“Awards ceremonies don’t matter,” fans like to tell themselves when their favorite movies/TV shows/records/performers go unrecognized. “The best art doesn’t need a piece of hardware for us to know how good it is.” This mantra — applied to everything from the Grammys’ attempts to recognize hip-hop to nearly the entire history of the Best Picture Oscar — appears especially easy to justify when it comes to TV and its big awards-show broadcast. After all, The Wire didn’t win a single statuette over the course of its run (and was only nominated for two), and is now widely recognized as one of the best small-screen dramas of all time. Several of the most highly-acclaimed series currently on the air are repeatedly snubbed, from extraordinary hour-long dramas (see Hannibal and The Americans) to groundbreaking half-hour comedies (you deserve all the gold, Broad City). Still, on Sunday, the Primetime Emmy Awards will air, and who wins may help shed light on the rapidly-changing state of television.
In 2016, Game of Thrones became the most-awarded series in Emmy Awards history, with a total of 38 wins. To date, Game of Thrones has won 308 awards out of 628 nominations.
Tonight, it is nominated for 32 for its final season (the most for any on season of a TV show ever). It already won 10 Emmys during the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend. And if Game of Thrones wins three Emmys on September 22nd, it will break the record for most trophies won by a single season. But who currently holds that record? Game of Thrones, which won 12 awards in 2015.
Let’s be clear: These ceremonies don’t necessarily tell viewers anything about something like “objective quality,” but they do say something about the way quality is perceived by a specific group of people with power: voters. Members of the Television Academy repeatedly reward Modern Family, spent years recognizing The Big Bang Theory, and nominated several seasons of CSI for Best Drama; you could argue that these victories make the people voting for them out of touch. Yet it also says something about how they see the business of television — which is important when these are people with sway in the industry.
And more importantly, the Emmys provide a very specific lens through which to see the history of the medium, from the long-running shows that are acknowledge as “good” but don’t win awards (Curb Your Enthusiasm) to the ones that consistently bring home trophies (Frasier). Here are a few specific stats from Emmys history, from the most awards won by a single show to the type of role that’s garnered actors the most take-home hardware. These are the numbers that will help you win your local TV trivia night — and occasionally shed light on the Academy, the awards event and even television as a whole.