As per tradition, the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony held its 73rd edition to honor the best television shows from June 2020 to May 2021. The event was showcased live on September 19, 2021. As is common after an event of this kind, reactions about the winners were mixed.
Although many shows were “robbed” according to television fans all over the world, others received a well-earned award. Some of them even received multiple awards. These are the shows whose production possesses an undeniable quality, whether it’s because their cast has astounding acting skills or because its crew did a terrific job conveying their amazing stories.
22 David Byrne’s American Utopia: 2 Emmy Awards
David Byrne’s American Utopia is a concert film created by David Byrne. The show is a live recording of a curated version of American Utopia – David Byrne’s tenth studio album. The concert works as a trip through Byrne’s career and features several important musicians, such as Mauro Refosco and Chris Giarmo.
David Byrne’s American Utopia was nominated in six different categories for Variety Series or Specials. The show got the victory in two: Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Variety Series Or Special and Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Special.
21 Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square: 2 Emmy Awards
Directed by Debbie Allen, Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square follows the story of Regina Fuller, played by Christine Baranski – a wealthy woman looking to evict her tenants and sell her land to a mall developer. Luckily for the town, an angel arrives and shows Fuller the real meaning of Christmas before it’s too late.
This musical film features original music by Dolly Parton, who also stars as the angel. This movie was nominated in two categories: Outstanding Television Movie and Outstanding Choreography For Scripted Programming. It won both Emmy Awards.
20 I May Destroy You: 2 Emmy Awards
I May Destroy You is a British drama series created and produced by Michaela Coel for HBO. It tells the story of Arabella (played by Coel herself), who is a millennial icon seeking to understand what happened to her after a night out with her friends left her drugged and abused. It also focuses on providing Black British representation.
I May Destroy You was highly acclaimed from the beginning due to its sensitive but complex way of telling such a dark story. In the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, it was awarded two Emmys: one for Outstanding Music Supervision and one for Outstanding Writing For A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie.
19 Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal: 2 Emmy Awards
Primal was created by Tartakowsky for Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s block for adult programming. It tells the story of the relationship between a caveman who lost his family to a pack of ferocious dinosaurs and a female Tyrannosaurus who recently lost her hatchlings.
Although it only has 10 22-minute episodes, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal has been highly praised for conveying a truly emotional story about beauty and violence without using dialogue. In the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, it received two Emmys for Outstanding Individual Achievement In Animation and Outstanding Animated Program.
18 Hamilton: 2 Emmy Awards
Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton – one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. The musical features songs inspired by genres such as pop, soul, hip-hop, and R&B, as well as show tunes. In 2020, a filmed version of the stage production was released on Disney+.
Although the movie and its cast were nominated for 12 different Emmy Awards, Hamilton only won in two categories: Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Special, and Pre-Recorded Outstanding Variety Special. It’s also won other important accolades, such as the People’s Choice Award for a Drama Movie.
17 Life Below Zero: 2 Emmy Awards
Life Below Zero is a documentary television series that depicts the day-by-day of a group of subsistence hunters living in remote areas of Alaska. It follows their lives as they deal with the challenges of the extreme environment, including how they survive off the land through several ventures.
Life Below Zero won two Emmys in 2021. One for Outstanding Cinematography For A Reality Program and another one for Outstanding Picture Editing For An Unstructured Reality Program. In addition to this, the documentary has been highly praised by critics for its raw depiction of life in Alaska.
16 Lovecraft Country: 2 Emmy Awards
Lovecraft Country depicts the story of Atticus Freeman, a war veteran who embarks on a road trip through a racist 1950’s America in search of his missing father. He’s accompanied by Letitia Lewis, who is a skilled photographer, and George Freeman – Atticus’ intelligent uncle.
With a plot highly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s literature, Lovecraft Country is a story about evil, whether paranormal or perfectly human. Although the series was nominated in 18 Emmy categories, it only won two: one for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series, earned by Courtney B. Vance, who plays Uncle George, and one for Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour). Unfortunately, the show was canceled after its first season.
15 The Social Dilemma: 2 Emmy Awards
The Social Dilemma is a docudrama film directed by Jeff Orlowski that reflects the influence social media has on people’s lives. It shows its effects on mental health and focuses on the way it nurtures a dangerous addiction in the youth. This docudrama was first shown at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It was then released on Netflix.
The Social Dilemma received seven Emmy nominations in 2021, but it only won two of them: Outstanding Picture Editing For A Nonfiction Program and Outstanding Writing For A Nonfiction Program.
14 Bo Burnham: Inside: 3 Emmy Awards
Written, directed, filmed, and starred in by the same person, Bo Burnham: Inside shows Burnham’s day-to-day in his own house during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. The show features a balanced amount of observational humor mixed with meta-commentary, dramatic moments, and music created by the comedian himself.
Highly praised for being a representation of life in the pandemic, Bo Burnham: Inside was nominated for six Emmy Awards and won three of them: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special, Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special, and Outstanding Music Direction. Since the three awards go to Bo Burnham himself, he is the individual with the most awards, together with RuPaul Charles.
13 WandaVision: 3 Emmy Awards
WandaVision is the first television series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a nine-episode story about Wanda Maximoff’s grief after Vision dies in Avengers: Infinity War. The TV series was highly praised for its exploration of grief, mixed with the use of sitcoms as narrative devices for larger plots.
Although WandaVision was nominated for 23 Emmy Awards—and modified the audience’s ideas about superhero series—it only won in three categories: Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Program (Half-Hour), Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, and Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics. There were mixed reactions to this: while many admitted it was a fair outcome, others considered WandaVision snubbed.
12 David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet: 3 Emmy Awards
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is a documentary film created by David Attenborough, an English historian and author. Since Attenborough’s work mainly focuses on the natural world, he uses this documentary as a way to address his concerns for the future of the planet.
Although the documentary works as a warning to humanity, it also serves as a hopeful reminder that there is a solution to the climate crisis. David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet was nominated for five Emmy categories and it won in three of them: Outstanding Cinematography For A Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Nonfiction Or Reality Program, and Outstanding Music Composition For A Documentary Series Or Special.
11 Hacks: 3 Emmy Awards
With just one season so far, Hacks is a comedy-drama series streaming on HBO Max since May 2021. It tells the story of Deborah Vance, a stand-up comedienne who teams up with Ava, a zoomer comedy writer that has been canceled due to an insensitive tweet.
This show has been received as a story about accountability, generational differences, and humor. Hacks received 15 Emmy nominations in 2021. Out of those, it won in three categories: Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series, earned by Jean Smart, and Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series.
10 Pose: 3 Emmy Awards
Pose, stylized as POSE, is a drama television series created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck, and Steve Canals. It shows the African-American and Latino LGBT and gender-nonconforming drag ball culture in previous decades. The show depicts the stories of several characters whose lives revolve around this culture.
The series received nine nominations this year but only won three well-deserved Emmy Awards in categories related to the very curated aesthetic of the show. Pose won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Contemporary Makeup (Non-Prosthetic), another one for Outstanding Contemporary Hairstyling, and finally another one for Outstanding Contemporary Costumes.
9 Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: 3 Emmy Awards
British-American comedian John Oliver created Last Week Tonight with John Oliver as a way to explore different topics in depth. The show is a hybrid between a news satire program and a late-night talk show, where Oliver uses his well-known sense of humor to discuss actual news and their relation with the absurdity of the modern world.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has been nominated to 52 Emmy Awards over the course of seven years. In 2021, it won in three different categories: Outstanding Variety Talk Series, Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Series, and Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series.
8 Mare Of Easttown: 4 Emmy Awards
Mare of Easttown is a crime dama limited series that depicts the story of Mare Sheehan, a police detective from Philadelphia who has to balance her problematic personal life with her job while investigating the murder of a teenage girl. Out of 16 nominations, the show won four Emmys, thanks to its cast’s acting skills.
The show received the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie, won by Evan Peters, the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie, won by Kate Winslet, and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie, won by Julianne Nicholson. Finally, it received the prize for Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Contemporary Program For One Hour Or More Shows.
7 RuPaul’s Drag Race: 5 Emmy Awards
RuPaul’s Drag Race is a reality television series hosted by American drag queen and actor, RuPaul Charles. The show’s competition format pits a dozen drag artists against each other in several competitions to prove themselves “America’s next drag superstar,” winning the possibility of promoting their careers with RuPaul.
Although it’s been on the air for more than 10 years, RuPaul’s Drag Race remains a Reality TV fan-favorite. This year, the show won 5 out of 8 nominations, including Emmys for Outstanding Directing For A Reality Program, Outstanding Casting For A Reality Program, and Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Competition Program, won by RuPaul Charles himself.
6 Love, Death + Robots: 6 Emmy Awards
Love, Death + Robots is an animated science fiction anthology for adults that premiered on Netflix in 2019. Its second season, released on May 14, 2021, offers fans eight independent stories that reflect on the use of technology, the evolution of society, and human nature itself.
Love, Death + Robots was nominated for 6 Emmy Awards: Outstanding Short Form Animated Program, Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (Half-Hour) And Animation, and four iterations of the Outstanding Individual Achievement In Animation for its Stop Motion Animator, its Character Designer, its Background Artist, and its Production Designer. The show won every single one of them.
5 Ted Lasso: 7 Emmy Awards
Ted Lasso follows the story of Ted Lasso, played by Jason Sudeikis. He’s a college football coach who gets hired to coach AFC Richmond, a professional English Premier League team. Although many believe he’ll fail, Lasso’s personality gives them new hope for their future.
After two seasons, Ted Lasso has received 20 Emmy nominations and 7 Awards for different categories such as Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series, won by Jason Sudeikis, and Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series, won by Hannah Waddingham, who plays Lasso’s boss.
4 The Mandalorian: 7 Emmy Awards
Since it’s the first live-action series of the Star Wars franchise, The Mandalorian‘s success was not a surprise for anyone. The show tells the story of Din Djarin after he escapes to protect Grogu – the child he was supposed to deliver to the Imperial Forces.
Not only does The Mandalorian expand on the Star Wars Universe, but it also delivers a carefully curated universe that matches any other Star Wars piece of media. The Mandalorian’s 2021 Emmy Awards include a prize for Outstanding Stunt Coordination, Outstanding Special Visual Effects In A Season Or A Movie, and Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score).
3 Saturday Night Live: 8 Emmy Awards
As one of the longest-running television programs in the U.S., Saturday Night Live has aired more than 900 episodes in 46 seasons, each one of them as great as the last. While the SNL cast keeps changing, the show’s quality standards don’t, which is why most of its sketches are excellent.
Saturday Night Live has been nominated 297 times in the 73 Primetime Emmy Awards ceremonies hosted. For 2021, the show was nominated 21 times. Some of the categories SNL won this year are Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series, for Maya Rudolph, Outstanding Contemporary Makeup For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program (Non-Prosthetic), and Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series.
2 The Queen’s Gambit: 11 Emmy Awards
The Queen’s Gambit is a seven-episode limited series that depicts the story of Elizabeth Harmon – a prodigious chess player who struggles with mental illness and substance dependency. The show follows Beth’s career through the decades, adapting the aesthetic of every age brilliantly while it offers the audience a well-written story.
In a tie with The Crown for 11 awards, The Queen’s Gambit only lost 7 nominations. The show won the Emmys for Outstanding Cinematography For A Limited Or Anthology Series Or Movie, Outstanding Period Costumes, and Outstanding Limited Or Anthology Series, among others.
1 The Crown: 11 Emmy Awards
With four seasons already, The Crown is a historical drama that follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the moment she becomes queen up until the present day. The show focuses on milestone moments in Elizabeth’s life as head of the royal family, which means it depicts her victories and failures masterfully.
The Crown’s quality didn’t go unnoticed by the Emmys, and the show won 11 categories out of 24 nominations, which makes it the biggest winner of the night. Some categories won by the show that stand out are Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series, won by Olivia Colman, Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series, won by Josh O’Connor, and Oustanding Drama Series.
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