The Television Academy giveth and the Television Academy taketh away. Even in a year with insanely wide-open races in the comedy and drama categories, the Television Academy raised eyebrows once again with the 2021 Emmy Awards. Granted, it could have been much, much worse. And sure, it doesn’t look great that almost the entire cast of “SNL” got nominated one way or another (we’re not really exaggerating), but there was some genuine joy among the rubble of nominations this morning.
Surprise: “The Boys”
Do you believe? In perhaps the most shocking nomination of the day, Amazon Prime Video’s critically adored series earned a Best Dramatic Series nomination. This despite the fact the mainstream media continues to ignore a program that third-party tracking services noted was one of the most-watched series of all of 2020. Throw in a writing nomination for Rebecca Sonnenshine and it was a banner day for everyone in the Vought International tower.
Snub: Ethan Hawke
The Lead Actor in a Limited Series category was always going to be tough. Not tough enough for Hawke to be snubbed, though. “The Good Lord Bird” earned a SAG and Golden Globe nomination for his performance, but its early Fall debut might have been its downfall.
Snub: “Small Axe”
Amazon Prime Video gave its all to campaign “Small” and despite numerous industry honors and a Peabody win, no less, the Television Academy was not impressed. The Steve McQueen anthology series earned just one nomination for Shabier Kirchner‘s Cinematography. Perhaps this is a lesson to McQueen to not insult the television art form by insisting his “films” weren’t a limited series? (Narrator: They were.) Just a thought.
Snub: The cast of “Underground Railroad”
Barry Jenkins’ masterpiece made the cut for the Limited Series category and earned six other nominations including Direction and Score. The snubs for Thuso Mbedu, Joel Egerton, and William Jackson Harper? A bit harder to comprehend.
Surprise: M.J. Rodriguez, “Pose”
Herstory! Many were skeptical, but Rodriguez broke new ground as the first transgender actress nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. Yep, Laverne Cox broke through the ceiling in the Guest Actress category, but Rodriguez proved that true talent wins out when it matters (sometimes).
Snub: “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”
Listen, we’re happy “Conan” got one more surprise nod to celebrate its final season, but at the cost of “Full Frontal”? The only female-led show to earn a nomination in the Variety Talk Series category? A series arguably better than “Conan” or “Jimmy Kimmel”?
Snub: “The Masked Singer”
The big question with the Competition Series category was whether “The Amazing Race” would return to the fold and earn yet another nomination (it’s 18th!) and which of last year’s nominees would get the chop. That answer was “The Masked Singer,” the ratings phenomenon that cracked the field for the first time in 2020. To make matters worse, the category it won last year, Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program, was discontinued this year. Ouch.
Surprise: “Cobra Kai”
We didn’t think it was possible but boy were we wrong. The former YouTube series took four nominations including one for Outstanding Comedy Series. Sure, it was a historically weak year, but landing the Comedy Series recognition was no laughing matter. A big win for Netflix.
Surprise: “Emily in Paris”
Speaking of Netflix, the network had another strong year with 129 nominations. Even so, like “Cobra Kai” there was no guarantee that “Emily in Paris,” hardly a critics favorite, would make the Comedy Series cut. Netflix pulled it off, but the fact its only other nomination was in Production Design is probably a bad sign for 2022.
We knew the Disney Plus special, theatrical recording, whatever you want to call it, would get some Emmy love. What we didn’t expect was that it would dominate the Limited Series or Anthology Series acting nominations to other projects detriment. “Hamilton” earned seven acting nominations (!). Seven acting nods for a recording of a play that many of these actors also won or earned Tony Awards for. Simply the most embarrassing outcome of the day.
Surprise: Claire Foy and Don Cheadle
Oh, Television Academy. Sometimes you can’t help yourselves, can you? The Guest Actor and Guest Actress categories are your catnip. This year, Claire Foy was nominated for reprising her role as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Crown.” A role that lasted about 3 minutes, or less. Don Cheadle also was nominated for a part in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” that went by so fast you probably forgot he even appeared in the show. Throw in the domination of “SNL” hosts in the Comedy Guest Actor and Actress fields and, well, it might be time to retire them for good.
Snub: Zosia Mamet
“The Flight Attendant” was appropriately recognized across the board, but somehow, a Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series nomination for Mamet didn’t come to pass. Sure, Rosie Perez deserved her nomination. We won’t quibble with that. But snubbing Mamet? She stole every scene she was in. You could argue outside of star Kaley Cuoco she was the best performance in the series. Sigh.
Snub: “P Valley”
Listen, it’s not easy being on Starz. The network gives great freedom to its shows, but they have never really gotten the Television Academy’s attention. And CBS All Access, er, Paramount+, OWN, etc. know that pain. Despite critical acclaim, recent Pulitzer Prize winner Katori Hall’s compelling drama couldn’t come through. We’re still holding out home for season two. This is a show you can’t give up on.
The Primetime Emmy Awards will be telecast on CBS on Sunday, Sept. 19.