The 2019 Emmys: The Best Moments, Speeches, Surprises, And Records Broken On TV's Biggest Night

Last night brought the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards to FOX, and well, we're just glad that the awards and acceptance speeches were remarkable, because the broadcast of television's biggest night wasn't super enjoyable. Without a host, the show felt nearly lifeless, and the few moments of entertainment came from a handful of presenters and the wonderful, consistent, and silly presence of Thomas Lennon. But we'll get to that later.

Despite the disappointing broadcast of the 2019 Emmys last night, there were still some highlights to be found from the show, especially from the speeches, not to mention a few surprises among the award recipients, and several television records broken and set. So let's get down to the finer points of the 2019 Emmys broadcast from last night.

The Best Moments and Highlights

While most of the show was a total bust, including a clumsy opening involving Homer Simpson getting smashed by a piano, and Anthony Anderson and Bryan Cranston pretending to save the show, not to mention a weak song and dance number later in the evening with Adam DeVine. At least this bit involving Ben Stiller mistaking Bob Newhart for a wax statue was pretty amusing:

The evening also featured several tributes to shows that have said farewell after being on the air for years. Game of Thrones has been a favorite for a long time now, and one could argue that the show's victory as Outstanding Drama Series last night, after being stiffed in many other categories earlier in the evening, was more of an overall tribute than one earned for the final season. The show holds many fond memories for fans, and the broadcast paid tribute to the series last night:

On the comedy side of things, there was also a special farewell to Veep. The series has had a significant presence on the Emmys stage for years, largely thanks to the brilliant writing and the frequently awarded performance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (though she did end up losing out on her last chance to take home one more Veep Emmy last night). It's been a long road for the fictional vice president, and she got the send-off that she deserved during the show:

But as with most awards shows, the real memorable moments came from the speeches themselves: three in particular from a few of the winners in the acting categories.

First up, we have Michelle Williams, who took home Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV movie for her role in Fosse/Verdon. During her speech, she made a passionate plea for equal pay for women in Hollywood, which you can watch in full below.

Also bringing passion and a message to the Emmys stage was Patricia Arquette. The actress won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie for her role in The Act on Hulu, and her acceptance speech included a call to action for Hollywood to start treating trans actors like real people and give them jobs. That includes jobs that aren't just playing trans characters. These are men and women who deserve acting work just like any other person working in the industry. And it's all the more personal to Arquette after the passing of her sister Alexis Arquette, a trans actress herself. Watch:

But not everyone came with a powerful message to deliver. Instead, one winner's message came from the victory itself. Billy Porter became the first gay black man to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his work on Pose, and he couldn't have been more pleased to make it here after enduring all sorts of prejudice and persecution. Here's his full wonderful speech:

Lorne Michaels made a touching speech that got him choked up after Saturday Night Live won Outstanding Variety Sketch Series. The episode that was submitted for the awards was the one hosted by Adam Sandler, and Michaels fondly remembered what it was like when Sandler performed his Chris Farley tribute song, bringing everyone on the cast, crew and audience to tears. It's quite the touching speech, and you can watch it below:

Finally, wrapping up the speeches for the evening, we have the surprising victory of Fleabag for Outstanding Comedy Series, after being up against some heavy hitters. Phoebe Waller-Bridge continued to gush at the accolades thrown her way, and we really couldn't have gotten enough of her throughout the many appearances she made on stage last evening:

But the night officially ended with the victory lap for Game of Thrones. The show wasn't quite as big of a winner in the major categories as it's been in the past, but it took home the award that counted most with Outstanding Drama Series (not to mention 10 awards at the Creative Arts Emmys held the weekend before the broadcast). Plenty of the show's major players were on-hand to accept the award, and you can watch the full acceptance speech right here:

All-in-all, the 2019 Emmys Broadcast was a bit of a bust, and it seems to stem mostly from the fact that the show didn't have a host to bring much life to the show. While the roster of presenters certainly helped, the broadcast felt very messy. Also, one thing that was really frustrating and odd was that the nominees were announced before the presenters came on stage to give the award, which felt like a really ass backwards way of doing things.

The only saving grace for the show, at least for me, was the fact that comedian Thomas Lennon was the Emmys voiceover announcer who would give fun facts about the winner or the award as they were walking up to accept, and he also took us out of the show to commercial. These facts were not the usual boring statistics, and it was easily my favorite part of the show. For example, taking aim at previous Emmy winner and now convicted criminal Felicity Huffman, he said:

"The producers have asked me to give a special shout-out to any of our previous lead actress winners who are watching tonight from prison. Hopefully those two weeks are gonna fly right by. Keep your chin up."

That was easily the harshest dig, but the rest of the night was full of more playful gags. You can read the full list here. (Ethan Anderton)

The Best Surprises of the Night

Fleabag Sweeps Comedy CategoriesFleabag's second season was widely hailed as a brilliantly written, devastatingly perfect season of television, but few expected the British dark comedy series to go beyond the status of "critical darling." But steadily, throughout the night of the 2019 Emmy Awards, Fleabag cleaned up in the comedy categories. First creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge picked up a writing award for the series, while Harry Bradbeer won for directing. Fleabag's sweep was cemented with Waller-Bridge's win for best actress in a comedy series, besting Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who had won the award for seven years straight) in her final year playing the ambitious politician.Fleabag started off the night as a long shot for best comedy series, but by the time the category rolled around at the end of the night, Waller-Bridge was neck-deep in awards and Fleabag was the series to beat. The series justly won best comedy, edging out Veep (which HBO had heavily campaigned for) and the reigning champ, Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It was a perfect cherry on top of two hilarious, heartbreakingly finite seasons.Jason Bateman Wins for Directing Ozark Season 2 Premiere, "Reparations"

With all the hype around its final season, Game of Thrones seemed like a surefire bet to win best directing for a drama series, especially with three episodes — "The Long Night," "The Last of the Starks," and the series finale, "The Iron Throne" — nominated. But Jason Bateman swooped in for an unexpected win with his direction of the Ozark season 2 premiere, "Reparations." This despite the fact that the Netflix series is frequently criticized for being, literally, too dark. But that was a knock against "The Long Night," too, and there's some speculation that the remaining Thrones episodes may have split the vote.

Jodie Comer Wins for Best Actress in a Drama for Killing Eve

Sandra Oh was set to have a history-making 2019 with her career-defining turn in Killing Eve, walking off an astonishing win at the Golden Globes earlier this year. But it was co-star Jodie Comer who took the cake at the Emmy Awards, winning the award for best actress in a drama series, edging out Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke and House of Cards' Robin Wright. But Comer's win was just as well-deserved as Oh's would have been, and the Villanelle actress made sure to shout out her co-star in her speech.

Patricia Arquette Wins for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for The Act

Many would agree that the wrong Patricia won in the best supporting actress in a drama category. Patricia Clarkson had the momentum of her Golden Globes win for her prickly turn in Sharp Objects, but it was Arquette who ended up taking the gold at the Emmys for her performance in Hulu's true-crime drama The Act. It's just another slight against HBO's criminally underrated Sharp Objects, one of the best shows of last year. The series also lost out on a best actress win for Amy Adams, who gave yet another tour-de-force performance that was rudely overlooked by awards voters. (Hoai-Tran Bui)

Broken Records

Last night's Emmys were the least-watched in history, but it was a memorable night for several record-breaking award winners. Game of Thrones finished its eight-season run with an incredible 59 Emmy Awards, more than any other drama and second on the all-time winner list behind only Saturday Night Live, which has been on the air for more than forty years. Thrones is now in a four-way tie as the most awarded Drama series ever, neck and neck with Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, The West Wing, and Mad Men. The 12 Emmys it won this year tied its own record for the most ever won by a show in a single year.

On an individual level, Peter Dinklage became the first person to win the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama trophy four times. Elsewhere in the show, Billy Porter became the first openly gay black man to be nominated for and win the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama award, putting him only one Oscar win away from joining the rarefied club of EGOT winners. Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge became the second woman to ever win the trifecta of outstanding comedy series, outstanding writing in a comedy series, and outstanding lead actress in a comedy series after Tina Fey accomplished the same feat for 30 Rock just over a decade ago. Fleabag's win makes this the fifth year in a row that a female-fronted show has won outstanding comedy series, which Billboard points out is the first time that's happened in Emmy history. (Ben Pearson)