The 2021 Emmys were always going to be an exercise in lawlessness. Between an eligibility window marred by disappearances linked to COVID Atlanta, Estate, Euphoria, Ozark and You better call Saul of shows that take the year – and the conclusion of other favorites, there won’t be a single actor or series winner to repeat in drama, comedy, or limited areas.
On the comedy side, this void was largely caused by the end of Schitt Creek, which celebrated an unprecedented sweep last fall. But this is only the beginning. For various reasons, the only nominee for the 2020 comedy series to even air during this Emmy period was The Kominsky method. No enthusiasm was dampened, nothing was done in the shadows, and Ms. Maisel did not have the opportunity to be wonderful.
This presents an opportunity – an opportunity for disaster. Emmy voters have the very real chance of breathing an already dying category into intriguing and edgy new life or reducing an entire Emmy field to obsolescence.
Maybe, if we’re being completely honest, this latter kind of slash-and-burn approach is needed anyway. It seems almost inevitable that the cast of Saturday Night Live could attract as many as half a dozen players in an area of support they clearly shouldn’t be eligible for, and maybe what it takes to create some sort of new category of ‘best performance in a variety’. or a series of sketches’ would close on dozens of supporting actors of worthy shows.
You also have to consider the proliferation of limited series and what it means that two of the best half-hour shows in the eligibility arena – I can destroy you and WandaVision – are “limited series” and not “comedies”, although they are not intrinsically closed stories. Granted, no show would clearly be a comedy anyway. Again, neither one nor the other The stewardess, but the HBO Max series has such a funny start and star Kaley Cuoco is so versatile that we’re willing to ignore it’s a dark alcoholic murder mystery at the end.
For months, the Emmy race for the comedy series seemed to come down to Ted lasso and… well, that’s it. Ted lasso. Heartwarming Apple TV + Series and Uplifting Memes Generator were treated as such a conclusion that it’s almost like no one else needs to show up. I am not completely opposed, but I hope that Lasso love extends to the far reaches of this formidable ensemble – not just Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham, but Juno Temple, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Nick Mohammed.
Recent arrivals like HBO Max’s Hacks and Netflix Master of None – talking about a show that was completely poorly rated for a completely dramatic third season – might help provide options, but Emmy voters may have to dig deeper to find even a minimum of relevance.
What shows would this reviewer suggest voters check out to avoid resorting to something like Young Rock just because it would be nice to see Regular-Age Rock on the red carpet? I would start with Hulu PEN15, which started off as a show with a gadget – 30-year-old stars masquerading as teenagers, but not in a scary style Dear Evan Hansen way – but has become one of adolescence’s most perceptive, painful, and fun explorations to grace the screen. NBC Hypermarket hasn’t had its best year, but who among us? The smart working-class sitcom has handled COVID-19 well, and this is the last chance to admit it. Apple TV + Dickinson got wilder and more cohesive in its second season, Peacock’s Girls5eva real and frequent laughter. And yes, Hacks is pretty good, gets better with every episode, and should be praised for more than just Jean Smart.
By all means, however, salute Jean Smart. It turns out that if one category has the potential to spill over, it’s an actress – where, again, I would say any area should start. PEN15 stars Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, both so vulnerable and so utterly ridiculous. Emmy voters missed Jane Levy last year, but the Zoey’s Extraordinary Reading List The star remains impeccably cheerful and fragile on her NBC bubble show, which could really use the boost – so don’t forget co-stars Alex Newell and John Clarence Stewart. Speaking of forgetting, Emmy voters tend to name Cristin Milioti’s male co-stars but not her, but it should be obvious how integral she is to HBO Max’s deadpan absurdity. Designed for love.
All without coming up with an ever better Alia Shawkat in HBO Max’s Research group, Girls5eva standout Renée Elise Goldsberry, super nice debutante Jana Schmieding from Rutherford Falls or Charlotte Nicdao, the heart and soul of Mythic Quest on Apple TV +.
There are so many great comedic actresses that my next proposition is to just give Ted lasso The Sudeik star is her Emmy now and is expanding the number of actress nominees to 15. Sudeikis can’t be beat. This field of actors is so small that it may be time to start asking: Can Men Really Be Funny? But it’s a different column.
This story first appeared in the May 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.