It’s a Golden Age for New Shows at the Emmys – But Not THE Golden Age

A bumper crop of first-year series could be nominated in top categories, but it’ll be hard to beat the new shows from the early ’70s

Steve Pond

“The Flight Attendant” and “Bridgerton”: Netflix / “Ted Lasso”: AppleTV+


This is a year in which more than a dozen first-year series have a real shot at landing Emmy nominations in the top categories, and the latest in a recent string of good years for new shows at the Television Academy’s annual awards. But we shouldn’t start thinking we’re looking at a potentially historic freshman class quite yet.

Sure, “Ted Lasso,” “The Flight Attendant” and “Hacks” are currently favored to be nominated in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, and “Bridgerton” and “Lovecraft Country” to do so in Outstanding Drama Series.

Other first-year shows with a chance to break into the top categories include “Girls5eva,” “The Upshaws” and “Emily in Paris” in comedy and “Perry Mason,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “P-Valley” in drama.

Those series’ chances are buoyed by the fact that so many of last year’s nominees and winners are ineligbible, including “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Good Place,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Dead to Me” and “What We Do in the Shadows” in comedy as well as the dramas “Succession,” “Better Call Saul” and “Ozark.”  “Schitt’s Creek” and “The Good Place” have gone off the air, while most of the other shows had production delays due to the COVID pandemic and didn’t air in the eligibility period.

Out of last year’s 16 comedy and drama series nominees, only four are eligible this year: Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method” is the sole 2020 comedy nominee that could repeat, while Netflix’s “The Crown,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” could do it in drama.

That means the big crop of new shows has more room to break in, provided they can get past series that were nominated prior to 2020 (“black-ish,” “Master of None,” “This Is Us,” “Pose”) or ones that have been around but haven’t quite broken through yet (“PEN15,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” “The Boys” and “In Treatment” — which returned to HBO this year after a decade’s absence).

Odds are that a good number of the new shows will in fact be nominated, because a hefty influx of new shows in the top two Emmy categories has become typical in the last decade. While only 12 freshman shows broke into the comedy and drama series categories between 2000 and 2009, the lowest figure ever for any decade, that number soared to 31 between 2010 and 2019.

“The Mandalorian” was the only first-year show to land a series nom in 2020, but the previous few years had been strong for newcomers: four in 2019, three in 2018 and six in 2017, one of only five years in Emmy history that saw that many new shows nominated.  

But while the last decade has been a fruitful one for new shows at the Emmys with the surge in both content and platforms, the 14 freshman nominees in the last four years pale when compared to the 22 first-year nominees between 1970 and 1973. Those years included the debuts of “All in the Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Odd Couple,” “M*A*S*H,” “Sanford and Son,” “Columbo” and “The Waltons.” And they kicked off a decade in which a record 33 first-year shows landed series nominations, narrowly edging the ’60s for the most new nominees in a decade.  

The Class of 2021 could conceivably end up with more freshman nominees than the record of seven set in 1962 and equaled in 1970, though it’s hard to compare those years, in which there were 11 total nominees in the drama and comedy series categories, with 2021, in which there will be 16 total nominees. (To get a similar percentage of first-year nominees, this year’s field would need to include 10 or 11 new shows.)  

Here are the first-year shows gunning for Emmy nominations:

Outstanding Comedy Series

Best Bets:
“Ted Lasso” (AppleTV+)
“The Flight Attendant” (Netflix)
“Hacks” (HBO Max)

Strong contender:
“Girls5eva” (Peacock)

“Made for Love” (HBO Max)
“Rutherford Falls” (Peacock)
“The Upshaws” (Netflix)
“Emily in Paris” (Netflix)
“Chad” (TBS)
“Kenan” (NBC)
“Mr. Mayor” (NBC)
“Young Rock” (NBC)

Outstanding Drama Series

Best Bets:
“Bridgerton” (Netflix)
“Lovecraft Country” (HBO)

Strong contenders:
“Perry Mason” (HBO)
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (Disney+)

“P-Valley” (Starz)
“We Are Who We Are” (HBO)
“The Mosquito Coast” (AppleTV+)
“Clarice” (CBS)
“Raised by Wolves” (HBO)
“Ratched” (Netflix)

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