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Emmys 2021: HBO narrowly tops Netflix with 130 nominations

Kaley Cuoco stands inside a plane in "The Flight Attendant."
Coffee, tea or international murder mystery? Kaley Cuoco soared to her first big post-"Big Bang Theory” success in “The Flight Attendant.”
(Phil Caruso / HBO)

HBO — with the help of its streaming service HBO Max — landed the most 2021 Emmy Awards nominations of any media outlet, edging last year’s leader, Netflix, by a single nod.

The WarnerMedia-owned premium cable network scored 94 nominations while streaming service HBO Max delivered another 36. That was enough to top Netflix, which landed 129 nominations, the Television Academy announced Tuesday.

HBO was helped by strong showings for “Lovecraft Country” and “Mare of Easttown” with 18 nominations apiece. “Mare” stars Kate Winslet as a troubled detective in a Pennsylvania town. “Lovecraft Country,” a horror series set in the segregated U.S. during the 1950s, was canceled last week after a single season.

Columnist and awards expert Glenn Whipp breaks down the top surprises and snubs of Tuesday’s Emmy nominations.

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Netflix was down 19% from its record 160 nominations in 2020. As expected, the streaming giant’s royal family drama “The Crown” was a major nomination driver, scoring 24. “The Crown” and the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian,” which also had 24 nominations, tied for the most of any program.

Netflix also saw 18 nominations for “The Queen’s Gambit,” the wildly popular limited series starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a young chess master in the 1960s.

The Shonda Rhimes-produced period drama “Bridgerton” landed 12 nominations for Netflix, including one for breakout star Regé-Jean Page, who was committed to the program for only one season.

HBO also earned nine nominations for “I May Destroy You,” the critically acclaimed limited series starring creator Michaela Coel as a young writer in London trying to unravel the mystery of a sexual assault she cannot remember.

HBO did not have the help of its most buzzworthy show and multi-Emmy winner, “Succession,” as the addictive family-business drama did not air during the 2021 eligibility period, which ran from June 1, 2020, through May 31.

But HBO Max, which launched last year to push WarnerMedia into the streaming landscape, broke through with 15 nominations for its comedy series “Hacks,” the tale of a boomer stand-up comedian (Jean Smart) collaborating with a perpetually dissatisfied Gen Z writer (Hannah Einbinder). Both actresses were nominated and the series is up for best comedy.

“The Flight Attendant” with Kaley Cuoco is another HBO Max contender with nine nominations, including best comedy. Cuoco earned a best actress nominee for her portrayal of a partying airline employee who wakes up in a hotel room next to a murdered man she slept with the night before.

The major category winners for the 73rd Emmy Awards will be presented on Sept. 19 in a live telecast airing on CBS.

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While the Emmy Awards no longer draw massive TV audiences — last year’s ceremony pulled a record low 6.1 million viewers — the industry recognition they provide is valuable to streaming services looking for any advantage in marketing their wares amid the massive number of available viewing choices.

The newer streaming services also made an impression on Television Academy voters, as Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+ brought in 71 nominations, up from 19 in its inaugural year.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in "WandaVision."
(Marvel Studios)

Disney’s innovative limited series “WandaVision,” based on a Marvel Comics franchise, scored 23 nominations including acting nods for leads Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany and supporting player Kathryn Hahn.

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Disney’s “Star Wars” bounty-hunter series “The Mandalorian” also had a strong showing with 24 nominations for its second season, after landing 15 in 2020.

“The Crown” and “The Mandalorian” dominate the 2021 Emmy nominations. Here are the honorees in the major categories.

Disney+ also benefited from the pop culture phenomenon of “Hamilton.” The filmed version of the Broadway smash by Lin-Manuel Miranda captured 12 nominations, including best variety special.

Disney also showed creative muscle with its established streaming service, Hulu, landing 25 nominations, including 21 for dystopian drama “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

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Apple TV+ counted 20 nominations for its lauded fish-out-of-water comedy “Ted Lasso,” which stars Jason Sudeikis as an American college football coach hired to lead a Premier League soccer team. The streamer saw its nomination total grow to 35, up from 18 in 2020.

Nick Mohammed, Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in "Ted Lasso."
Nick Mohammed, left, Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in “Ted Lasso,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
(Apple TV+)

Comcast Corp.’s streaming service, Peacock, landed two nominations, while Paramount+, owned by ViacomCBS, was recognized with six nods.

With its multi-Emmy winner “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” not airing in the eligibility period, Amazon Prime Video saw its nomination tally drop to 18 after hitting 30 in 2020. Superhero series “The Boys” scored five nominations, including one for best drama.

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Streaming and premium cable networks have overshadowed the broadcast networks at the Emmys for the last decade, a trend that continues in 2021.

Comcast’s NBC came out on top among the traditional networks with 46 nominations, driven largely by the durable sketch-comedy series “Saturday Night Live,” which landed 21. NBC also was recognized for its prestige drama “This Is Us,” with 6 nominations, and “Kenan,” which picked up a best actor nomination for star Kenan Thompson. Thompson also was nominated for his work on “SNL.”

CBS finished second with 26 nominations, including three for the sitcom “Mom,” topping Disney’s ABC, which had 23.

Portraits of participants in the Los Angeles Times’ Envelope Emmy Roundtables

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Among ad-supported cable networks, Walt Disney Co.’s FX led the way with 16 nominations, including nine for “Pose,” its drama depicting New York’s underground ball culture. Other networks with multiple nominations included VH-1 (11), National Geographic (10), Bravo (8) and CNN (4). History, Discovery Channel and Comedy Central had 3 nominations apiece.


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