Why Yellowstone's Single Emmy Nomination Is Such A Slap In The Face

john dutton in a hat on the ranch in yellowstone season 3
(Image credit: paramount network press)

When the 2021 Emmy Award nominations were announced, I wasn't necessarily expecting for Taylor Sheridan, Kevin Costner and the rest of the star-studded cast to burst through and populate every single Drama category. I wasn't expecting the TV Academy to drop down on its knees and thank everything that is holy for Yellowstone being part of our lives. I wasn't expecting the ceremony to hereafter be referred to as "The 73rd annual Dutton Awards." I also didn't expect one of TV's most-watched scripted dramas to come out of it all but empty-handed. Yet that last one is what actually happened, and it's ridiculous.

Sure, Emmy nomination day could just as soon be called Emmy snubs day, considering the vast majority of TV series' casts and crews don't get recognized for their efforts. Still, one always wants to give the TV Academy the benefit of the doubt in most cases, since so many past Emmy nominees have been perfectly worthy. But it's maddening that we're in the year 2021, waiting desperately for Yellowstone Season 4 to arrive, and the cable western has only received a single Emmy nomination, and it only earned that one today! So as far as the Emmys go, the past three seasons of foundational storytelling definitely weren't up to the standards of, say, The Mandalorian, Bridgerton or Bodyguard. (Remember that one?)

Which isn't to say that it's a bad thing that Yellowstone earned that nomination today. On the contrary, it's a celebratory occasion through and through, and a big congratulations goes out to Production Designer Cary White, Art Director Yvonne Boudreaux and Set Decorator Carla Curry for being the ones to earn that first nomination. But in the scheme of things, how much sense does it make that the ranch-set show's only Primetime Emmy nomination is for Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Contemporary Program (One Hour Or More)? Not that much.

Haven't these people watched Kelly Reilly's endlessly magnificent performances as Beth Dutton? Hell, she stood out even more in Season 3 thanks to her increasingly poisoned relationship with Wes Bentley's Jamie coming unraveled, on top of upping her businesswoman cred and entering a somewhat comfortable relationship state with Cole Hauser's Rip. And three seasons in, I'm thinking Cole Hauser has put the work in to get some kind of recognition for his hard-living badass as the layers of his history and personality get peeled back.

It's hard to justify ignoring Kelly Reilly, but for the sake of my sanity, I'll just accept it. But I truly don't understand how the Emmys, which adores showing praise on movie stars who make the jump to TV, hasn't given Kevin Costner any noms for his portrayal of John Dutton. I guess if they had an Outstandingly Understated Actor In A Drama category, he'd be a lock. It might not seem like such a huge performance, but there aren't a whole lot of actors who can speak the volumes that Costner can just by standing somberly at a fence line. John is all of us in the shot below.

yellowstone john dutton standing at the fenceline

I'll say now that I'm going to be extremely pissed if the Emmys only give Kevin Costner a nomination if John dies at some point. But that's a depressing scenario for another time. Considering we're talking about the cast already, how hasn't Yellowstone earned an Outstanding Casting nomination yet? Beyond the core group that started things off in Season 1, the ensemble has expanded in awesome ways, and it's only getting bigger in Season 4. Give the casting director some love!

I could probably keep this going until I pass out from exhaustion - which coincidentally looks something like Jimmy did when he fell off that horse - but not before saying I think, with its jaw-dropping finale leading the opinionated charge, that Yellowstone deserves to be nominated for Outstanding Drama Series alongside multi-nominees like Handmaid's Tale and The Crown. I'm not necessarily saying I think it should or would win, but it absolutely has earned a spot in that sacred circle. And in the middle of that circle is the letter Y, and it'll burn long after the iron has been pulled away.

As a horror fan, I was more than pumped about Lovecraft Country getting so much love from the Emmys, but Yellowstone's lack of attention is probably going to bug me for a while. There's always next year...for the Emmys to continue ignoring it. Thankfully, Season 4 should arrive at some point around when the Emmys will air on CBS, which is happening on Sunday, September 19, at 8:00 p.m. ET. How amazing would it be if the season premiere was on the same night? Make it happen, Paramount Network!

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.