The Handmaid's Tale Breaks Big Emmy Record, Only It's Not A Very Good One

elisabeth moss' june outside of gillead in the handmaid's tale season 4
(Image credit: hulu press)

When The Handmaid's Tale first hit Hulu in 2017, it brought a whirlwind of popularity and awards recognition to the on-the-rise streaming service. That first season brought home eight wins from its 13 total nominations across the Primetime Emmys and Creative Arts Emmys, and it looked like Elisabeth Moss & Co. would be riding an Emmy wave for years to come. That didn't really happen though, despite the overall critical acclaim outside of awards telecasts, and the downward trend culminated in The Handmaid's Tale breaking an unfortunate record at the 2021 Primetime Emmys.

The Handmaid's Tale went into this year's multi-night Emmy ceremonies with a whopping 21 nominations, behind only Netflix's The Crown with 24, and Disney+'s WandaVision with 23. When the dust settled, however, and both the royal drama and the superhero drama walked away with several trophies of their own, The Handmaid's Tale came out of it completely empty-handed. And it marked a record for the most Emmy losses for a single year. Not the best way to spend a Sunday night for all involved, I'm sure. (But it happened on a night featuring TV greats addressing their own Emmy snubbings over the years, so at least the timing worked out.)

The previous record-setter in this respect was AMC's Mad Men, which held the non-title for nine years. Back in 2012, the Jon Hamm-starring critical darling went 0 for 17 nominations. Hamm ended up earning the only Primetime Emmy win for Mad Men following that unfortunate year, despite plenty of nominations in other categories. So it will be interesting to see if Elisabeth Moss or someone else from The Handmaid's Tale can bring home a win with Season 5 (or beyond) to save some face after this year's losses.

Going back quite a few more years, the biggest season of Emmy disparity came in 1997, when The Larry Sanders Show tied Northern Exposure's 1993 record of 16 nominations without any wins. In the case of Larry Sanders, that amount of shunning almost feels like a bigger crime than anything that's happened in Gilead on The Handmaid's Tale. Wait, no, that's completely wrong.

(Image credit: hulu press)

For what it's worth, WandaVision also fared rather poorly during the official Primetime Emmys ceremony, taking home 0 awards in any of the major acting, writing and directing categories. Marvel Studios' first TV venture had already enjoyed some success at the Creative Arts Emmys, however, winning three trophies for Costumes, Production Design and for the neo-classic bop "Agatha All Along."

The biggest winner of the 2021 Emmy Awards was without a doubt Netflix's The Crown, with Season 4 earning seven of its eleven main-stage awards (and four of its nine Creative Arts awards). The only losses The Crown suffered were in categories where it boasted multiple nominees, meaning the era-spanning drama's biggest competition was itself. Always the best-case scenario for a series overall, even if it means some individual disappointments.

Will The Handmaid's Tale Season 5 have a better time at the Emmys whenever its released? Will that be the final season? Will June get to live the rest of her days in pure bliss without any tragic aftermath? At least one of those seems extremely unlikely, but while waiting to see where things go next in the Margaret Atwood-inspired universe, be sure to check out everything hitting the 2021 Fall TV schedule in the coming months.

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.