Wow. The Emmys Did A Decent Job

My (Generally) Positive Reaction to the 2021 Emmy Nominations, Part 1: Drama

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For those of you who are familiar with the columns I write this time of year, you are no doubt familiar with my general tone. I express how, as always, my grand hopes for the Emmy nominations were dashed, that they tend to once again go with the familiar rather than quality and how they seem slouching towards obsolescence.

Except… that really didn’t happen this year.

Perhaps it was inevitable in a year when so many of the major winners from previous years were ineligible, either because they came to an end or were forced to delay filming because of the pandemic. But even allowing for that, I really expecting the Emmys to do what they always do, double down on previous mistakes. And to be sure, there was a certain amount of that, particularly with series like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Mandalorian.

But there was far less of it than their usually is. The lion’s share of the new nominees were actually fairly intriguing ones. And though quite a few of the series were familiar faces, quite a few of them — such as This is Us and Pose — were unjustly overlooked last year. And there was a lot of room for growth in the comedy categories with some of the greatest joys of the last year justifiably getting a lot of nominations.

And it was a remarkable showing for minorities across the board, absolutely shattering records in almost every category. I mean, it was probably inevitable this would happen when series like Lovecraft Country and Pose dominate the nominations but this is a truly impressive feat by the Emmys. I frankly am in awe oft this year.

Don’t get me wrong. There were the usual number of mistakes and imbalances. Pen15 and Cobra Kai joined the Best Comedy list with no corresponding acting nominations. And it’s still clear that the balances with so many of the acting categories are way out of sync — five Best Acting in a Comedy nominees, but eight in Best Supporting Actor for a Comedy? And I still have my share of issues with the Best Limited Series categories and how Hamilton has basically crashed the party. But given the nominated series and actors, I’m a lot happier than I have been for a very long time.

So let’s begin at the beginning with Dramas

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

I badly wanted Lovecraft Country, Pose, This is Us and especially The Crown to be here and they’re well among the most dominant series. I’m not exactly thrilled to see The Mandalorian, The Handmaid’s Tale and Bridgerton here, but given the prior lists of nominations leading up to the Emmys, it would’ve been far more surprising if they weren’t here. The Boys actually seems to be the odd series out the group — against from Best Writing there were no other nominations. This may actually be the first time I thought HBO is underrepresented — couldn’t they have found room for Perry Mason or In Treatment? Well, at least they basically shut out Ratched. I guess I have to start watch Bridgerton now. (Sigh).

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA

Wow. Four African-American nominees. I honestly didn’t think I’d see the day. And five of the six nominees are more than qualified. That’s even rarer. Josh O’Connor, Sterling K. Brown, Billy Porter, Matthew Rhys and Jonathan Majors were all incredible. I must admit that I’m still not under the aura of Rege-Jean Page, but I’m at least comforted that he is Bridgerton’s only acting nominees. Would I have liked to see Aldis Hodge and/or Kevin Bacon here? Obviously. But it could’ve been worse. There’s no Pedro Pascal which would’ve galled me.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA

Again five out of six, pretty good for the Emmys. No one would argue with either Emma Corrin or Olivia Colman for The Crown. And I’m overjoyed that Uzo Adba, Jurnee Smollett and especially MJ Rodriguez are here. I’m not really shocked that Elisabeth Moss is present; I think she has become this category’s Meryl Streep this last ten years. I’m not lying; I would’ve liked to see Mandy Moore around, but not bad.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA

This is actually the first really mixed bag. I’m overjoyed to see Michael Kenneth Williams, John Lithgow, Chris Sullivan and Tobias Menzies. It starts getting tricky after that.

I’m always glad to see Giancarlo Esposito getting nominated for anything; I’m just kind of miffed that it’s for The Mandalorian (still, it is the series only major acting nominations). But it’s the over sharing for The Handmaid’s Tale. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bradley Whitford and Joseph Fiennes but this is becoming overkill. Couldn’t they have nominated either of male leads from In Treatment (though be fair, Anthony Ramos is not without love from the Emmys this year)? Or John Carroll Lynch from Big Sky? I really don’t like the idea of The Handmaid’s Tale becoming the new Game of Thrones — a concern that becomes more valid in the next category.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA

See what I mean? To be fair, two series control this category, and while everyone expected Gillian Anderson and Helena Bonham Carter to be here for The Crown, maybe Emerald Fennell getting nominated for playing Camilla Parker-Bowles was a little overreaching? (Maybe people felt guilty that she didn’t get anything from the Oscars earlier this year?)

And here we are with four actresses from The Handmaid’s Tale. Again, I love Ann Dowd and Yvonne Strahovski, but this is bordering on lunacy. There are a lot of great actresses out there. Not all have them are in just one or two series. Couldn’t we have nominated some of them from This is Us or Big Sky? Couldn’t we have nominated Tatiana Maslany for Perry Mason? Or Dominique Jackson for Pose?

Annajue Ellis over Wunmi Mosaku in Lovecraft County seems arbitrary unless you consider the incredible work of art that was in ‘I Am’, arguably the most spellbinding episode of the series. Hard to argue if that episode was submitted.

It’s going to be a real tight race for Best Drama with three series each with more than twenty nominations (something I haven’t seen in a long time.)

Final thoughts on Guest Actors and Actresses: Overjoyed with Courtney B. Vance getting acknowledged for Lovecraft Country and Charles Dance for playing Lord Mountbatten in The Crown. I’m glad to see Timothy Olyphant nominated for anything; even The Mandalorian. I’m glad to see Don Cheadle get nominated for a decent series. Carl Weathers, well, he deserves a nomination for something.

Guest Actress: No problem with Phylicia Rashad for This is Us and Claire Foy being back for The Crown. Glad to see Alexis Bledel get nominated for anything; even The Handmaid’s Tale. At least there’s only one nominee for Ratched.

I’ll be back dealing with Comedy tomorrow which wasn’t bad either honestly.