Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit.
FORGET ABOUT COMEDY AND DRAMA—THE TIGHTEST RACE AT THE 2021 PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS WILL BE THE NEWLY FORMED OUTSTANDING LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES CATEGORY.
Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit
While the film industry spent 2020 grappling with a fundamental change in its distribution model, the TV golden age kept moving along—if not completely on schedule, then only slightly delayed. Which means that while the Oscars were pushed back months as studios figured out when and how to release their marquee films, the Television Academy should see no such disruptions when it comes to the 2021 Emmys ceremony.
Michaela Coel as Arabella Essiedu in I May Destroy You
In fact, the main issue plaguing the TV industry’s biggest award show in 2021? Too much quality content—especially in one category in particular. Limited series have made it easy to attract big-name talent to the small screen for shorter, but no less impactful, stints. And with the Television Academy officially adding anthology series to the category—it’s now called Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series—making it impossible for shows like Fargo, American Horror Story or others to move between the Limited and Drama categories, the race is already tighter than ever.
Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan in Mare of Easttown
The window for 2021 eligibility runs from June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021, with voting taking place between June 17 and 29, and nominations announced July 13. Until then, critically acclaimed projects from every major streamer (and top cable contenders) will compete for one of the category’s limited slots. Netflix has Golden Globes and guild sensation The Queen’s Gambit, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a young chess prodigy; Ryan Murphy drama Halston, starring Ewan McGregor as the famed fashion designer; and The Haunting of Bly Manor, Mike Flanagan’s follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House. Amazon has Barry Jenkins’ long-awaited Colson Whitehead adaptation The Underground Railroad, plus Steve McQueen’s film anthology Small Axe and star-studded TV anthology Solos. HBO Max has Russell T. Davies’ It’s a Sin, about a group of young people experiencing the AIDS epidemic in London. Hulu has FX on Hulu’s A Teacher, a rumination on consent and power. Disney+ has Marvel’s splashy, genre-bending streaming debut WandaVision.
Thuso Mbedu as Cora in The Underground Railroad.
On the cable side, expect the biggest competitors to include HBO’s I May Destroy You, British phenom Michaela Coel’s singular series about a Londoner reassessing her life in the wake of a sexual assault; Mare of Easttown, a dark crime drama featuring Kate Winslet’s superb Philly accent; The Undoing, a dark crime drama featuring Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman as rich New York City parents caught up in a murder; and The Third Day, a British horror drama starring Jude Law. There’s also Showtime’s trippy, Ethan Hawke-starring historical dramedy The Good Lord Bird, Bryan Cranston drama Your Honor and Trump investigation The Comey Rule; the fourth season of FX’s Fargo, starring Chris Rock; the third season of National Geographic’s Genius, starring Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin; and the third season of Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience.
The biggest question: Can HBO, the winner of the past two years (for Watchmen and Chernobyl), repeat? Find out Sept. 19, when the 73rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on CBS.
Photography by: PHOTO BY PHIL BRAY/NETFLIX © 2020; PHOTO BY PHIL BRAY/NETFLIX; PHOTO BY NATALIE SEERY/HBO; PHOTO BY: MICHELE K. SHORT/HBO; PHOTO BY: KYLE KAPLAN/AMAZON STUDIOS