Should the 2019 Emmy's have booked a host after all? Did "Game of Thrones" deserve to take the top award? Which graceful losers should have taken home the trophies? USA TODAY TV Critic Kelly Lawler breaks down every winner, loser, presenter and gag at the 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
Fleabag says thanks!
Who knew that a scrappy little British black comedy could take down the (fictional) president of the United States? Surprising even its most dedicated fans (including myself), Amazon's "Fleabag" nearly swept the comedy categories, winning writing, directing, lead actress and best comedy series and shutting out a longtime Emmy favorite, HBO's "Veep," in its final season.
Not even creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge could process it, shouting "No!" when she took the acting award and laughing in disbelief when she came onstage for the outstanding comedy series win. The talented writer/actress/producer gave three eloquent, funny and heartfelt speeches, endearing her to anyone who hasn't watched her exquisite series. That's probably a lot of you, but seriously go watch it, it's the best show of the year.
Winter is gone
As expected, “Game of Thrones” won the big prize of the night, outstanding drama series, but it wasn't exactly the victory the cast and crew might have anticipated. Shut out of directing and writing categories and unable to break into any new acting categories despite its avalanche of nominees, “Thrones” more limped to a final win than took a victory lap, though Peter Dinklage won again for best supporting actor. It didn’t help that speeches from creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were rather muted, as was the general enthusiasm for the series from the audience in the theater. Coming after the shocking triumph of "Fleabag," it was all rather boring and subdued.
The night of the upset
The Emmys are often dull and predictable, as the Television Academy favors honoring the same actors and shows and leans towards big-name stars and trendy series over high-quality niche shows and lesser-known actors.
But voters dealt shocker after shocker Sunday night, from the dominance of "Fleabag" to Jodie Comer winning best actress in a drama for "Killing Eve" over her far more famous co-star Sandra Oh to young ingenue Julia Garner taking best supporting drama actress, edging out four women from "Thrones."
Having new (and usually more deserving) winners made the Emmy broadcast more exciting and emotional, led to better speeches and more palpable energy. Let's hope this is a trend the Emmys keeps up for years to come.
No host, lots of problems
For all the energy and verve the winners brought to the Emmy ceremony, every other aspect of the production dragged it down.
The Emmys tried to emulate this year's smooth and uncontroversial Oscars, that did fine without a host. But whereas the Oscars leaned into the quick pacing and low-key nature of a hostless show, the Emmys kept trying to replace a host with extended presenter bits, an off-key musical number with Adam Devine (while Lin-Manuel Miranda watched from the sidelines), and narrator Thomas Lennon making pointless, tone-deaf jokes while winners took the stage. You know what could have added a little humor to the night in a slightly more streamlined way? A host!
Too on the nose
Nearly every winner's walk to the stage proved awkward. "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" had "Feel it Still" as its walk-up music, for some reason. And the images chosen behind the winners were worse. Between the bloody nose screenshot from "Fleabag" and the snotty nose from "When They See Us," the Emmy production team really knows how to undercut a moment.
History-making Emmy winners
Best actor in a drama winner Billy Porter made history as the first gay man to win in this category and took a triumphant walk to the stage in yet another fashion showstopper. He brought the crowd to its feet, and many to tears, when he quoted his own "Pose" character ("the category is: Love!") and writer James Baldwin.
Heartfelt, powerful speeches
Alex Borstein ("The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel") won for supporting actress in a comedy for the second year in a row and managed an even funnier and more graceful speech than the first time around. Her acceptance featured an extended bit about her, ahem, lack of underwear and a touching story about her grandmother surviving the Holocaust. Short, funny, moving and sweet, it was a high point of the night.
There were a few other candidates for best speech, including Jharrel Jerome of Netflix's "When They See Us," who dedicated his win to the Exonerated Five (also known as the "Central Park Five") who were the subjects of the miniseries. Michelle Williams, who won for "Fosse/Verdon," turned her speech into a bold statement about equal pay that received resounding applause.
No love for 'Deadwood'
Can we choose an adventure where the "Deadwood" movie wins over Netflix's lackluster interactive "Black Mirror" installment "Bandersnatch"? It belonged in the limited series category, anyway.
Game of montages
Despite their many Emmy wins, it was also odd to pick out just two departed shows, "Thrones" and "Veep" (both on HBO) to get their own tributes while those for "Gotham" and "Jane the Virgin" and "The Big Bang Theory" were awkwardly slapped together.
Amy Poehler and Catherine O'Hara are the kind of effortless presenters who will inspire tweets that they should host next year, but let these two wonderful comedians rock two minutes of comedy rather than be subjected to carrying a whole show.
Every win needs a flop, though. When Ken Jeong and Nick Cannon made a Tik Tok video before the next category, it was painful. Too long, too boring and too many old dudes trying to figure out technology.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Emmys 2019: A brutally honest review of the night