Emmy Awards 2019: Six highlights from the ceremony

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

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image captionPhoebe Waller-Bridge has also worked on the new James Bond script

By the looks of it, the last person expecting Phoebe Waller-Bridge to sweep the board at Sunday night's Emmy Awards was Phoebe Waller-Bridge herself.

The Fleabag creator looked genuinely shocked as she turned to her partner Martin McDonagh after being named best leading comedy actress.

It was one of four prizes the show took home, while awards for Jodie Comer and Ben Whishaw topped off a hugely successful night for UK talent.

But there were plenty of other highlights at the ceremony. Here's a quick round-up of some of them.

1. Homer helped out with hosting

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In February the Oscars opted not to have a host for the first time since 1989, instead enlisting a series of guest presenters to introduce each category.

After the host-less ceremony was widely praised by viewers and critics, Emmy organisers clearly thought "hang on a minute here" and swiftly dropped their host as well.

As a result, the 71st Primetime Emmys opened with a weird but wonderful star-studded sequence.

"Please welcome your host for the evening, Homer Simpson," said the announcer as the ceremony began. Sure enough, the most famous father in animation took to the stage to speak... only to be immediately cut off by a giant piano falling on top of him.

The show then cut to Black-ish star Anthony Anderson, who leapt out of his seat in the audience and ran up to the stage, shouting: "Alright don't worry, I got this, I'll get this show back on track!

"OK, can I get a cup of coffee?" he then asked a stage manager, who handed him a takeaway cup. "What is this, man?" Anderson asked. "This isn't Game of Thrones! No Starbucks cups on television, OK?"

The gag was a reference to the takeaway coffee cup that accidentally appeared on screen during the fantasy show's eighth and final season earlier this year.

image copyrightReuters
image captionBryan Cranston reflected on the impact of television over the years

After a frantic backstage search for a proper host ("We need an Emmy winner, somebody who can talk about the power of television!"), Anderson finally introduced Bryan Cranston to formally welcome the audience.

The Breaking Bad star struck a more serious tone in his speech, reflecting on television's impact. "Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and, through the power of television, 600 million people walked with him. Not a bad rating," he said.

"I was 13 years old, and sitting in front of the television on that day opened up a universe of possibilities. I could be anyone, I could go anywhere. Fifty years later television still transports us to faraway places."

It was a fun and fitting way to kick off television's biggest night of the year.

2. There were a lot of statement speeches

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image captionAlex Borstein paid tribute to her grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor

While most winners thank their families and co-stars, many also take the opportunity to speak about issues they feel strongly about.

Alex Borstein, who won best supporting comedy actress for The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, used her platform to pay tribute to her grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor.

"My grandmother was in line to be shot into a pit... she turned to a guard and she said 'What happens if I step out of line?' and he said 'I don't have the heart to shoot you but somebody will'.

"And she stepped out of line, and for that I am here and for that my children are here, so step out of line ladies, step out of line."

image copyrightReuters
image captionPeter Dinklage was recognised for his role in HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones

Elsewhere, Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage took home the award for supporting actor in a drama series.

The actor, who was born with a form of dwarfism, said: "I count myself so fortunate to be a member of a community that is all about tolerance and diversity."

RuPaul, meanwhile, encouraged viewers to register to vote in the 2020 presidential election as he accepted the prize for outstanding reality competition series for Drag Race.

"Thanks to the Academy for voting for us," he said. "And speaking of voting, go and register to vote!"

3. The Emmys didn't shy away from mocking its own history

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In a glorious segment as the show returned from a commercial break, the cast of Family Guy were seen discussing Emmy winners of the past.

"Well kids, in my day the Emmys was always the night of the biggest stars and the best winners," Peter Griffin was seen telling his family.

"It seemed like every year it was Bill Cosby, Roseanne, Roseanne, Bill Cosby, Bill Cosby, Roseanne and Bill Cosby," he said.

It was, of course, a knowing reference to the recent controversies surrounding Roseanne Barr, who was fired from her own show for making racist comments online, and Bill Cosby, who is currently serving a prison sentence for sexual assault.

"The Emmys has always been great at rewarding great people for great work," concluded Griffin, in line with Family Guy's dark and sarcastic brand of humour.

"Who will be this year's Bill Cosby and Roseanne? Let's keep watching to find out!"

The inclusion of both Family Guy and The Simpsons at the Emmys was down to the ceremony being on Fox this year, which broadcasts both shows.

4. The world heard from Queen Olivia

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In the US, huge TV events like the Super Bowl are as famous for their ad breaks as anything else.

Major studios pay huge amounts of money for a slot in the prestigious commercial breaks, and often use them as a chance to premiere the first trailer for a major new release.

The Emmy breaks admittedly may not be quite on the same level as the Super Bowl, but Netflix was among the companies using them to give fans a glimpse into forthcoming shows - in this case the next series of The Crown.

Olivia Colman is set to take over from Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, but so far all we've seen is a 20-second teaser trailer which revealed precisely nothing about anything.

That all changed with the newest trailer, which received its TV premiere at the Emmys, where we were treated to some actual dialogue from Colman as the Queen, giving us an idea of how she's approaching the role (and the accent).

The new series, which launches in November, is likely to be one of the major nominees at next year's Emmys.

5. Patricia Arquette's emotional speech was a call to action

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The actress took home the prize for best supporting actress in a limited series for her performance in The Act.

"I just have to say, I'm grateful to be working, I'm grateful at 50 to be getting the best parts of my life," said Arquette as she took to the stage.

But the speech then took an emotional turn as she paid tribute to her late sister Alexis, one of the first transgender activists in Hollywood, who died in 2016 after cardiac arrest related to HIV.

"In my heart, I'm so sad I lost my sister Alexis," Arquette said. "Trans people are still being persecuted and I'm in mourning every day of my life Alexis, and I will be for you for the rest of my life, until we change the world so that trans people are not persecuted.

"And give them jobs, they're human beings, let's give them jobs, and get rid of this bias that we have everywhere."

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Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox, a fellow trans actor, rose to her feet and waved her purse, emblazoned with the LGBT flag, as Arquette left the stage.

6. Michelle Williams' speech deserved an Emmy of its own

Equal pay has been one of the most discussed issues of recent years in the entertainment and media industries.

One person who is no stranger to the disparity is Michelle Williams, who has starred in Manchester by the Sea and Brokeback Mountain.

Last year, it was revealed Wahlberg was paid significantly more than her for reshoots of their film All the Money in the World.

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Wahlberg later made a $1.5m (£1.2m) donation in Williams' name to the #TimesUp fund, which helps sexual abuse and harassment victims with legal costs.

At the Emmys, Williams won best leading actress in a limited series or movie for her performance in Fosse/Verdon.

"I see this as an acknowledgment of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs, feels safe enough to voice them, and respected enough that they'll be heard," Williams said in her acceptance speech.

"When I asked for more dance classes, I heard yes. More voice lessons, yes. All these things, they required effort, and they cost more money, but my bosses never presumed to know better than I did.

"Because," she continued, "they understood when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value.

"The next time a woman, and especially a woman of colour - because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white, male counterpart - tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her.

"Believe her, because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing [her] to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it."

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