The biggest talking points from the Emmys 2021 nominations

When it comes to TV awards ceremonies, the Emmys are the grandest of them all. If you want to join John Legend and Whoopi Goldberg in the entertainment industry’s most elite club – EGOT – you’ll need to add an Emmy to your Grammy, Oscar and Tony trophies. With this in mind, here are the major talking points from today’s nominations for the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, including a too-close-for-comfort tussle between Netflix and old rival HBO.

HBO just about edged Netflix

HBO and its streaming service HBO Max picked up a combined 130 nominations – one more than Netflix’s 129, which has got to sting a little. Disney+ finished third overall with a very impressive 71 nominations including 24 for its gripping Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian. Alongside The Crown, which also amassed 24 nods for a pretty patchy fifth season, The Mandalorian was the most nominated show overall.

However, HBO’s celebrations might be tinged with a hint of embarrassment: just a couple of weeks after it cancelled Lovecraft Country, the cleverly subversive horror series amassed 18 nominations. Ouch.

WandaVision cleaned up

Marvel‘s ingenious sitcom-mystery hybrid picked up 23 nominations including acting nods for Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn. It’s especially great to see it shortlisted for the prestigious Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series award, but it faces seriously stiff competition in this category from The Queen’s Gambit, I May Destroy You, Mare of Easttown and The Underground Railroad. Seriously, would you like to bet on a winner?

Other genre shows got a look-in, too

Amazon’s dark and dazzling superhero series The Boys earned six nominations including one for Outstanding Drama Series, while Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai cracked the Outstanding Comedy Series category. If only the Oscars could be so open-minded!

The Emmys did right by I May Destroy You

Well, at least compared to the Golden Globes, who were rightly criticised for ignoring this brilliant BBC/HBO series earlier this year. After winning big at the BAFTA TV Awards in June, Michaela Coel’s stinging exploration of sexual consent picked up nine nominations including acting accolades for Coel and Paapa Essiedu.

The Brits really killed it this year

Other British actors toasting a nomination tonight include Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton), Cynthia Erivo (Genius: Aretha), Ewan McGregor (Halston), Kate Winslet (Mare of Easttown) and O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale). Oh, and pretty much anyone who was in The Crown including standout stars Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor. In fact, the Television Academy showed Netflix’s royal drama so much love that it even gave Claire Foy a nomination for reprising her earlier role as Queen Elizabeth for all of two minutes.

Then again, the Emmys have a history of rewarding anything that screams prestige, which is presumably why Netflix’s creaky sitcom The Kominsky Method starring the great Michael Douglas snuck into the Outstanding Comedy Series category again this year.

Pose‘s MJ Rodriguez made history

Pose has more trans performers than any scripted series in history, so it always rankled in the past when the Emmys only saw fit to nominate cisgender cast member Billy Porter – as brilliant as he is. This year, the Television Academy belatedly made amends by nominating MJ Rodriguez for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her supremely poignant performance as house mother Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista. She duly becomes the first trans woman ever to be recognised in a lead acting category (and only the third trans actor to be nominated overall). And happily, Porter earned a third consecutive nomination for this super-charismatic turn as Pray Tell.

Red, White And Blue
John Boyega in ‘Red, White and Blue’. Credit: BBC

Small Axe got pretty much snubbed

Steve McQueen‘s stunning anthology series about the resilience of London’s West Indian community in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s earned a brace of nominations at the Golden Globes and the BAFTA TV Awards, but was nearly overlooked by the Television Academy today. Not even John Boyega – who won a Globe for his powerful performance as pioneering Black police officer Leroy Logan – got a look-in. In fact, Small Axe picked up just a single nomination: for its excellent cinematography.

The Underground Railroad’s Thuso Mbedu got shockingly snubbed too

Rising star Mbedu delivers one of the year’s most searing performances in Barry Jenkins’ historical drama series about Black Americans attempting to escape from slavery. But bafflingly, she wasn’t rewarded with an acting nomination – and neither were her deserving castmates William Jackson Harper and Chase W. Dillon.

Emily in Paris got nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series

Sure, seven other comedy shows were also nominated – and there’s no Schitt’s Creek to lead the pack this year – but this one’s an embarrassment. Especially, it has to be said, when Tina Fey’s zingy girl-group comedy Girls5Eva got snubbed.