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Streaming Power and Lockdown Favourites at the 73rd Primetime Emmys

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

by Zoe Kokka

On Sunday night, The Handmaid’s Tale had the most Emmy award losses ever in a single year, with 21 nominations lost. In 2017, however, the Hulu show was breaking a different record as the first streaming show to win the award for Outstanding Drama Series. Four years later, that win has led to streaming and limited series dominating the nominations at the awards and a night of big wins for nearly all major streaming platforms.

The ceremony was a reminder of a lot of the media that defined the past year: nominees included the limited series that took turns ruling public consciousness over lockdown (The Queen’s Gambit, WandaVision, the Mandalorian), Stephen Colbert for his US election night coverage, Bo Burnham, Dolly Parton, and the Weeknd for his Super Bowl Halftime show – with Disney+ even getting an award for the Hamilton professional recording.

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The category of Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series was perhaps the most competitive of the night: The Queen’s Gambit won the award over I May Destroy You, WandaVision, The Underground Railroad and Mare of Easttown. The interest in the category clearly did not go unnoticed, as the award was also presented last, the spot usually given to Outstanding Drama Series in previous years. The list of nominees was the same for many of the Limited Series categories, with three acting awards going to Mare of Easttown – including Lead Actress for Kate Winslet, who was thanked by co-star and fellow winner Evan Peters for being Kate Winslet – and Outstanding Writing going to Michaela Coel for I May Destroy You in a historic win.

Apple TV+ had a predictably great night with Ted Lasso, whose twenty Emmy nods set a record for most first-time nominations as a comedy series – a record previously held by none other than Glee. The series eliminated the competition in Outstanding Comedy Series, which was largely a battle of the streaming services (you might remember that Emily in Paris was nominated; unfortunately, no wins there). Ted Lasso also dominated the comedy acting categories. With a stunning seven members of the cast being nominated, the show ended up with three out of four acting awards: Jason Sudeikis took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, while castmates Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddingham swept the Supporting acting categories.

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The Outstanding Made for Television Movie category might sound like it would be particularly relevant in this year of streaming wins. However, as companies such as Netflix become increasingly interested in establishing their prestige in film and competing at the Golden Globes and Oscars, their films – Malcolm & Marie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, whichever Kissing Booth sequel was eligible – become disqualified in the TV movie category. The award thus went to Dolly Parton for Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square. I will personally be rewatching it as soon as it’s socially acceptable, meaning on November 1st.

While the increasing acceptance of streaming content into Hollywood institutions like the Emmys is seen as a step forward for accessibility in film and TV, the Television Academy has been slow to catch up in other ways.

The diverse slate of nominees in various categories was celebrated when nominations were announced in July, leading to a certain level of disappointment as all winners in the acting categories were White.

The Television Academy is far from the only awarding body to face this type of sentiment. Earlier this year, the Grammys received similar criticism for often gaining viewership and notoriety by nominating Black artists, but rarely following through with the actual honour of the award. In last Sunday’s ceremony, three shows (The Crown, Ted Lasso, Mare of Easttown) received nearly all of the acting awards.

And sweeps like that of The Crown (seven wins) are often predicted for at least one program every awards season, prompting some to wonder whether Emmy voters stop after watching a few of the nominees – and if that is the case, whether less recognizable series with more diverse casts even have a fighting chance.


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