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The Biggest Surprises of the 2019 Primetime Emmy Nominations

A very great day for Thrones, a not-so-good day for Richard Madden and Christine Baranski.

The nominations for the 71st Primetime Emmys have been announced, and as expected, Game of Thrones charbroiled it’s competition and put HBO back on top for overall network nominations. Still, leave it to the historically conservative and risk-averse Television Academy to throw some serious curveballs our way. Even though it feels moot considering that Thrones and Veep are poised to clean sweep in September, here are some of the year’s biggest snubs and surprises to consider.

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Richard Madden is snubbed for Bodyguard

Ever since his surprise win at the Golden Globes in January, it was expected that Richard Madden would land an Emmy nomination for his excellent performance in the BBC/Netflix smash Bodyguard. The last few months saw him in full campaign mode, appearing in round tables, media profile and photo shoots, and getting a helpful exposure boost from his performance in Rocketman. And yet, it wasn’t enough; while the show itself landed in the Best Drama Series, its star and guiding narrative force was ignored. It might be the most puzzling snub. Maybe Bodyguard’s designation as a regular drama series and not a limited series hurt Madden by slotting him into a very tough category? Maybe his near-ubiquitous presence during the FYC season was a turn-off, or people still can’t get over Robb Stark? Whatever the reason, his snub is a huge disappointment for what was a career-redefining role for him.

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Pretty much everyone (and their mom) from Game of Thrones is nominated

Regardless of the reactions to its final season (including my own), it was pretty much a given that the biggest show on television would dominate this year’s Emmys. Still, garnering a record-breaking 32 nominations in one year is enough to raise a Dothraki army’s worth of eyebrows at. Even more surprising is where the nominations came from. Of course Thrones was securing Best Drama Series and Best Writing Series nods, and for Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke, as well as Emmy mainstays Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey (who still hasn’t won). The Best Supporting categories, however, were stacked with new nominees: Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Gwendolyn Christie, and Allie Allen all landed first-time nods. There isn’t an undeserving nod in the bunch, which makes predicting who will take home the award even more difficult. However it turns out (or if a vote-split issue arises), you can expect Thrones to convert most of its nominations to wins.

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The Good Fight is snubbed again

Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime might be dominating the Emmys these days, but not all streaming is created equal. Take, for instance, CBS All Access’ The Good Fight, the delicious Good Wife spin-off ferociously led by Christine Baranski. Despite CBS putting the show on its airwaves this summer to drum up awards interest (and convert casual viewers into All Access subscribers), the show and its Emmy-winning star were snubbed once again. It’s more than just a disappointment though; it’s a case study for the awards chances of all these niche streaming services (hi HBO Max and NBCUniversal). If Christine Baranski isn’t enough to curry Academy favor, what else could be?

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Mandy Moore finally gets a nod for This is Us

After last year’s utterly egregious snub, Mandy Moore has finally been recognized in the Lead Actress category for her role as Rebecca Pearson on the hit NBC drama. Moore continues to deliver knockout after knockout performance as the Pearson matriarch, balancing two (soon to be three?) timelines without losing grip of the character, and while she had better material last year, it is high time that the Television Academy acknowledged her effort. A special kudos as well to Chris Sullivan, who landed in the Best Supporting Actor category for his portrayal of Toby in the midst of depression.

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Schitt’s Creek makes a surprise, 11th-hour splash

Speaking of access to awards-worthy programming, there are probably few others that had a higher barrier to clear than Schitt’s Creek, the comedy on the Pop channel (which I only knew as the home of The Young and the Restless reruns). Still, the show, now on its last season, landed marquee nods in the Comedy categories, including Series, Actor for Eugene Levy, and Actress for Catherine O’Hara. It’s a very tough year, with it being Veep’s final year, but everyone loves an underdog. Voters just need to find it.

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When They See Us represents for Netflix

Ava DuVernay’s harrowing limited series about the Central Park Five has left viewers heartbroken and enraged, so much so that the lead prosecutor of the case has been excised from public life. The show clearly hit a nerve with Academy voters as well, as it scored 16 nominations, the most for Netflix. Considering the ripples of conversation it still creates on social media, and the very active discussion of implicit and explicit racism in law and government at the moment, When They See Us is poised to make a significant impact on the ceremony come September.

So many multi-nominees!

I touched on this about Game of Thrones, but this year featured an astonishing number of television shows with more than one nominee in a single category. Aside from Thrones, you’ve got Killing Eve, This is Us, Better Call Saul, Barry, Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and When They See Us all scoring multiple acting nods. While it’s great to see some nominees who might’ve been passed over in less generous years (Alfie Allen and Gwendolyn Christie come to mind), it does beg the question whether other deserving nominees were shut out as a result (like Indya Moore from Pose).

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