HBO’s fantasy drama returns to crowded field, while comedy category opens up

HBO’s Game of Thrones is back in Emmy-winning form heading into Monday’s 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on NBC.

The fantasy-drama series — ineligible for the Emmys last year because its eighth-season start missed 2017 eligibility deadlines — tied with NBC’s Saturday Night Live for the most Emmy wins with seven after the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremonies on Sept. 8 and 9.

Game of Thrones’s 12 Emmy wins in 2016 — including best drama series — help the show set a record for the most Emmy wins for a fictional series, with 38.

To return to its Emmys summit, Game of Thrones will have to conquer last year’s Outstanding Drama Series champion, Hulu’s freshman series The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as HBO sister drama series Westworld; Netflix’s Stranger Things and The Crown; FX’s The Americans; and NBC’s This Is Us.

Thus far, HBO leads the Emmy sweepstakes with 17, one ahead of Netflix and two more than NBC headed into the telecast. Netflix shocked the industry by generating 104 Emmy nods, knocking HBO from the top spot it held for more than a decade.

One show HBO cannot count on to build its Emmy wins is comedy series Veep, ineligible this year, officially ending its three-peat in the Outstanding Comedy Series category.

The premium network has fielded three nominated shows to hopefully fill Veep’s shoes — Barry, Silicon Valley and Curb Your Enthusiasm — but the show that arguably has the most momentum heading into the Emmys is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the Golden Globe-winning period comedy from Amazon’s Prime Video.

Open Field for Funny Women

Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s record streak of six straight Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy wins will also end, leaving the category wide open for other actresses such as Pamela Adlon (FX’s Better Things), Tracee Ellis Ross (ABC’s Black-ish), Lily Tomlin (Netflix’s Grace and Frankie), Issa Rae (HBO’s Insecure), Allison Janney (CBS’s Mom) and Rachel Brosnahan (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel).

Ross and Rae in particular are part of a record number of actors of color vying for the coveted statuette. The performance of such stars during the Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies bodes well for the potential for big wins in major categories on Monday night.

Among the biggest headlines coming out of the Creative Arts Emmys was the sweep by African-American performers in the guest acting categories: This Is Us’s Ron Cephas Jones (guest actor, drama series); The Handmaid’s Tale’s Samira Wiley (guest actress, drama series); Atlanta’s Katt Williams (guest actor, comedy series) and Saturday Night Live’s Tiffany Haddish (guest actress, comedy series) — as well as John Legend’s historic Emmy win for co-producing Fox’s variety special Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, making him the first African-American man to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony award (the coveted EGOT).

Atlanta’s Donald Glover and This Is Us’s Sterling K. Brown will look to repeat with Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in the comedy and drama categories, respectively, and Sandra Oh could become the first woman of Asian descent to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

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