Sci-fi and fantasy shows completely shut out of Primetime Emmys

The Boys, Lovecraft Country, WandaVision, The Mandalorian…a lot of great genre series were nominated for Primetime Emmys this year, but they were all shut out.

The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards went down last night, and some narratives started to emerge pretty early on. The big winners of the night were Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, which dominated the comedy categories, and Netflix’s The Crown, which owned the drama side of things; actors from The Crown won in every single drama acting category.

So it wasn’t exactly a tense evening; things got predictable pretty quickly. And that’s not particularly surprising — like all awards shows, the Emmys run on narratives; watching the awards roll in, I got the idea that the voters made their pics not so much because they’d carefully considered all the factors and voted for the show they thought were best but more because those shows had the most buzz going into voting season, or because they were safe pics; The Crown, for instance, has been an Emmy favorite for a while, so why change what works?

And I’m not saying The Crown and Ted Lasso aren’t good shows — they are — but they’re not the only good shows out there, and they’re not particularly inventive. There were a lot of esoteric, more experimental series up for awards for year, many of them in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. And while series like WandaVision and The Mandalorian cleaned up at the Creative Arts Emmys, which awards more technical categories like production design and costuming, they came up empty at the Primetime Emmys, which rightly or wrongly are considered to be more prestigious.

As a genre fan, I was excited by all the sci-fi and fantasy representation in the categories this year. Lovecraft Country may have been a bit jumbled, but it was an incredibly bold series with a ton on its mind, and wonderful performances from the likes of Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett and Michael K. Williams, all of whom lost to actors from The Crown. I was frankly shocked to see Amazon’s rowdy superhero series The Boys make it into the Outstanding Drama category, but also very pleased: The Boys does satire like nobody’s business and deserved to be recognized.

The Emmys have a long history of ignoring sci-fi and fantasy series, which have long been seen as not mature enough to stand alongside polished series about cops and lawyers and whatnot. But that had started to change in recent years thanks to a little show called Game of Thrones, which was a Emmy darling since early in its run. I thought maybe that had opened the floodgates and that more genre shows would start getting rewarded, but they don’t seem able to get past the narrative bulwark…at least not yet.

Because narratives can change. Thanks in part to the success of Game of Thrones, fantasy and sci-fi TV is bigger and better than ever, and a lot of it is terrific; the Emmy voters can’t ignore it forever. Who knows what narratives might emerge next year, and which sci-fi and fantasy shows might benefit from it?

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