And the award goes to… Riverdale? Examining Why Teen TV Shows Aren’t Nominated for Emmys

With Emmy awards season coming around the corner, people have shared their varied reactions to the nominations. This year’s nominees in particular brought a lot of shock, however. When will “Emily in Paris” take a step back and let actual good shows like “Pen15” receive the fame it so clearly deserves? If we’re going to give some historical dramas some hype, why not give it to “The Crown” instead of “Hamilton”?

With the pandemic leaving everyone at home to their own devices, the popularity in teen shows like “Outer Banks” or “Never Have I Ever” have risen exponentially. But are they getting the proper recognition they deserve?

While there are a few exceptions like “Euphoria” (which landed Zendaya an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress), most teen shows aren’t nominated for Emmys. With recent shows like “Never Have I Ever” bringing South Asian teen representation to the screen, some would argue that not all teen shows should be overlooked when considering Emmy award nominees. So that poses the question: why aren’t most teen shows nominated for Emmys? 

If you look at the lineup for any Emmys category, you’d see that each show is unique. Whether it’s the plot or the setting that differs each show, there’s not a lot every nominee has in common. With teen TV shows, however, the plots and setting have things in common so the shows can reach their target audience: teenagers. 

Shows like “Handmaid’s Tale” or “This Is Us” feature deep, intricate narratives that translate into unique commentary on our society. With shows that delve into serious topics, it only makes sense that they receive high acclaim from serious people. But what about a show like “Sex Education” on Netflix which features LGBTQ+ narratives and sheds light on what it’s like to grow up? Aren’t those narratives that are relatable and serious? 

The Academy tends to overlook teen shows because, like teenagers in real life, they’re not taken seriously. While shows like “Sex Education” or “Never Have I Ever” feature deep, relatable stories and interesting commentary on young adulthood and what it’s like to come-of-age, critics like The Academy refuse to look beneath the surface of teen sitcoms and realize that there is Emmy-worthy content within teen TV.

Teenagers aren’t taken seriously, but it’s about time the shows we watch are. Here’s TV Wasteland’s nominees for the Teen Emmys:

Outstanding Comedy Series:  “Derry Girls”

Outstanding Lead Actor: Jimmy Tatro as Dylan Maxwell in “American Vandal”

Outstanding Lead Actress:
Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson in “Dickinson”

Outstanding Supporting Actor:
Drew Starkey as Rafe Cameron in “Outer Banks”

Outstanding Supporting Actress:
Aimee Lou Wood as Aimee Gibbs in “Sex Education”

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: “Sex Education”

Outstanding Drama Series: “All American”

Outstanding Actor: Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Barber in “I Am Not Okay With This” (2020)

Outstanding Actress: Jessica Barden as Alyssa in “The End of the F***ing World”

Outstanding Supporting Actor: Jason Genao as Ruby Martinez in “On My Block”

Outstanding Supporting Actress: Tati Gabrielle as Prudence in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Outstanding Soundtrack: “The Umbrella Academy” series soundtrack

Best Book-to-Series Adaptation: “Anne with an E”

Outstanding Animated Series: “Avatar: The Last Airbender”


Best show that’s managed to stay relevant for at least 10 years: “Gossip Girl”

Most Frustrating Female Protagonist: Rory Gilmore, “Gilmore Girls”

Most Frustrating Male Protagonist: John B, “Outer Banks”

You cancelled THIS for “The Kissing Booth” 2?!: “The Society”

Best Redemption Arc: EJ Caswell, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”

Brooke Davis, “One Tree Hill”

Best TV mom: Nalini Vishwakumar, “Never Have I Ever”

Great Representation of a Minority Group(s):

  • “Never Have I Ever” 
  • “All American”
  • “On My Block”

Honorable Mentions (Teen Emmy snubs): 

  • “Glee”
  • “Riverdale”
  • “13 Reasons Why”

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