Golden Globes 2021: who will win – and who should win – the TV categories

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Adrian Horton
·9 min read
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Ah, the Golden Globes. The much-mocked yet still influential show must go on, despite a pandemic delay, renewed scrutiny on its ethics, and widespread criticism of snubs for black performers (none of the four black-led ensemble films were nominated for best picture, nor was Michaela Coel’s critically beloved I May Destroy You nominated for anything). The Globes are known to be unpredictable and left-field – a strange ritual in which Hollywood kicks off awards season with trophies granted by an insular group of 87 international journalists known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). This year’s TV nominees run the gamut – controversial nods to Netflix’s ambient TV hit Emily in Paris, predictable tips to the final season of Schitt’s Creek, and a host of streaming gems in between. With mega-hit favorites such as The Queen’s Gambit and The Crown, it’s shaping up to be a Netflix evening, but Globes being the Globes, it’s anyone’s game.

Related: I’m a writer on Emily in Paris. I May Destroy You deserved a Golden Globe nomination | Deborah Copaken

Best actress in a TV series – musical or comedy

Nominated: Lily Collins, Emily in Paris; Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant; Elle Fanning, The Great; Jane Levy, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist; Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek

This category could go in any direction (save maybe Lily Collins for Emily in Paris). The prize should go to Elle Fanning as young Catherine the Great of Russia, whose calibration of The Great’s arch, absurdist tone is sharp as a needle. Kaley Cuoco’s shift from comedy ensemble on the The Big Bang Theory to anchor of HBO Max’s psychological romp The Flight Attendant could nab the network star her first Golden Globe. But given the sweeping love for Schitt’s Creek at last year’s Emmys, it seems a safe bet that O’Hara will take home the prize for her final season as Moira Rose, the mid-Atlantic-accented socialite stranded in middle-of-nowhere Canada.

Will win: Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek

Should win: Elle Fanning, The Great

Best actor in a TV series – musical or comedy

Nominated: Don Cheadle, Black Monday; Nicholas Hoult, The Great; Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek; Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso; Ramy Youssef, Ramy

This year’s slate is a mixed bag–, featuring stars of new shows –Nicholas Hoult for his zany turn as Emperor Peter in The Great and Jason Sudeikis for Ted Lasso – as well as the Hollywood veterans Don Cheadle and the Schitt’s Creek star Eugene Levy, and last year’s surprise winner, Ramy Youssef. The Globes, being the Globes, probably won’t fall as uniformly for Schitt’s Creek as the Emmys, which granted the show a full buffet of comedy awards in 2020, so odds are in favor of Sudeikis’s midwestern-sweet, endearing portrayal of a Kansas football coach turned English football manager.

Will win: Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso

Should win: Jason Sudeikis, Ted Lasso

Best television series – musical or comedy

Rosie Perez and Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant.
Rosie Perez and Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant. Photograph: Phil Caruso/AP

Nominated: Emily in Paris (Netflix), The Flight Attendant (HBO Max), The Great (Hulu), Schitt’s Creek (CBC), Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)

The nomination of Emily in Paris, Netflix’s fizzy comfort comedy about a beret-wearing American abroad from Darren Star, creator of Sex and the City, raised some eyebrows (including one of its own writers’), especially in light of the Globes’ egregious snub of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You (although it should be noted that the two are different categories, comedy series v limited series. It should also be noted that, according to the Los Angeles Times, Emily in Paris’s studio, Paramount, treated HFPA members to a tour of the set and two nights at a five-star Paris hotel). Anyway, the Paris nomination makes this a more scrutinized category, and while voters could sway toward Ted Lasso’s sweetness or the swan song of the beloved Schitt’s Creek, odds are probably in favor of HBO Max’s escapist caper The Flight Attendant, somehow both frantic and fun and anchored by a career-best turn from Cuoco.

Will win: The Flight Attendant

Should win: The Great

Best actress in a limited series or TV movie

Nominated: Cate Blanchett, Mrs America; Daisy Edgar-Jones, Normal People; Shira Haas, Unorthodox; Nicole Kidman, The Undoing; Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit

This is a stacked category of veteran stars (Nicole! Cate!) and impressive new talent, playing a slate of braced, inscrutable female characters. There’s an argument to be made for the kaleidoscope of vulnerability and heat Daisy Edgar-Jones brought to Normal People’s hyper-closeup, extended scenes of intimacy. And there’s always a case for Cate Blanchett, who delivers yet another fantastic performance as the 70s anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs America. But there’s almost no way they’ll beat out Anya Taylor-Joy’s magnetic, star-cementing performance as the orphan turned chess champion Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit, a role and global hit that is catnip for the Globes.

Will win: Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit

Should win: Cate Blanchett, Mrs America

Best actor in a limited series or TV movie

Nominated: Bryan Cranston, Your Honor; Jeff Daniels, The Comey Rule; Hugh Grant, The Undoing; Ethan Hawke, The Good Lord Bird; Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True

This category could be anyone’s, though Hugh Grant –– fresh off his Globe-nominated performance in A Very English Scandal –– probably has an edge for his somewhat self-satirizing role as Nicole Kidman’s witty, wicked husband in HBO’s whodunnit The Undoing. But there’s strong competition here, notably from Mark Ruffalo’s double role as tragedy-afflicted twin brothers in the bleak I Know This Much Is True and Ethan Hawke’s frenetic, irreverent take on the American abolitionist John Brown in The Good Lord Bird, in what some have called a career-best performance.

Will win: Hugh Grant, The Undoing

Should win: Ethan Hawke, The Good Lord Bird

Best supporting actress in a series, limited series or TV movie

Nominated: Gillian Anderson, The Crown; Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown; Julia Garner, Ozark; Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek; Cynthia Nixon, Ratched

Another stacked category (for white people –– let’s not forget the I May Destroy You snub or, again, any nominations for black-led ensembles in the film categories) with Emmy champ Julia Garner for Ozark, Sex and the City alum Cynthia Nixon in Ratched, and The Crown costars Gillian Anderson (as Margaret Thatcher) and Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret), either of whom are likely to ride goodwill for the British drama to the win. Which is a shame for Annie Murphy, whose expressive performance consistently lifted a potentially easy-to-hate character into one of Schitt’s Creek’s strengths.

Will win: Gillian Anderson, The Crown

Should win: Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek

Best supporting actor in a series, limited series, or TV movie

Nominated: John Boyega, Small Axe; Brendan Gleeson, The Comey Rule; Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek; Jim Parsons, Hollywood; Donald Sutherland, The Undoing

Given the widespread love for Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy is the favorite to win, but if the insular Hollywood Foreign Press, not known for valuing performers of color and particularly black actors, knew what was good for them, they’d reward John Boyega for his performance as the trailblazing British police officer Leroy Logan in Steve McQueen’s British-Caribbean history anthology Small Axe.

Will win: Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek

Should win: John Boyega, Small Axe

Best limited series or TV movie

Nominated: Normal People (Hulu/BBC), The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix), Small Axe (Amazon Studios/BBC), The Undoing (HBO), Unorthodox (Netflix)

The limited series category is haunted by the inexplicable snub of I May Destroy You, whose psychological acuity on consent, identity and the aftermath of trauma easily matched if not surpassed The Undoing’s portrayal of an unraveling marriage/murder mystery, Unorthodox’s escape from an insular religious community, and Normal People’s exploration of a foundational sexual relationship. The win should go to Steve McQueen’s Small Axe, which nimbly roves through under-represented tales of the black British-Caribbean experience from the late 60s through mid-80s. But it would be a surprise if the HFPA didn’t ultimately vote for the feel-good underdog story in The Queen’s Gambit.

Will win: The Queen’s Gambit

Should win: Small Axe

Best actress in a TV series – drama

Nominated: Olivia Colman, The Crown; Jodie Comer, Killing Eve; Emma Corrin, The Crown; Laura Linney, Ozark; Sarah Paulson, Ratched

The Oscar winner Olivia Colman triumphed last year for her portrayal of middle-aged Queen Elizabeth II over the Emmy winner Jodie Comer’s deranged hitwoman Villanelle in Killing Eve, a scenario which could very well repeat in 2021 despite stiff competition from Ozark’s Laura Linney and perennial the Ryan Murphy favorite Sarah Paulson in Ratched. But the interest in The Crown’s portrayal of Princess Diana was overwhelming, and her appeal remains strong. It’s a dauntingly high bar to take on the late royal’s early days in the public eye, but the newcomer Emma Corrin cleared it.

Will win: Emma Corrin, The Crown

Should win: Emma Corrin, The Crown

Best actor in a TV series – drama

Nominated: Jason Bateman, Ozark; Josh O’Connor, The Crown; Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul; Al Pacino, Hunters; Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason

Jason Bateman and Bob Odenkirk, awards season staples, return for Ozark and Better Call Saul, along with outside nominations for Matthew Rhys’s interpretation of Perry Mason and Al Pacino’s turn as a Nazi hunter in the little-discussed Amazon series Hunter. The evening probably belongs to The Crown, though, and this award to its Prince Charles, Josh O’Connor.

Will win: Josh O’Connor, The Crown

Should win: Josh O’Connor, The Crown

Best television series – drama

Nominated: The Crown (Netflix), Lovecraft Country (HBO Max), The Mandalorian (Disney+), Ozark (Netflix), Ratched (Netflix)

It’s an almost entirely blank slate this year for best TV drama, with The Crown as the only repeat nominee (last year went, deservedly, to Succession, whose third season was delayed by the pandemic). There’s an outside, outside chance that affection for Disney’s well-received Star Wars franchise The Mandalorian or Netflix’s Ozark could slip in for the win. But The Crown might as well be lab-engineered for Globes favoritism –– European setting, lavish budgets, rich historical detail, committed performances of constraint, enough international buzz to invite a rebuke from the UK culture secretary over its historical accuracy. It’s as much of a lock as can be for the Globes (which, again, isn’t saying much).

Will win: The Crown

Should win: The Crown