winner, he said, was "Julia Louis-Dreyfus."
Beyond the usual assortment of questions and cliffhangers, the 71st Emmys were in fact transitional ones — a farewell tour or victory lap for some giants that dominated this stage in years past, and will not return for the 72nd. Besides "Game of Thrones" and Louis-Dreyfus, they include "Veep," "The Big Bang Theory," "House of Cards," "Empire" and "Orange Is the New Black."