Emmys 2021: The binge-worthy TV shows in this year’s race

The Oscars might only have taken place about nine minutes ago, but already the entertainment industry is turning its attention to the biggest night of the year for TV.

The eligibility window for the Emmy Awards closes on Monday, so we’ve now got a pretty good idea of which shows might be in contention.

Normally, the top prizes are seen as best drama and best comedy, and their associated acting awards. But this year, the most exciting area by some distance is going to be the limited series categories. This is where you’ll find the biggest TV hits of the last year.

The Queen’s Gambit. I May Destroy You. It’s A Sin. WandaVision. The Undoing. Mare of Easttown. These are just a few of the hugely popular shows eligible for the limited series categories, which is for stand-alone programmes without plans for a second season.

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s likely nominees, and how you can watch them in the UK.

The comedy contenders

Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant
image captionKaley Cuoco makes some dangerous enemies in the first series of The Flight Attendant

The Flight Attendant (available on Now, formerly Now TV) is one of the most exciting new shows to have emerged in the last year and will almost certainly pick up a few nominations.

The series is Kaley Cuoco’s first major project since the 2019 conclusion of The Big Bang Theory, one of the most successful TV shows in US history.

The Flight Attendant follows a flight attendant – obviously – named Cassie who is fighting to prove her innocence after winding up in the middle of a complicated murder case. It’s gripping and imaginative, and to be honest we’re not entirely sure it should be classed as a comedy, but it has a certain dark humour, lightness-of-touch and some witty one-liners which make it ripe for this category.

Cuoco could well take best comedy actress, but the red-hot favourite in the other comedy categories is Ted Lasso (Apple TV), a series loved by viewers and critics alike.

Promotional still from Ted Lasso
image captionJason Sudeikis (centre) has already won a Golden Globe for his performance in Ted Lasso

The show sees an American football coach, played by Jason Sudeikis, hired by an English Premier League football team to try to turn their fortunes around. The team is made up of some pretty horrible, arrogant and narcissistic personalities who aren’t welcoming towards him, but Ted sets out to win them over with his cheerful personality and unconventional coaching style.

Apple TV hasn’t had many huge hits so far – this and The Morning Show are among the few – but Ted Lasso could be their best chance yet. Sudeikis has already won the Golden Globe for best comedy actor.

Familiar favourites will likely be nominated too. Black-ish (Disney+) which explores racial and cultural identity, is now in its seventh season and likely to be a contender. Two of its stars, Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, were both nominated in the acting categories last year.

Meanwhile, the third season of The Kominsky Method (Netflix) will almost certainly repeat some of last year’s nominations, including an acting nod for its star Michael Douglas. The series sees Douglas play a man who once had a brief spell of fame and now works as an acting coach.

The immaturely but appropriately titled Pen15 (Now), which follows two seventh-grade girls through their awkward teenage years, also stands a decent chance. Frankly, we think it deserves an Emmy for its glorious early noughties soundtrack alone.

Drama queens

Emma Corrin and Tobias Menzies in The Crown
image captionEmma Corrin and Tobias Menzies could be nominated for The Crown

Netflix has never won best drama, which is widely seen as the top prize at the Emmys. Game of Thrones, Succession, Breaking Bad, The West Wing, Mad Men and The Sopranos have all previously won in this category.

The only show from a streaming platform to have triumphed is Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (Breaking Bad received a huge boost from Netflix, but was originally made by AMC).

The good news for Netflix is they might well have a shot this year.

The Crown has never turned its nomination into a win – if that was ever going to change, then this would probably be the year. Its recent fourth series was by far the most explosive, thanks in large part to the introduction of Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher.

While the two actresses who play them – Emma Corrin and Gillian Anderson respectively – were snubbed by the Bafta TV Awards, both won prizes at January’s Golden Globes. Expect the Emmys to at least nominate them too.

Regé-Jean Page
image captionRegé-Jean Page plays Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings in Bridgerton

Bridgerton, which was a huge success for Netflix over Christmas, could also be in line for some recognition. There may be acting nods for some members of its impressive ensemble cast, many of whom are young, up-and-coming actors, the type that awards ceremonies like to reward early in their career so they can be seen as being ahead of the curve.

However, recognition for Bridgerton is by no means guaranteed. The series was a bigger hit with viewers than it was with critics and awards voters, and it completely missed out on any nominations at the Golden Globes and picked up just one nod at the TV Baftas. Is that a sign that the Emmys will be equally as indifferent?

Other shows you shouldn’t count out include Ratched (Netflix), Perry Mason and Lovecraft Country (both Now) all of which scored Golden Globe nominations, and the excellent alternative superhero series The Boys (Amazon) which is now in its third season but has failed to garner much awards recognition so far.

Elsewhere, new seasons of Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian (Disney+) and the screen adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian The Handmaid’s Tale (available on Amazon in the UK) could well be in for repeat nominations this year.

Limited space

Promotional still from The Queen's Gambit
image captionAnya Taylor-Joy stars as a chess prodigy in The Queen’s Gambit

OK, this is where the action is this year. With only five spaces available in best limited series which of these gigantic hits will miss out?

I May Destroy You (BBC iPlayer), Michaela Coel’s universally-acclaimed exploration of sexual consent, was a towering achievement in television. Released last May in the UK, it later made its way to HBO Max in the US, making it eligible for this year’s Emmy Awards. It made news headlines when it failed to score any Golden Globe nominations – expect the Emmys to put that right.

The Undoing (Now), a gripping murder mystery starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, could also crop up here, as could Marvel’s WandaVision (Disney+), an enjoyable ride through TV history via two superheroes played by Elisabeth Olson and Paul Bettany.

Kate Winslet’s superb new crime series Mare of Easttown (Now), which has gripped viewers for the last seven weeks, is concluding on Sunday – in an act of impeccable timing for the Emmys’ eligibility window closing.

When it debuted in January, It’s A Sin (All 4) became one of Channel 4’s most successful dramas yet, notching up record numbers for its streaming service. The five-part series, which follows a group of gay men and their friends in the 1980s as the Aids crisis hits the UK, was showered with praise on both sides of the Atlantic (it aired on HBO in the US), and will be a strong contender in this crowded field.

Nicole Kidman in The Undoing
image captionSigne Sejlund designed The Undoing’s eye-catching costumes

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston finally made his comeback in the highly compelling Your Honor (Now) a courtroom drama which follows a young man who kills the son of a notorious mob boss in a road accident. The young driver’s father, played by Cranston, is a judge, and torn between his belief in the justice system and wanting to protect his son’s life.

Sir Steve McQueen’s highly-acclaimed anthology series Small Axe (BBC iPlayer) picked up several TV Bafta nominations and it could easily repeat its domination at the Emmys. It consists of five films which explore the experiences of West Indian immigrants in the UK from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Another Oscar-nominated director, Barry Jenkins, could see his new Amazon series The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video), adapted from the novel by Colson Whitehead, pick up some nominations following rave reviews.

But all of the above will have to hold off competition from The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix). The seven-part series stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a chess prodigy and has been a favourite for this category since it debuted in October. It will have been out for a full year by the time the Emmys roll around, but if it can maintain its momentum, it could well win big.

It's A Sin

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