The continuing pandemic has fluctuated the past year, as the arrival of vaccines have helped ease conditions, but continuing misinformation and a deadlier variant has continued to upend the hopeful rebound. For me, I had to conduct my volunteer tutoring virtually and only needed to fill my car’s gas tank about three or four times this year, until it finally felt safe for me to handle my most recent road trip around the Midwest this August. At the same time, the fluctuations of the year also continued to affect television production of new broadcast and streaming shows, and as a member of the Public Relations Peer Group of the Television Academy, I noticed how the fluctuations once again affected the scheduling of the nominations and voting for the 2021 Emmy Awards, as it did for the previous year. This year’s nominations were announced in mid-July, but the viewing and voting platform was not open online until mid-August with only a two week period to view and vote by the end of August. This viewing period was also tighter for me, since I had just returned from my road trip and needed to catch up on other concerns before I could focus on binge-watching the nominees in categories I was eligible to vote on. The rules for voting require Academy members to view all nominees in a category before voting, but for series or limited series nominees, members only needed to view one episode of the six provided of each nominee in order to vote. I cleared my schedule for the final week of August and was able to view the nominees for five categories and vote on them.
This year, I wanted to include the Outstanding Competition Program category, because one of my favorite programs was a nominee. This is one of the few categories where broadcast and cable has an advantage over streaming programs. Only one nominee, Nailed It!, was a streaming original on Netflix. CBS’s The Amazing Race and NBC’s The Voice represented the broadcast networks, while Bravo’s Top Chef and VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race represented cable programming. It was obvious that since some other regular past year nominees were not on this year’s list, the pandemic had affected the ability to produce some of these close competition shows. A couple of the shows demonstrated creative adjustment in dealing with the COVID restrictions, as Top Chef had to replace their competing chefs’ grocery store race and purchase segment with a computer pad order and delivery segment to handle food supplies for the cooking challenge, and The Voice had the audience displayed on a wall of monitors behind the celebrity chairs, as well as the competitors’ families presented virtually on monitors as well. However, I was aware of how the pandemic had affected my favorite competition show, The Amazing Race, as I remember watching the full season earlier this year, when it was announced at the opening episode that this race was filmed just before the pandemic shut down global travel. It was decided at the time that the airing of this race would be delayed and was finally aired as the pandemic was easing earlier this year. The goal of blending global culture and perspective is still an inspiration in this competition series, so it still deserved my vote for the Emmy.
There were five nominees for Outstanding Television Movie: Lifetime’s Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, HBO’s Oslo, Netflix’s Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, and Amazon Prime Video’s Sylvie’s Love and Uncle Frank. It was interesting that none of these movies appeared to have a current time frame. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square was not specifically set in a specific year, but the town square set was totally constructed within a closed studio, and the story of an angel and her trainee seeking to change a Scrooge-like rich woman who is trying to evict a town’s population being told in a continuous musical format has an old Hollywood style to it. Two movies are based on historical fact, as Oslo provides a behind-the-scenes rendering of the Norwegian diplomats involved in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord between Israel and the PLO, and Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia is a biopic about soul singer Mahalia Jackson during the 50s and 60s in the Martin Luther King era. Sylvie’s Love is a common touching love story between two young adults who connect in a record store in the 50s, are separated and then reconnect in the early 60s, while Uncle Frank is a tough tale of a homosexual man who must deal with his very southern family during a patriarch’s funeral in the 70s. It was a tough decision, but I was impressed with the creative conflictive presentation of Uncle Frank for my vote.
The five nominees for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series was also difficult to decide, especially since I only had time to view the opening episode of each series. HBO had two nominees with I May Destroy You about a woman dealing with a date rape, and Mare of Easttown with Kate Winslet as a small town tough detective having to take on a tense murder case. The three other nominees were streaming offerings with Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit about an orphaned girl who becomes a chess prodigy while dealing with a drug addiction caused by the orphanage, Prime Video’s The Underground Railroad about a slave couple trying to escape to freedom through a real underground train system, and Disney+’s WandaVision about a superhero couple in a 50s sitcom. I feel I would like to have seen the full series of each nominee, but I felt more enticed by the dramatic mystery being presented in Mare of Easttown which received my vote.
There were eight nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series, but only one was not from a streaming service, ABC’s Black-ish. Netflix had three nominees with Cobra Kai, Emily in Paris, and The Kominsky Method. HBO Max had two with The Flight Attendant and Hacks, while Hulu came in with PEN15 and Apple TV+ presented Ted Lasso. The Flight Attendant and Cobra Kai did not seem to truly belong in this category, as the main story arcs were more dramatic, thrilling, and suspenseful, even if some of the characters had a comic seasoning in their reactions. The comic flavoring that enticed me more was the cultural conflict stories of Emily in Paris and Ted Lasso. In the end, Ted Lasso with its opening arc of a Texas champion football coach being hired to coach an English football (soccer) team was an easier series to understand the culture conflict comedy, so it got my vote.
The eight nominees for Outstanding Drama Series proved to be the hardest to consider. The thematic range was broader than the other categories. The only network series nominee, NBC’s This Is Us, has had a few seasons dealing with a family drama told between the present and the past. On cable, FX Networks’ Pose focused on the dramatic competition within the LBGT urban community. Under the hyper sci-fi, superhero dramas, Disney+’s The Mandelorian and Prime Video’s The Boys pulls out the CGI power. Netflix’s two nominees, Bridgerton and The Crown, deal with British royalty drama, even if Bridgerton is in the early 1800s, while The Crown was focusing on the historic drama in the arrival of Diana in Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale continued its dystopian future drama, while HBO’s Lovecraft Country has black family members who have faced the racial prejudice conflicts in the 20s suddenly having to face the monsters in the world of H.P. Lovecraft. It was amazing to experience the breadth of racial inclusion within these series, but Lovecraft Country drew me in a little better, so it got my vote.
The 73rd Annual Emmy Awards is scheduled to air on Sunday, September 19 at 8PM ET on CBS. We’ll see at that time how my votes match with the actual winners. It continues to be an honor to provide my voice in deciding the recipients of the Emmy Awards.
Update: The Emmy recipients of four of the categories I voted in were presented at the 73rd Annual Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 19 on CBS. The Emmy recipient for Outstanding Television Movie was presented at the Creative Arts Emmys on Sunday, September 12, which aired on FXX on Saturday, September 18. The Outstanding Television Movie Emmy went to Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square. During the annual Emmy Awards on September 19, The Outstanding Reality Competition Program went to RuPaul’s Drag Race. The Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series went to The Queen’s Gambit. The Outstanding Drama Series went to The Crown. The one Emmy award that matched my vote was the Outstanding Comedy Series which went to Ted Lasso. Congratulations to the winners and the other nominees.