Watching the 2021 Producers Guild Awards ceremony on Wednesday night felt a lot like cultural deja vu. When you used to stumble downstairs in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, and settle on watching a movie on cable that you think you’ve seen before, but you can’t be certain. The plot points seem familiar and you can basically predict what’s going to happen from scene to scene, but you’re not sure if that’s because you’re remembering it or because whatever you’re watching reminds you of a dozen other movies you’ve seen like it. Regardless, you watch it through to the end, finally feel ready to get some sleep and by morning, you’ve largely forgotten about it.
Anyway, the big TV winners at the PGA awards included Netflix darlings “The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit” and if that is wholly unsurprising and even a little bit redundant to you at this juncture, I can’t exactly blame you.
So instead of picking through the PGA Awards themselves, which were in large an unremarkable — though deserving — batch of winners, it might be time to sit down and ask ourselves the hard questions: Do we already know what show is winning Outstanding Drama Series September’s Primetime Emmy Awards?
It’s not like we haven’t seen shows dominate a year in drama series before (See also: “Succession”), but what makes “The Crown” such an awards threat is that, at present, there doesn’t seem to be any show that could launch a plausible campaign against it.
Also, it has narrative on its side, what with being denied the top prize for all of its previous seasons and never able to elbow its way to the top in competitive years. This year clearly upends that tradition, with a field wiped out by global pandemic coupled with “The Crown” putting up arguably its best season to date.
As we stand, just over two months away from the end of Emmy eligibility, here are some of the shows that might stand a chance at toppling the monarchy monolith, as well as reasons why they’ll have a tough road attempting to gain the high ground from a series on a roll:
Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” continues to be a crowd-pleaser — as well as feeling as though it might be on the verge of breaking into that “Game of Thrones” void in a big way — but it lacks even nominal acting performances that could anchor such a play. (Sorry Pedro. Less mask.)
HBO’s new shows “Lovecraft Country” and “Perry Mason” both had vocal boosters while airing, but just haven’t made much of an impact so far with regards to the current awards cycle.
FX’s “Pose” is returning for its third and final season in May, in time for Emmy eligibility, and while a return to the drama series category would be no surprise, it’s unclear whether the series has enough support to go all the way, particularly given the show’s lack of nomination for its second season.
Apple TV+ has two contenders for drama series that they’re slow-playing. One is the second season of “For All Mankind,” which I’m largely including because my wife won’t shut up about it and I grudgingly respect her opinion, despite the season also garnering less enthusiastic reviews. They also have “Mosquito Coast,” starring Justin Theroux, an adaptation of the eponymous novel which was actually written by Theroux’s uncle.
“Mosquito Coast” has buzz but has largely remained under wraps, debuting at the end of April. It’s possible this is strong enough to come for the (literal) queen, but it’s going to have to be one hell of a mosquito.
Of course, there’s also a previous Emmy-winning drama series in the mix with Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” returning for its fourth season at the end of April. It’ll be interesting watching June’s adventures without the auspices of a former president tinting every scene but will the show flounder without its temple-throbbing resonance at every turn?
The irony of this entire situation is there’s an argument to be made that the best challenger for “The Crown” comes within Netflix’s own house. “Bridgerton” shares plenty of DNA with “The Crown,” what with its London-set high-society drama, though half as serious and twice as colorful as any dealings with QEII. The soapy series might be a hard sell for the TV Academy, but that same argument could have been made when that dragon show started making the rounds a decade ago. But really, how hard is Netflix going to push a show that could derail its shining star?
Is all of this premature? Almost certainly. But that doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate. It’s possible we get to July and the Emmy nominations overlook “The Crown” entirely.
But it’s not bloody likely, is it?