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Emmys 2021 vow a ‘good time’ after bleak year, Crown may rule

Emmy Awards host Cedric the Entertainer and the show’s producers promise it will be a celebration for all. But it could be much more rewarding, even historic, for some. That includes Netflix’s drama The Crown and Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso. Each is considered a frontrunner Sunday for top series honors in their respective categories, and their casts received armloads of nominations.

More than the shows would benefit. Victories in both the best drama and comedy series categories would mark a first for streaming services and reinforce their growing dominance, to the dismay of competitors. But the TV industry overall, including the broadcast networks that still field popular shows but are largely eclipsed at the Emmys, will be honored, say those in charge of the event airing 8 p.m. EDT on CBS.

“Sometimes, programs that can be called ‘niche’ walk off with the awards and a lot of people …. are going, ‘What the hell is that?’” said Ian Stewart, executive producer of the ceremony with Reginald Hudlin. “So we’ve been really mindful of that, and bring in big stars that everyone knows and loves.”

Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy, Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson (black-ish), and LL Cool J (“NCIS: Los Angeles”) are among the presenters. The producers’ ultimate goal is a ceremony that is upbeat and acknowledges how much TV’s importance grew during the pandemic and its lockdowns.

“When we first sat down with Cedric, we all quickly agreed on the idea of celebration,” said Hudlin. “The fact is, television right now is perhaps the best it’s ever been… and boy, have we ever needed it.” It’s gotten us “through some very tough times,” Hudlin said.

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“We’re going to have a good time,” Cedric said. He’s binged on recent and older seasons of nominated shows — retro-watching, as he dubbed the latter — to ensure he was ready with equal-opportunity wisecracks. The top nominees include the British royal drama The Crown and the Star Wars-universe derived The Mandalorian, which received a leading 24 nominations each.

On the comedy side, the feel-good comedy Ted Lasso is competing with black-ish, Cobra Kai, Emily in Paris, Hacks, The Flight Attendant, The Kominsky Method and PEN15.

Other drama series contenders include past winner The Handmaid’s Tale and Lovecraft Country, which was canceled after a single season but yielded nods for cast members Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Aunjanue Ellis and the late Michael K Williams, who died September 6.

They’re part of a diverse field of nominees. Of the 96 acting nods for drama, comedy and miniseries, nearly 44% — a total of 42 nominations — went to people of color. Their rise echoes the change in the US population, with the number of people who identify as white shrinking for the first time in census history.

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