Last Emmys hurrah for ratings giants| AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 23 Sep 2019
Television stars from Westeros to the White House will hit the red carpet in Los Angeles today as Game of Thrones and Veep take their final tilts at Emmys glory.
The long-running smash hits helped HBO raise the game for TV - with 74 Emmys between them, they are among the most decorated shows ever at the small screen's answer to the Oscars.
While the divisive final season of Thrones enraged many fans, it is the Television Academy's 24,000-plus voters who get to choose the winners.
There is an "overwhelming" chance the blood-soaked fantasy epic will land the top drama series statuette, according to Pete Hammond, awards editor at entertainment news outlet Deadline.
"There was controversy over how it ended but that just shows the impact of this piece of television," he said.
"I don't see anything in the category that can compare it's appointment television."
Thrones already bagged 10 Emmys in lesser categories at the previous weekend's Creative Arts Emmys, including for the show's special effects and elaborate costumes.
It needs three more statuettes to top its own record for most Emmys in a single season.
Nine of its stars - including Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Kit Harington (Jon Snow) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) - are in the running for acting prizes.
They will all take to the stage as presenters too - US broadcaster Fox hopes to squeeze a final ratings boost out of the global cultural phenomenon in a year which sees the Emmys go without a host.
Also on the star-studded list of presenters are Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Douglas and Julia Louis-Dreyfus - who has won six straight Emmys as foul-mouthed vice president-turned-president Selina Meyer in political satire Veep.
The show won best comedy from 2015 to 2017, but took a hiatus last year as its star battled breast cancer. But Veep is back this year in both categories with a critically acclaimed final season.
If it can overcome stiff competition including from The Marvelous Mrs Maisel - Amazon's story of a 1950s housewife-turned-stand up comic - HBO could achieve a rare clean sweep of all three major program categories. Chernobyl - HBO's drama about the 1986 nuclear catastrophe - is a hot favorite for the limited series prize.
It faces off against Netflix's When They See Us, the searing true story of five New York teenagers wrongly accused of raping a Central Park jogger.
If Chernobyl prevails, said Hammond, it will be "a dagger in the heart of Netflix," which despite hundreds of nominations has yet to win any of the top three program awards at the Emmys. "The dominance of HBO this year - they really could be setting a precedent," he said.
Another long-running popular show taking its final Emmys bow is The Big Bang Theory, the throwback CBS sitcom about a group of geeky, young California scientists.
It only competes in one category, for directing, but its creators are unlikely to mind after all 12 seasons were purchased by HBO Max streaming service last week for a reported US$500 million (HK$3.9 billion).
In the comedy categories, Fleabag has its first - and apparently last - stab at springing an Emmys surprise. The British dark comedy acquired by Amazon was totally shunned by voters last year, failing to bag a single nomination, but its second season has grown into a phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic.
Creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has ruled out a third season, saying the irreverent BBC series about a self-absorbed young Londoner has come "to a natural end."
In the variety competition, HBO's political satire Last Week Tonight is again front-runner, while NBC's all-time leading Emmys winner Saturday Night Live remains formidable.