12 Snubs and Surprises from the 2021 Emmy Nominations

And just like that, Emmy season is upon us once again.

As the nominations were announced yesterday morning, we saw some usual favorites back in the ring, like The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, This Is Us, and Black-ish, as well as obvious new favorites like Ted Lasso, Hacks, and WandaVision. And, at last, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You received its due, with nine nominations including lead actress and limited series.

Other standout takeaways included Mj Rodriguez and Bowen Yang making history, Jean Smart getting recognition for both Mare of Easttown and Hacks, and Framing Britney Spears even earning two nods.

Here, we take a look at some of the most surprising inclusions and aggravating absences from the 2021 Emmys race.

Surprise: Hamilton

While industry folk were already guessing whether the musical would end up in the Emmys race (in rather unexpected ways), most were still caught off guard to see the Tony-winning production in TV territory. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s magnum opus, which began streaming on Disney+ last summer and meets the runtime requirements for a television movie, earned 12 nods, including Outstanding Variety Series and seven acting noms in the Limited or Anthology Series or Movie categories.

Watch Hamilton

Snub: Small Axe

The film anthology from Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen received no directing or acting nods in an egregious snub. In fact, it received only one nomination, for Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. A collection of stories about London’s West Indian community in the 1960s, Small Axe is “vital, compelling viewing” and one of the best new releases of 2020.

Watch Small Axe

Snub: The Underground Railroad Actors

With seven nominations total, Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s same-name novel was not overlooked—but its actors were. Obviously missing were breakout Thuso Mbedu, who gave a stellar lead performance as Cora, and Joel Edgerton, who starred opposite as the loathsome and formidable Ridgeway. The Underground Railroad was even nominated for Outstanding Casting for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie—so how come cast members themselves were snubbed?

Watch The Underground Railroad

Surprise: Pen15

In a delightful turn of events, Hulu’s kooky and beloved Y2K romp received nods for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (for star and scribe Maya Erskine), and Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series. A show featuring two grown women cosplaying their middle school selves as award show fodder? We’ll take it—braces, hormones, and all.

Watch Pen15

Surprise: Cobra Kai

Season 3 of Netflix’s Karate Kid spin-off packed a solid punch with four nominations this year. In addition to obvious sound mixing, sound editing, and stunt recognition, the fan-favorite Cobra Kai also received an Outstanding Comedy Series nod alongside the likes of Ted Lasso and The Flight Attendant.

Watch Cobra Kai

Surprise: The Boys

While Marvel’s inaugural TV fare is getting notice from the Television Academy, Prime Video’s The Boys is proving to be a worthy competitor. The gory and irreverent superhero saga nabbed five nominations: Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, as well as nods for sound mixing, visual effects, and music. Fans did notice a snub, though: Actor Antony Starr was overlooked for his performance as Homelander.

Watch The Boys

Snub: Black Is King

After her history-making milestone at the Grammys, Beyoncé and award winner should be synonymous by now, but Bey was shut out of the Emmys Outstanding Variety Special for her Lion King–inspired visual album. Even if the program itself wasn’t nominated as a whole, the Academy missed opportunities to highlight Black designers, hairstylists, and others who worked behind the scenes.

Watch Black Is King

Surprise: Emily in Paris

Just as she did in her snooty Parisian office, Emily is stirring the pot at the Emmy Awards. After causing a ruckus during Golden Globes season, Darren Star’s Netflix fare picked up two nods, including Outstanding Comedy Series, where it’ll compete against Black-ish, Hacks, and several more.

Watch Emily in Paris

Snub: Desus & Mero

While no-brainer nominees like Conan O’Brien, John Oliver, and Trevor Noah entered the variety/late-night Emmys race, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero were once again overlooked for their adored and hilarious talk series. But at least the duo know what they mean to viewers. “We don’t need the recognition from outside. We know what we bring to the streets,” Desus told Vulture after they were snubbed in 2020. “That’s a fact,” Mero added.

Watch Desus & Mero

Snub: Ziwe

Ziwe Fumudoh made a splash on Showtime when she (with the help of the network and A24) turned her can’t-look-away interview series on Instagram Live into a flashy talk show/variety program. The rosy, modern production design and Ziwe’s playful, fashion-forward wardrobe were impressive, but didn’t seem to catch the Television Academy’s eye.

Watch Ziwe

Snub and Surprise: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Our new Captain America, Anthony Mackie, didn’t get any Emmys love for his celebrated performance in this Marvel series, but his short-lived costar, Don Cheadle, did. For his less-than-two-minute cameo as James Rhodes/War Machine, the actor earned a nod for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Even he was taken aback by the news: “I don’t really get it either,” he tweeted.

In less shocking news, FATWS is also nominated for visual effects, stunts, and sound editing.

Watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The Emmy Awards will air Sunday, September 19, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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