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Emmy Nominations Analysis: Expect a Golden Sendoff for ‘Game of Thrones,’ Despite the Naysayers

In a year when they had to put some fresh faces in the Emmy mix, voters still bent a knee to HBO’s awards juggernaut


Sorry, all you people who hated the final season of “Game of Thrones” — Emmy voters aren’t nearly as upset as you are that Jon Snow [SPOILERED] Daenerys Targaryen or that [SPOILER] ended up on whatever was left of the Iron Throne.

The eighth and final season of HBO’s Emmy juggernaut, which has already received more nominations than any drama or comedy series in history, may not have been an audience or critical favorite — but voting members of the Television Academy are clearly not as attuned to the shortcomings of the final six episodes as many fans and journalists seem to be, because they gave the show a record-breaking 32 nominations, the most for any series in history.

“Game of Thrones” not only helped HBO retake the Emmy crown from Netflix with a vengeance — roaring back to grab a record 137 nominations one year after trailing the upstart streamer in noms, 112 to 108 — but it secured a remarkable 10 different acting nominations, for old hands Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke as well as first-timers Alfie Allen, Sophie Turner and Gwendoline Christine.

If Tuesday’s results are any indication, the Academy is going to give George R. R. Martin’s saga a very golden sendoff on Emmy night, all those negative reviews and disgruntled fans be damned.

While its dominance was the biggest story on Emmy nomination morning, the 2018 nominations were notable in different ways as well, partly because of unusual timing in the drama categories.

While Emmy voters are renowned for being creatures of habit, the drama field in particular didn’t give them that option this year. Five of the seven Outstanding Drama Series nominees from last year weren’t eligible this year, with “The Americans” having ended its run and “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Stranger Things” and “Westworld” not airing new seasons during the eligibility period.

(“The Handmaid’s Tale” did air a few so-called “hanging episodes” during the eligibility period, so it was ineligible for series and lead/supporting acting awards — but it did qualify for individual-achievement nominations in other categories, and received an impressive 11 of those.)

That meant that voters had no choice but to go for different shows from last year, which they did by bringing back past nominee “Better Call Saul,” new series “Succession,” “Pose” and “Bodyguard” and returning series (but first-time nominees) “Killing Eve” and “Ozark.”

Throughout the drama acting categories, it was the same story: In the four lead and supporting categories, only seven of the 25 nominees from 2018 were even eligible, opening the door for newcomers like Billy Porter (“Pose”), Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”), Chris Sullivan (“This Is Us”), Julia Garner (“Ozark”) and the “GoT” newbies Allen, Christie and Turner.

But HBO has another Emmy-winning show that just completed its final season, and the returns were not quite as good for  onetime comedy juggernaut “Veep.” The series, which has won the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy in each of its last three seasons, received nine nominations, far less than the 17 it landed in 2017 and the 16 the year before that.

That’s also far less than its strongest competitor, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which landed 20 nominations one year after taking the top comedy-series Emmy in a year in which “Veep” was ineligible. “Barry,” “Russian Doll” and “Fleabag” also scored more noms than “Veep” in the comedy categories, suggesting that a golden sendoff for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and company is no longer a fait accompli.

Overall, it was a year in which Emmy voters took the measure of a vast and confusing television landscape and got a little more adventurous than usual. With “Russian Doll,” “Killing Eve,” “Pose,” “Fleabag” and “Schitt’s Creek” picking up major nominations over past nominees like “black-ish” and “GLOW,” and with Emmy regulars like Allison Janney and Lily Tomlin bypassed in favor of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Natasha Lyonne, voters suggested that they might not be quite as predictable as we think.

And hey, in the reality categories, where the same stuff tends to be nominated year after year after year, they even got bold and left out “Deadliest Catch,” “Intervention,” “Project Runway” and “Lip Sync Battle!” What’s next? A year without “Shark Tank,” “Antiques Roadshow” or “The Amazing Race?”

(Just kidding. That would never happen.)

Still, when you sort through the 124 categories that make up the 71st Primetime Emmy Award nominations, it’s hard not to come away with one overwhelming thought: Boy, they really like “Game of Thrones,” don’t they?

Watch out, everybody else. Emmy’s version of the Iron Throne appears to be spoken for.