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Emmys 2021: Biggest Snubs and Surprises

From no love for ‘The Good Lord Bird’ star to virtually ignoring the groundbreaking ‘Small Axe’ — the most puzzling WTF absences from today’s Emmy nominations

William Gray/SHOWTIME; Atsushi Nishijima/Amazon Studios; Amazon STudios

With fewer entries than ever before thanks to the pandemic, the nominations for the 73rd annual Emmy Awards had less room for error than in years. And yet somehow, voters found a way. While the majority of the categories seemed to have a consensus that was largely confirmed this morning—Ted Lasso! The Flight Attendant! The Crown!— that doesn’t get Emmy voters completely off the hook for some of today’s blunders. Here are the biggest surprises and straight-up snubs from this morning’s nomination announcements.

GIRLS5EVA -- "Cease and Desist" Episode 106 -- Pictured: (l-r) Paula Pell as Gloria, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Wickie Roy -- (Photo by:Heidi Gutman/Peacock)

Heidi Gutman/Peacock

Girls5Eva for Best Comedy
Comedy and the Emmys have always had a weird relationship, and voters have often taken a few years to recognize some classic sitcoms, if they do so at all. Perhaps they just didn’t get around to the relatively recent Girls5Eva, or they weren’t quite ready to invite Peacock to the party? How else to explain the complete dismissal of one of the funniest and most critically acclaimed shows of the year so far? This hysterical character piece about a reunited girl group was never a show that felt likely to pop up across the board. But a series nomination in that expanded category sure felt like it could be 5real. And the biggest snub of all has to be dismissing the perfect comic timing of Renee Elise Goldsberry, a nominee for Hamilton who missed out a double citation this year.

 

S Goodwin/Amazon Studios

Small Axe for Best Limited Series
Amazon made the decision at the end of 2020 to submit the five films by Steve McQueen for Emmy consideration instead of Oscar consideration…but maybe no one got the memo?! The almost complete snubbing (outside of cinematography) of this stunning quintet of feature films feels, frankly, outrageous; most were predicting nominations in the Actor (John Boyega) and Actress (Letitia Wright) categories, at least. The line between what can be defined as television and what can be defined as film blurs with each passing year, and this feels like a product of that gray area. It’s the job of the voters to see through that haze, however. Off-screen controversies for some of the likely nominees may have led to the snubs too, but recognizing this extraordinary achievement would have brought more viewers to these films on Amazon Prime instead of some of today’s more popular, predictable choices. Shameful.

 

(L-R): Quentin Plair as Emperor, Daveed Diggs as Frederick Douglass and Ethan Hawke as John Brown in THE GOOD LORD BIRD, "Hiving the Bees". Photo Credit: William Gray/SHOWTIME.

William Gray/SHOWTIME

Ethan Hawke for The Good Lord Bird
One of the biggest shocks of the morning has to be the complete shut out of Showtime’s excellent The Good Lord Bird — especially its leading man. Ethan Hawke gives one of the best performances of his notable career as the legendary John Brown, the leader of an abolitionist group of soldiers. Hawke’s take is a gospel-spewing force of nature that honestly felt like a reasonable shot to win an Emmy, much less secure a nomination in the Best Actor (Drama) catregory. Someone should start a revolution and figure out what happened.

 

Atsushi Nishijima/Amazon Studios

Thuso Mbedu for The Underground Railroad
Barry Jenkins’s brilliant Amazon Prime mini-series did land a nomination for Best Limited Series (and some tech nods), but the overcrowding in the related acting categories pushed out every single member of its remarkable cast. Did the voters consider it more of a director’s piece than an actor’s one? Maybe. But that’s no excuse to dismiss the breathtaking work by Thuso Mbedu, who holds the entire piece together. Or, for that matter, the supporting turns by Joel Edgerton (doing career-best work), William Jackson Harper, and Sheila Atim. Would it have been hard to squeeze Mbedu and her collaborators into the mix? Sure. Would it have been right? A resounding yes.

 

THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT (L to R) MARCIN DOROCINSKI as VASILY BORGOV and ANYA TAYLOR-JOY as BETH HARMON in episode 104 of THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT Cr. PHIL BRAY/NETFLIX © 2020

Phil Bray/Netflix

Marielle Heller and Bill Camp for The Queen’s Gambit
Given the last year has felt like the longest one ever, it’s impressive that Emmy voters remembered the high caliber of The Queen’s Gambit at all. They got the Queen of the show, but they forgot the Knights when they ignored the subtle, formative work of Marielle Heller and Bill Camp. In the early episodes, they ground the show with smart, genuine choices, and many people were predicting they could be frontrunners to win. Instead, the were left off the board entirely. Bad moves.

 

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and the Child in THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+

Francois Duhamel /Lucasfilm Ltd.

Pedro Pascal for The Mandalorian
How does Disney+’s beloved Star Wars spin-off get back-to-back nominations for Best Dramatic Series, and yet the title character has yet to join in the fun? Emmy voters missed a chance to nominate the work of someone who really stepped up his game on the hit show’s more emotionally grounded second season. What’s so weird about the Pascal snub is that the voters have recognized the show (twice!) but don’t seem to really understand that the leading man is one of the main reasons it works. Same goes for…

 

Jasper Savage/Amazon Studios

Antony Starr for The Boys
Amazon Prime’s raunchy, rowdy deconstruction of superhero culture isn’t for everyone, but it’s baffling to think that someone could think it’s good enough for a Best Drama nomination and yet not nominate the show’s scene-stealer for Best Actor. As Homelander, the Superman-like leader of “the Seven,” Antony Starr drives the show, nailing the egocentric exceptionalism of his character in a way that makes him consistently fascinating. And given Season Two’s way of nudging the character into becoming a straight-up fascist, he’s was given even more colors on his palette to paint with. When people sit around and talk about The Boys, it’s usually under a minute before they get to Homelander. He is the kind of TV character — and it’s the kind of performance — that really stands out in an increasingly crowded medium.

 

ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST -- "Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye" Episode 213 -- Pictured: Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke -- (Photo by: Michael Courtney/NBC/Lionsgate)

Michael Courtney/NBC/LIONSGATE

Jane Levy for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Doing comedy is hard. Doing musical theatre is hard. Doing both as well as Jane Levy did on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is almost impossible. A fan favorite that never found a wide enough audience to avoid NBC’s cancellation axe, this show centered around a woman who could hear the thoughts and needs of other through pop music. Broad and goofy, it was grounded by the consistently genuine work of Levy, an underrated actress whose career could have gotten a boost with a nomination this morning. Heck, it could have possibly even saved the show (which is reportedly still being shopped to streamers). No dice.

 

Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

Wunmi Mosaku for Lovecraft Country
HBO recently closed the door on the second season of Misha Green’s sci-fi/horror/adventure drama, alhtough Emmy voters made it clear this morning that someone else should open it and keep this adventure going. Nominations for Series, Actor, and Actress suggest the program had broad support — but where was one of the true stand-outs? Wunmi Mosaku, should have landed a nod just for her work in the shape-shifting fifth episode alone, and her work on Disney+’s Loki is proof we’re at the start of a long, fruitful and unpredictable career. A deserving nomination here would have helped her ascension that much more, however. It feels like she’ll get one eventually; future fans will merely be surprised that Lovecraft Country wasn’t her first.

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