Emmys 2021 predictions: who will win and who should win?

·10-min read
<span>Composite: Alamy</span>
Composite: Alamy

Drama series

Nominees: The Boys (Amazon), Bridgerton (Netflix), The Crown (Netflix), The Mandalorian (Disney+), Lovecraft Country (HBO), Pose (FX), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), This Is Us (NBC)

The biggest surprise here is the nomination of Amazon’s The Boys, a gritty, ultra-violent take on inglorious superheroes that nevertheless manages to subvert the ubiquity of the genre. There’s an argument to be made for what turned out to be the only season of Lovecraft Country, HBO’s extravagant and bewildering foray into the racism-as-horror genre (co-produced by Jordan Peele), which contains the final screen performance of the late television legend Michael K Williams; same, too, for Bridgerton, Shonda Rhimes’s first show for Netflix, which infuses the well-worn period society genre with plenty of NSFW sex and color-blind casting. But the absence of last year’s winner, Succession, whose pandemic-delayed third season premieres next month, leaves the night’s top prize a virtual lock for another Netflix sensation: The Crown, whose Diana-centric fourth season managed to be fresh, measured, and riveting – and no doubt beloved by Emmy voters.

Will win: The Crown

Should win: The Boys

Comedy series

Nominees: Black-ish (ABC), Cobra Kai (Netflix), Pen15 (Hulu), Emily in Paris (Netflix), Hacks (HBO Max), Ted Lasso (Apple TV+), The Flight Attendant (HBO Max), The Kominsky Method (Amazon)

With the exception of The Kominsky Method (has anyone watched?), this is an entirely fresh slate for comedy, owing to the finales of The Good Place and Schitt’s Creek, which swept last year’s comedy awards. Some might decry the inclusion of Netflix’s deliberately ridiculous Emily in Paris here, and to be fair, the ambient American-abroad comedy has nothing on HBO Max’s two debut shows: Hacks, on the improbable cross-generational friendship between two female comedians that’s salty with just enough sweet, and The Flight Attendant, a gonzo whodunnit that basically serves as a Kaley Cuoco reintroduction vehicle. I’m partial to the second season of Pen15, which handles early adolescence with a sensitivity, unflinching honesty and painful accuracy that is unmatched on television (except in maybe the animated series Big Mouth), but this award will go to the night’s most-nominated comedy series: Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis’s fish-out-of-water comedy with a staggering ability to warm hearts.

Will win: Ted Lasso

Should win: Pen15

Limited series

Nominees: Mare of Easttown (HBO), I May Destroy You (HBO), WandaVision (Disney+), The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix), The Underground Railroad (Amazon)

This is a tough one, with a host of critically acclaimed and beloved limited series, from Mare of Easttown – a classic unsolved crime/troubled detective show that is surprisingly watchable despite its near-overwhelming bleakness – to better-than-it-should-be WandaVision, a Marvel series that also serves as an ode to American television history. The award should go either to The Underground Railroad, Barry Jenkins’s lush, masterly interpretation of Colson Whitehead’s novel, or to the absolute tour de force that is Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. But voters will probably favor The Queen’s GambitNetflix’s most-watched limited series ever, which was able to make chess cinematically interesting and lead Anya Taylor-Joy a bona fide star.

Will win: The Queen’s Gambit

Should win: I May Destroy You

Lead actress in a drama series

Emma Corrin in The Crown.
Emma Corrin in The Crown. Photograph: Des Willie/AP

Nominees: Emma Corrin (The Crown), Olivia Colman (The Crown), Uzo Aduba (In Treatment), Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), Jurnee Smollett (Lovecraft Country), Mj Rodriguez (Pose)

There’s no shortage of worthy performances here – Mj Rodriguez’s luminous turn in the final season of Pose (the first trans performer to be nominated in a lead acting category), Elisabeth Moss’s anchoring of the misery that has become The Handmaid’s Tale, Olivia Colman’s take on Queen Elizabeth II. But is there any more difficult role to take on than Princess Diana? Emma Corrin rose to the occasion, and found raw vulnerability and levity in one of the most well-known, and most photographed, humans in history, an accomplishment Emmy voters are almost certain to reward.

Will win: Emma Corrin

Should win: Emma Corrin

Related: Emma Corrin: ‘I ended up having an overwhelming appreciation for Diana's complexity’

Lead actor in a drama series

Nominees: Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton), Sterling K Brown (This Is Us), Billy Porter (Pose), Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country), Matthew Rhys (Perry Mason), Josh O’Connor (The Crown)

Without one particular standout performance, this field is pretty wide open. Emmy winners could be partial to former winners Sterling K Brown (in 2017) and Matthew Rhys (in 2018, for his role in The Americans), or more likely, the charm of Regé-Jean Page as the dashing Duke of Hastings in Bridgerton. Billy Porter, who won in 2019 for his starring turn as Prey Tell in Pose, becoming the first openly gay black man to do so, deserves a final lap for the show’s triumphant finale, but the edge here probably belongs to Josh O’Connor for the difficult task of portraying Prince Charles, in the perennial Emmys-favorite The Crown.

Will win: Josh O’Connor

Should win: Billy Porter

Lead actress in a comedy series

Nominees: Aidy Bryant (Shrill), Jean Smart (Hacks), Allison Janney (Mom), Kaley Cuoco (The Flight Attendant), Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)

Tracee Ellis Ross, Aidy Bryant and Allison Janney have all put in solid, under-sung work carrying their three respective series: seven seasons of Black-ish, Hulu’s underappreciated and undaunted Shrill, and the Chuck Lorre-created sitcom staple Mom. Kaley Cuoco deserves accolades for her portrayal of Cassie, a frazzled, reckless woman hounded by trauma and a murder investigation, in a performance that anchors a series liable to go off the rails. But Emmy voters should hail the incomparable Jean Smart (see also: Mare of Easttown), whose portrayal of a comic in her cynical sunset years nearly crackles off the screen.

Will win: Jean Smart

Should win: Jean Smart

Lead actor in a comedy series

Nominees: Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso), Anthony Anderson (Black-ish), Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), William H Macy (Shameless), Kenan Thompson (Kenan)

Michael Douglas, William H Macy and Anthony Anderson are all repeat nominees here for consistently strong performances. But I cannot foresee a scenario in which Emmy voters don’t anoint Jason Sudeikis for his turn as the pathologically upbeat, folksy American-football-turned-actual-football coach Ted Lasso in Apple TV’s breakout series – a performance that would be annoying were it not infused with so much heart.

Will win: Jason Sudeikis

Should win: Jason Sudeikis

Lead actress in a limited series or TV movie

Nominees: Kate Winslet (Mare of Easttown), Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Elizabeth Olsen (WandaVision), Cynthia Erivo (Genius: Aretha)

This is arguably the most stacked category, not a weak entry in the bunch. Cynthia Erivo held her own playing the Queen of Soul in the daring, if messy, biopic series; Elizabeth Olsen mastered not one but five styles of television in the sandwich of meta that is WandaVision. Michaela Coel is a revelation in I May Destroy You, though her accomplishments there are most notable in the writing and production of the show about an emotionally chaotic young writer reeling from the fallout of a sexual assault. Emmy voters will most likely reward Anya Taylor-Joy for her star-making, totally absorbing performance as chess phenom Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit, but don’t sleep on Kate Winslet, whose portrayal of bottled, barely submerged grief no less than holds Mare of Easttown together.

Will win: Anya Taylor-Joy

Should win: Kate Winslet

Lead actor in a limited series or TV movie

Nominees: Paul Bettany (WandaVision), Hugh Grant (The Undoing), Ewan McGregor (Halston), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Leslie Odom Jr (Hamilton)

The magic of Hamilton may have faded enough since its heyday in Obama-era 2016 to merit Emmy wins for Lin-Manuel Miranda and the excellent Leslie Odom Jr in the film version of the original Broadway show. Nor are they likely to award Paul Bettany for his solid portrayal of Elizabeth Olsen’s husband in WandaVision, even if he delivered of one of the most-repeated (and memed) lines of the year – “But what is grief, if not love persevering?” Ewan McGregor couldn’t save the critically maligned, creatively empty Halston, another Netflix miss for creator Ryan Murphy on the mononymous Studio 54-era designer, though he certainly batted far above the material. So the odds are on Hugh Grant in The Undoing as a chilly, dashing Upper East Sider with an underbelly of lies – a performance at odds with his reputation as a charming leading man, and the more successful for it.

Will win: Hugh Grant

Should win: Paul Bettany

Variety talk series

Nominees: Conan (TBS), The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central), Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Late-night TV has mostly rebounded from the weird, haphazard year-plus of adapted, audience-less shows – the white void, family on camera, trying to make sense of the pandemic and racial reckoning at home. Nightly shows such as Trevor Noah’s Daily Show, the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live have all managed to pivot away from constant five-alarm fire of the Trump era with varying levels of success (The Daily Show, especially, has taken to deeper dives of less sexy issues than what the former president still says). Emmy voters have favored John Oliver’s meticulous and unsparing rants for five years in a row, and probably will again – deserved, for a show whose ethical backbone has only strengthened over the years, and which consistently finds ways to humorously illuminate complex, gargantuan, or under-studied aspects of American society and government.

Supporting actress in a comedy series

Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live)

Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live)

Rosie Perez (The Flight Attendant) – Should win

Hannah Einbinder (Hacks)

Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso) – Will win

Juno Temple (Ted Lasso)

Supporting actor in a comedy series

Nick Mohammed in Ted Lasso
Nick Mohammed in Ted Lasso. Photograph: AP

Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live)

Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live)

Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso)

Brendan Hunt (Ted Lasso)

Nick Mohammed (Ted Lasso) – Will win

Jeremy Swift (Ted Lasso)

Paul Reiser (The Kominsky Method)

Carl Clemons-Hopkins (Hacks) – Should win

Supporting actress in a drama series

Gillian Anderson (The Crown)

Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown) – Will win, should win

Emerald Fennell (The Crown)

Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Madeline Brewer (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Aunjanue Ellis (Lovecraft Country)

Supporting actor in a drama series

Michael K Williams (Lovecraft Country) – Should win

Bradley Whitford (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Max Minghella (The Handmaid’s Tale)

O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale)

John Lithgow (Perry Mason)

Tobias Menzies (The Crown) – Will win

Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandalorian)

Chris Sullivan (This Is Us)

Supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie

Jean Smart (Mare of Easttown)

Julianne Nicholson (Mare of Easttown) – Should win

Kathryn Hahn (WandaVision)

Phillipa Soo (Hamilton)

Renee Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton) – Will win

Moses Ingram (The Queen’s Gambit)

Supporting actor in a limited series or TV movie

Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) – Should win

Jonathan Groff (Hamilton) – Will win

Anthony Ramos (Hamilton)

Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Queen’s Gambit)

Evan Peters (Mare of Easttown)

Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You)

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