Emmy Predictions: Best Limited or Anthology Series – Barry Jenkins’ ‘The Underground Railroad’ Could Top an Unprecedented Competitive Race

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UPDATED: May 6, 2021

AWARDS PREDICTION COMMENTARY: It’s both hilarious and frustrating that there are eight available slots in the drama and comedy categories for the Emmys this year, with a “less than” amount of contenders. But when it comes to limited series, where there is an overabundance of talent and quality, only five will make the cut, which will inevitably upset many, depending on which series gets snubbed.

Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit” has run the gauntlet at the Golden Globes, SAG and guilds thus far, but it hasn’t competed against all the late breakers that are about to surge. Most notably, Barry Jenkins’ “The Underground Railroad” could very well be his masterpiece, which is a high mark considering he helmed the best picture winning “Moonlight” and criminally overlooked “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Creating a star out of Thuso Mbedu, the adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s acclaimed novel has all the goods to be an Emmy sweeper, especially from the power of Amazon Prime behind it. The streamer also has Steve McQueen’s “Small Axe,” which will be competitive in various categories, particularly supporting actor and actress. The entire cast of all five films is being submitted.

HBO will be giving all their might to Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You,” but they will also be handling “Mare of Easttown” with Kate Winslet, “The Undoing” with Nicole Kidman and the critically acclaimed “It’s a Sin” (from HBO Max) from creator Russell T. Davies. Will they be able to juggle it all?

Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird” has its fans, and with Ethan Hawke likely to be very competitive in lead actor in a limited series or tv movie, it has a shot at the big prize.

Then there are the familiar Emmy names and series in the running like “Genius: Aretha” from National Geographic, “Fargo” from FX and “Halston” from Netflix.

The eligibility period ends on May 31 before nomination-round voting begins on June 17, concluding June 28. The Primetime Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.


  1. "The Underground Railroad" (Amazon Prime Video)

    Executive producers: Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner (May 14, 2021 release date)

    CREATOR: Barry Jenkins
    SYNOPSIS: A young woman named Cora makes an amazing discovery during her attempt to break free from slavery in the deep south.
    STARRING: Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre, Joel Edgerton, Justice Leak, Damon Herriman, William Jackson Harper, Amber Gray, Jim Klock, Lily Rabe, Lucius Baston, Fred Hechinger, Owen Harn, Bri Collins, Will Poulter, Peter Mullan, Sheila Atim, Peter De Jersey, Chikwudi Iwuji, Irone Singleton, Mychai-Bella Bowman, Marcus "MJ" Gladney Jr, Benjamin Walker

  2. "Small Axe" (Amazon Prime Video)

    Executive producers: Steve McQueen, Tracey Scoffield, David Tanner, Lucy Richer, Rose Garnett (Nov. 15, 2020 release date)

    CREATOR: Steve McQueen
    SYNOPSIS: Small Axe is based on the real-life experiences of London's West Indian community and is set between 1969 and 1982.
    STARRING: Letitia Wright, John Boyega, Malachi Kirby, Shaun Parkes, Rochenda Sandall, Alex Jennings, Jack Lowden, Micheal Ward

  3. "The Queen's Gambit" (Netflix)

    Executive producers: William Horberg, Allan Scott, Scott Frank, Marcus Loges, Mick Aniceto (Oct. 23, 2020)

    CREATOR: Scott Frank, Allan Scott
    SYNOPSIS: Orphaned at the tender age of nine, prodigious introvert Beth Harmon discovers and masters the game of chess in 1960s USA. But child stardom comes at a price.
    STARRING: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Moses Ingram, Isla Johnston, Christiane Seidel, Rebecca Root, Chloe Pirrie, Akemnji Ndifornyen, Marielle Heller, Harry Melling, Patrick Kennedy, Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Marcin Dorociński

  4. "WandaVision" (Disney Plus)

    Executive producers: Kevin Feige, Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Matt Shakman, Jac Shaeffer (Jan. 15, 2021)

    CREATOR: Kevin Feige
    SYNOPSIS: Blends the style of classic sitcoms with the MCU, in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision - two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives - begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.
    STARRING: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Debra Jo Rupp, Fred Melamed, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Evan Peters

  5. "I May Destroy You" (HBO)

    Executive producers: Michaela Coel, Phil Clarke, Roberto Troni, Sam Miller, Jo McLellan (June 7, 2020)

    CREATOR: Michaela Coel
    SYNOPSIS: The question of sexual consent in contemporary life and how, in the new landscape of dating and relationships, we make the distinction between liberation and exploitation.
    STARRING: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu, Marouane Zotti, Stephen Wright, Adam James, Natalie Walter, Aml Ameen, Lara Rossi, Ann Akin, Chin Nyenwe, Lewis Reeves, Sarah Niles, Mariah Gale, Rebecca Calder, Andi Osho



AWARDS CATEGORY HISTORY (Best Limited or Anthology Series)

The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known simply as the Emmys, is television’s most prestigious artistic award. There are many records held for both wins and nominations in the near eight decades.

This category has continually undergone rule changes and inceptions over the years, making it misleading to account for significant historical wins and nominations. “Prime Suspect” has the most wins in this category with three, while “American Crime Story” is right behind with two. The former also has the most nominations for a continuing series with five, while “American Horror Story” is close behind with four.

Since the beginning of this category in 1973, HBO has the most wins in this category with 11, with NBC and PBS close behind with 10. No streaming platform has yet to win this category.

2021 Primetime Emmy Awards Predictions

  • Outstanding Drama Series
    • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
    • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
    • Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
    • Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series
    • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
    • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
    • Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
    • Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
    • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
    • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
    • Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
    • Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
    • Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series

    About the Primetime Emmy Awards (Emmys)

    The Primetime Emmy Awards, better known as the Emmys, is given out by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS). Since 1949, the awards recognize excellence in American primetime television programming. They are divided into three classes – Primetime Emmy Awards, the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards (honors artisan achievements) and the Primetime Engineering Emmy Awards (recognizes significant engineering and technological contributions). The typical eligibility period is between June 1 and May 31 of any given year. The Television Academy comprises over 25,000 members, representing 30 professional peer groups, including performers, directors, producers, art directors and various artisans and executives.

    • The 73rd Emmy Awards are scheduled to air on Sunday, Sept. 19 at 8:00 pm est on CBS and on-demand on sister streamer Paramount Plus.

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