Emily in Paris but no Small Axe? This year’s Emmys snubs and surprises

An exciting selection of newcomers can’t fully take away the sting of some egregious snubs, such as Steve McQueen’s acclaimed anthology series

I just have to point this out upfront: there is a chance that Emily in Paris is going to win an Emmy this year. Emily in Paris, for crying out loud. A show so mesmerisingly awful that, when it was nominated for a Golden Globe this year, it caused such a crisis that it almost permanently ended the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as an entity. At least that nomination could be racked up to good old-fashioned jury manipulation. But this one – an Emmy nomination for best comedy series, no less – can’t be written off so easily. Did … did people actually like Emily in Paris? If so, this is not a world I want to live in.

But then again, this is the Emmys. The Emmys rarely get comedy right, as evidenced by The Kominsky Method’s continued recognition. Once again it received a best comedy series nod, despite being as much of a creaking, listless laughter vacuum as it was when it first started. Still, at least in a clear and rational world we know that neither The Kominsky Method or Emily in Paris can actually win, because the competition is too great. Black-ish has to be the favourite of the category, having lately taken on the warm patina of easy familiarity that only truly great shows achieve, but it faces stiff competition in the form of Pen15, Hacks, The Flight Attendant and Cobra Kai, itself a surprise entry.

The Kominsky Method and Emily in Paris set the pattern for the Emmy nominations this year. The overwhelming takeaway leant more heavily on surprises than snubs; less “Where’s their nomination?” and more “What are they doing here?” Small Axe probably deserved something, especially for John Boyega, but the series generally failed to capture the imagination in the manner everyone assumed. Perhaps, in retrospect, its form failed to fit too neatly into the neat awards season categories. Was it a series? An anthology? Television? Film? None of this matters in the big scheme of things – Small Axe is exactly the sort of bold, boundary-pushing content that we need to see more of, and it’s going to be talked about for years – but it appears to have come at the cost of silverware.

Personally I would have liked to see Fargo recognised too, since its most recent season shook off a shaky beginning to become something that genuinely stays with you long after the credits roll. And while Girls5Eva never quite managed to hit as hard as Tina Fey’s other shows, you suspect that it probably deserved something. And it seems weird that Late Night with Seth Meyers didn’t get nominated for best variety talk series, given that Meyers is really the only one of the late-night crop to have actively thrived during the audience-free lockdown months.

Lily Collins in Emily in Paris
Lily Collins in Emily in Paris. Photograph: Stephanie Branchu/Netflix

On paper, the biggest snub of all goes to The Undoing, with Hugh Grant alone receiving a nod. But that’s probably because, while very clearly designed from the ground up to be as prestigious as possible, it was also very bad and stupid.

But that’s about it. The rest of the nominations were firm surprises. I honestly wasn’t expecting to see The Boys nominated for best drama series, especially when its nomination clip (shown very early in the morning in Los Angeles) involved a bunch of men driving a speedboat through the side of a whale, but I very much welcome its inclusion. If it wins, and somehow beats out tired old shows like The Crown and The Handmaid’s Tale, nobody will cheer louder than me. Also, what a delight to see MJ Rodriguez become the first trans woman ever to be nominated for a best actress Emmy.

And in retrospect, although I had assumed that Emmy voters would be sniffy about a superhero show that was brazenly designed as a bolt-on to a never-ending series of films, it makes perfect sense that WandaVision was as warmly received as it was. After all, what was WandaVision if not a lovingly crafted, perfectly realised love letter to the history of television? The fact that it was also spectacularly performed helped – Katherine Hahn must surely win best supporting actress in a limited series, and Elizabeth Olsen would probably win as well were it not for the full-steam juggernaut of Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown – but the fact that it received three of the six available nomination slots in the best writing category speaks volumes of its chances.

Come September it’s going to be very interesting to see which way the Emmys blow. On a bad night, the same knackered old shows – The Crown, The Kominsky Method – might clean up. But maybe, just maybe, if fortune favours the underdogs, it might be the most exciting ceremony in years.


Stuart Heritage

The GuardianTramp

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