Gold Standard: Emmys 2018: The whole baffling night was a surprise — and not always in the best sense

“The Crown’s” Claire Foy was one of the evening’s surprise winners.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The Emmy Awards are often derided for being predictable, but with this year’s baffling ceremony, it was shocking when an expected winner actually made it to the podium.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” Claire Foy, lead actress in a drama winner for “The Crown,” said during her speech, summing up the evening’s vibe.

Foy winning, and not Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) or Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve”)? That wasn’t supposed to happen. A visibly shocked Regina King (“Seven Seconds”) earning another Emmy, this time for lead actress in a limited series or movie? Didn’t Laura Dern have that honor locked for “The Tale”?


FULL EMMYS COVERAGE: Live updates | Winners list | Show highlights

Even the ceremony’s producers must have been surprised. “Handmaid’s Tale” actresses Moss and Samira Wiley were tabbed to present the supporting actress in a drama Emmy, indicating that one of their nominated cast mates — Ann Dowd or Yvonne Strahovski — would, as most suspected, win, right?

Nope. It was Thandie Newton for “Westworld.”

The show that took the brunt of the surprising hits was “Atlanta.” Nominated for 16 Emmys, the most of any comedy series, the second-year FX program came away empty-handed Monday night, losing early and then often to Amazon Studios’ “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” (“Atlanta” did take three awards at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys.)


For fans of the show — myself included — this was as confusing as seeing someone in the audience dressed as Teddy Perkins, the creepy recluse played by Donald Glover on one of the show’s many stellar second season episodes, and then, a few minutes later, seeing Glover seated elsewhere. (Rumor has it that Glover’s “Atlanta” cast mate Lakeith Stanfield donned the heavy makeup to attend as Perkins.)

“Atlanta” had been expected to win the comedy series prize. That award went instead to Amy Sherman-Palladino’s “Mrs. Maisel,” as did seven other Emmys this year, including prizes for lead actress Rachel Brosnahan, supporting actress Alex Borstein, and writing and directing honors for Sherman-Palladino. The show’s upbeat tone was decidedly different from “Atlanta’s” riskier, more daring approach to storytelling. So, in hindsight, perhaps its near-sweep wasn’t all that surprising.

And though most prognosticators had Glover repeating for lead actor comedy, it’s hard to begrudge Bill Hader winning that Emmy for “Barry.” Arguably, he had the more challenging role, superbly playing “Barry’s” morally conflicted hit man and aspiring actor.

Hader’s cast mate Henry Winkler, finally earning his first Emmy, for supporting actor, was the evening’s least surprising win. And judging from the standing ovation, one of the most popular.

ANALYSIS: ‘We solved it’? Why Emmys’ 2018 ceremony was as muddled as the current state of peak TV

On the drama side, “Game of Thrones” had piled up the most nominations this year, so its series victory, on the heels of so many other Emmy wins over its run, isn’t a shock — just a profound disappointment.

Voters had the opportunity to send out “The Americans” in real style, on top of the Emmys won by star Matthew Rhys and writers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg. (We should be thankful for those victories; the series had won but two Emmys for its previous five seasons, both for Margo Martindale.)


Or they could have again rewarded “The Handmaid’s Tale” for a superb second season that dug into the moral rot of its near-future dystopia.

Instead, “Game of Thrones” won for a mediocre run (by its high standards) of episodes that ran more than a year ago. I’d tell you to expect it to repeat next year for its final season (provided it arrives in time), but after this year’s many mystifying choices, I’m not in a mood to offer any locks.


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