(Blanket statement before any analysis or commentary: eligibility for this year’s Emmys is from June 2020 to May 31, 2021 – loosely speaking, as long as *something* has aired during that period, the series can be nominated, but given that we were all locked inside before and after those dates, time is meaningless and this is mostly just ‘good sh-t that happened recently’.)
This is a lot closer, Emmys. A lot closer. Not just in terms of representation, or in streaming services versus old-school network TV, but in terms of what we’re actually watching and talking about, and what feels meaningful and new, as opposed to the same old same old.
That is, there are still a bunch of nominations for The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Kominsky Method, because those are still good shows with great actors, even if not ‘buzzy’, but there are a lot more nominations that are surprising, given how cynical we’ve all become about ‘academies’ and what they’re for – and especially surprising is that they don’t feel like incidental throwaway nods, but actual acknowledgements of what people are loving. So…
The nominations for Ted Lasso are not a surprise. People love this show, and while I have personally been excoriated for not getting it, 20 nominations in its first season obviously means something.
Not that the number of nods is what counts – what counts is that we’re now in a place where shows that might have been overlooked or seen as too ‘small’ are getting their due. Hacks got 15 nominations, but that show is about the acting (and writing) which is why Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder, and Carl Clemons-Hopkins as Marcus all get to shine. The Flight Attendant could have been dismissed on many levels (not least that it’s an hourlong ‘comedy’) but it gets to shine; Kaley Cuoco, who I will openly admit surprised me, gets to shine; and ROSIE PEREZ gets an Emmy nod for a role that you really shouldn’t miss – there’s still time!
Other excitement? Saturday Night Live nods are always great and I can’t argue with any of them. It’s notable, though, that four out of five Guest Actor in a Comedy noms are for SNL appearances – hosting by Dan Levy, Daniel Kaluuya, and Dave Chappelle, and Alec Baldwin as … you know.
More exciting though? A BLACK LADY SKETCH SHOW. Five nominations, including two for guest actresses Issa Rae (who’s also an EP) and Yvette Nicole Brown, plus Outstanding Variety Sketch and Writing in same. I promise that catching up on this series will be the most joyful part of your summer.
And… AND! Something else you might need to catch up on – PEN15. People! A show whose title is a tween-joke play on ‘penis’ is nominated for Outstanding Comedy and Outstanding Comedy Writing. I am fully biased, as Season 2 Executive Producer Vera Santamaria is one of my oldest, closest friends and I’m so boastingly proud I have already screamed…but …I’m not an Emmy voter! They aren’t biased, go watch!
Bias aside, though, the most exciting part about the comedy nominations is how many series are actually, truly looking through the lens of funny women, in scenarios that have nothing to do with men, or their relative sex appeal to men. Aidy Bryant is nominated both for Shrill and SNL, Jean Smart is going to get all the attention for Hacks but also got a nod for Mare of Easttown (it’s not a comedy, but she very much was) and did I mention A BLACK LADY SKETCH SHOW and PEN15?
It’s a big, long-awaited shift. And I assume that the Emmys will acknowledge this by having multiple nominee and admitted straight white male comedian Bo Burnham write a song about it. Lol.
Drama and/or Limited Series Surprises
Sorry, but these two categories really do have to be combined, because some are only limited until they’re not, and some – looking at you, Lovecraft Country – have an epic 18 nominations for a show that was unceremoniously cancelled, but as a single season (i.e. ‘limited’) that’s a big exciting win…
18 nods for The Queen’s Gambit is not a surprise, and obviously neither is the deserved nod for Anya Taylor-Joy. What is a surprise, though, is the fantastic nod for Moses Ingram, who plays Beth Harmon’s friend Jolene and charisma-bounced off the screen in every scene.
Similarly, I May Destroy You is not a surprise (except inasmuch as fans were thoroughly burned – if not surprised – by the snub from the Golden Globes). What is, though, is that they clearly see the whole show: it’s not just Michaela Coel, it’s not just the directing or Outstanding Series nod, there’s also the nod for Paapa Essiedu as Kwame; voters actually *watched* the series.
(A note about ‘Outstanding Writing In A Limited/Anthology’ – the nominees are IMDY, Mare of Easttown, The Queen’s Gambit, and three individual nominations for WandaVision episodes... ??? I have no issue with any of these nominees and would/will cheer for any win, but how is it that the first three seem to be nominated as a whole, but WandaVision has three separate nods?
More? You want more surprises? Okay. Jurnee Smollett is fantastic in Lovecraft and I’m thrilled she’s getting acknowledged, and MJ Rodriguez MAKES HISTORY as the first trans performer nominated for a lead role in Pose. WandaVision was uniformly excellent and the alchemy of everyone involved has overcome the academy’s one-time bias to superheroes, magic, or otherworldy stories with a massive 23 nominations, topped only by The Crown and The Mandalorian – so that’s a whole new world.
And then there are other surprises… like, um… Bridgerton. Look, I loved it! I had a ball and I can’t wait for more and I know there’s a lot of rich story yet to be uncovered.. but… is it Outstanding? Alongside everything else this year? Discuss.
We Need To Talk About Hamilton
I am not even going to mount a defense of myself and my love for this production. Probably 80% of the mentions of Hamilton on this site include my name. But. But… I don’t totally know if it’s cool that (hybrid) performances from 2016 garner a combined seven nominations in 2021. Is it? I mean, maybe it is, lots of people hadn’t seen it before Disney+, and besides, the Friends REUNION also got nominated, so no rules apply, more than ever.
Miscellaneous Delights and Disappointments
In no particular order, and since I am rightly criticized (mostly by myself) for only focusing on scripted shows…
Stanley Tucci gets four nominations, one for Central Park and three for Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. I was thrilled at a nod for Pretend It’s A City. Lainey is annoyed by only one high-profile nod for The Underground Railroad (for Outstanding Limited Series), though it got six more for craft categories and nothing for Steve McQueen’s Small Axe. There were also four craft categories for Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry. A nomination for Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square might mean Dolly Parton will attend the Emmys!? Euphoria was nominated only in three craft categories – Cinematography, Costumes, and Makeup. And… do with this what you will:
Selling Sunset is nominated for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program. And I assume that next year, the episode about the Selling Sunset cast attending the Emmys will also be nominated.
I’m legitimately excited for the first time in awhile. When all your favourites are nominated, everything is a win. That said? Back off, Ted Lasso. Leave some for everyone else.