The dystopian drama The Handmaid’s Tale is the series that put Hulu on the map as far as original programming is concerned. Based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, the Elisabeth Moss led series has enjoyed critical acclaim and a diehard binge-happy fanbase since its 2017 premiere. The show currently enjoys an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes and it’s won 15 Emmys and 2 Golden Globes. Unfortunately, last night at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, The Handmaid’s Tale broke a record that — it’s safe to say — no one involved in making the series ever wanted it to break.
As Deadline points out, with 21 Emmy nominations The Handmaid’s Tale came in third last night as far as nom numbers go — behind only The Crown (24) and WandaVision (23). Unlike those other shows, the Hulu series went home with none of the awards it was up for, and so broke the record no one wanted to break: the record for the most Emmy losses in a single season. The former title holder was another acclaimed series that Elisabeth Moss starred in; in 2012, the AMC drama Mad Men was nominated for 17 Emmys and went home empty-handed. Previous record holders include the HBO comedy The Larry Sanders Show and the CBS dramedy Northern Exposure.
Looked at in a different way, the evening wasn’t so much a loss for The Handmaid’s Tale as it was a resounding victory for the Netflix’s The Crown. Along with Ted Lasso and The Queen’s Gambit, The Crown was one of the big winners of this year’s Emmy Awards. The historical drama took home 7 trophies — more than any other series, and almost every single The Crown win meant a loss for The Handmaid’s Tale. The more prestigious awards the Hulu series lost include Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Elisabeth Moss).
It was particularly surprising The Handmaid’s Tale lost the awards for both Outstanding Supporting Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, considering its nominations dominated the lists of both. The Handmaid’s Tale actors Bradley Whitford, O-T Fagbenle, and Max Minghella were all nominated for Supporting Actor, while The Handmaid’s Tale‘s entries for Supporting Actress — Madeline Brewer, Ann Dowd, Yvonne Strahovski, and Samira Wiley — made up half the category. In both cases, the Hulu series lost to The Crown.
It’s perhaps not so much a surprise The Handmaid’s Tale suffered so many losses at this year’s Emmy Awards as it is that the series earned so many nominations in the first place. Judging by its Rotten Tomatoes scores, the critical response to the series was trending steadily downward with the release of each new season, until the more pronounced drop from season 3’s 82% to season 4’s — the most recent entry — 68%. Among other supposed failings, critics point to the show going out of its way to be overly grim. The Daily Mail‘s Deborah Ross, for example, calls The Handmaid’s Tale‘s most recent season “as grim as any any action movie” and goes so far as to say the show “should be put out of its misery.”