The grand experiment of the 2019 hostless Emmys was an at-times confounding show of pageantry and schtick. It began with Homer Simpson’s apparent onstage death, was punctuated throughout with Thomas Lennon’s head-scratching commentary and, yes, featured a number of huge wins for Jews and other minorities who used their platform to push for equality and civil rights.
The Supporting Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series categories saw two wins for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Tony Shalhoub collected his fourth Emmy for playing the tightly-wound mathematician Abe Maisel. While Shalhoub is a Christian, Lebanese American, he has proved he understands the Jews and, accordingly, performed a bit of Borscht Belt, thanking show creators, writers, producers and directors Amy Sherman-Paladino and Dan Paladino no less than five times.
In other “Maisel” news, Alex Borstein won for her role as street-smart comedy manager Susie, and gave a memorable speech about being the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who escaped death by “Stepping out of line,” urging other women to do the same.
While Eugene Levy and Michael Douglas did not land wins for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, landsman Ike Barinholtz nonetheless graced them with new nicknames: Shekky von Bullwinkle III and Mickey Two-Times, respectively.
Double nominee Patricia Arquette won Supporting Actress in a Limited Series for playing Dee Dee Blanchard, a mother who forces her daughter to fake a terminal illness, in “The Act.” Arquette, who regularly uses her time at the podium to push for social causes, spoke up for trans rights in memory of her sister Alexis, who was trans and died in 2016 of cardiac arrest stemming from HIV.
Screenwriter Craig Mazin, beloved for his writing credits, his popular podcast “Scriptnotes” and his regular Twitter references to a Freshman Roommate from Hell named Ted Cruz, won the award for Writing on a Limited Series or Movie for his work on HBO’s “Chernobyl.” He ended his speech with a bit of Ukrainian, and was able to offer a translation when he returned to the stage to accept the show’s Emmy for Limited Series. Mazin expressed his hope that the show communicated “the value of the truth and the danger of the lie.”
“Saturday Night Live” won two awards, for Variety Sketch Show and Directing for a Variety Series for Don Roy King, for the long-awaited return of “The Sandman.” The Season 44 episode hosted by Adam Sandler was selected in part, Lorne Michaels said, for Sandler’s musical tribute to the late Chris Farley.
Julia Garner took home Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for playing Ruth Langmore, the young daughter of a crime family in Netflix’s “Ozark.” In real life, Garner is a member of a Riverdale-based family, the child of an Israeli-born therapist and former comedian and actress Tami Gingold. The show also snagged an award for Jason Bateman’s direction of the episode “Reparations.” Bateman is not Jewish, but gifted us the most memorable take on a Seder plate to date.
The evening ended with a bit of an expected upset. “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won for Drama Series for the show’s controversial final season, in what many view as a cumulative award. The series lost in all other major categories, perhaps signaling that, while a great achievement, the final stretch of the epic saga sagged a bit in execution.
Other big winners included Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag,” which earned statuettes for Comedy Series, Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Directing for a Comedy Series and Writing for a Comedy Series. All but the directing award went to Waller-Bridge, and the acting award deprived “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the chance to be the performer with the most Emmy wins of all time (she’s currently tied with Cloris Leachman).
Actor Billy Porter also scored a historic victory, becoming the first openly-gay black man to win for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In his speech, he called for inclusivity. While Porter is not Jewish, he did thank his mom.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.