Eight-five Emmy Awards were handed out over the weekend. Don't worry, you didn't miss the big show. It was just the Creative Arts Emmys, which were held over two days for the first time, so as not to test our collective attention spans and patience. Most of them represent technical categories that you probably don't care that much about (no offense, hard-working below-the-people). Others are guest acting categories that you probably do care about (yay Amy Poehler!). But what do they all mean for Sunday's main show?
Here are six things we learned from the gold rush this weekend.
1. Game of Thrones is poised to rewrite the history books
This weekend only confirmed what we knew: Game of Thrones is going to dominate. Last year, it broke The West Wing's record for most wins in a single year, with 12 (eight at the Creative Arts and four at the main ceremony). This year, Thrones already picked up nine statuettes at the Creative Arts. If it wins four more next Sunday, it would tie John Adams for most wins by a program in a single year at 13, and, obviously, if it wins five more, it'll grab the solo record.
That's not the only record it has in sight. Going into this year, Thrones was tied with Hill Street Blues and The West Wing as the most honored drama series, with 26 victories. Its nine wins on Saturday bring that tally to 35 — two shy of Frasier's record as the most honored prime-time series. The drama series front-runner has nine nominations across five categories at the main show, so you can prep those "record-breaking" headlines now.
Why Game of Thrones will dominate the Emmys until it ends
2. Don't worry about Veep
Veep is the opposite of Game of Thrones. It only won one award (casting) out of six nominations on Saturday. That doesn't sound good on paper, but that's exactly the same number it won last year — in the same category, too — before it went on to claim four awards at the main show, including its first comedy series win. Interestingly, Veep won zero Creative Arts Emmys in its first three seasons, and subsequently didn't win the top prize. So it's staying the course right now.
3. Name-checking is very, very real
Look, I love Margo Martindale. You love Margo Martindale. And we know the Emmys love Margo Martindale. But that doesn't mean she needs two straight Emmys — she's the first back-to-back winner in the drama guest actress category — for what literally amounts to barely four minutes of screen time total on The Americans. She was in her episode this year for 90 seconds. I'm not saying you can't make maximum impact with minimal screen time — Beatrice Straight won an Oscar for her five-minute tour de force in Network — but I would hardly characterize Martindale's perfectly serviceable performances from the past two years as the best of the best. It was just yet another name-check win, based on popularity, friendship, recognition, what have you, that is just exacerbated by not only the larger voting pool now, but the new plurality vote. Which means you can probably expect more of the same on Sunday.
4. Victorious veterans
Besides longtime character actress/everyone's favorite grandma Martindale triumphing, this weekend also saw a handful of TV vets picking up hardware. Amy Poehler finally won her first Emmy on her 17th nomination, sharing comedy guest actress honors for co-hosting Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey. Hank Azaria (Ray Donovan) and Peter Scolari (Girls) pulled off two nice upsets in the male guest races, with Azaria winning his sixth career Emmy. Scolari was a replacement nominee after original nominee Peter MacNicol (Veep) was disqualified for appearing in too many episodes. Was it a pity vote? Maybe. But Scolari has been an industry stalwart since the '80s and also never won for Newhart. This could bode well for other vets and/or bridesmaids on Sunday, like Judith Light (Transparent) or Hugh Laurie (The Night Manager), both of whom have never won.
Emmys 101: How voting works
5. The power of the plurality vote
This sort of ties in with the previous two items. Until this year, winners were determined by a ranked ballot. This year, the TV Academy changed it to a plurality vote, which means voters only have to select their top choice. A ranked ballot builds consensus, but as I previously detailed, a plurality vote means that you only need 14-plus percent of the vote to win in a seven-nominee race.
The plurality, however, helps more polarizing contenders who might otherwise be listed low on a ranked ballot and therefore be taken out of the running. RuPaul Charles' surprising, deserving upset for reality host for RuPaul's Drag Race may not have happened under the old system, but he had enough passionate votes to secure him the win on a straight tally in a race with no overwhelming favorite. The same might happen for Louie Anderson (Baskets) if his same pocket of supporters who landed him the nomination vote for him for the win.
Emmys: Which longtime loser will finally win?
6. Can James Corden take down John Oliver?
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the heir apparent to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report — one or the other has won variety talk series the past 13 years — is still the favorite to win the category, but Oliver might want to keep an eye out for The Late Late Show with James Corden. Last Week won variety series writing and picture editing over the weekend, while Corden won variety special for his Carpool Karaoke special and interactive program. Oliver is the cool, cerebral pick, but Corden is the hot, popular one.
The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air Sunday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on ABC.