Another year, another Emmys season. Of course, this isn’t just any old year. No, 2020’s been a wild, scary, dangerous ride, filled with political division, a deadly pandemic, and, of course, the massive shift from movie theaters to our television screens. A COVID-addled world has wreaked havoc on the big and small screen alike, from blockbusters moving to streaming services to shows shutting down production to avoid the virus.
The Emmys will be no different. Like most events in America — as they should be right now — Sunday’s Emmy telecast on ABC will be done remotely, with nominees at home and host Jimmy Kimmel playing to an audience of none. Still, despite the remarkable production woes of the coronavirus, most of 2020’s shows had finished production before the country went into lockdown, leading to what has been by and large a normal TV season.
Strangely, it’s been one of the few bits of normalcy we in America can afford, particularly as the TV screen becomes our window to a world without masks, wildfires, and despotic, uncaring leadership. The nagging nihilism of 2020 aside, though, the Emmy field is surprisingly robust, with several acclaimed shows (Schitt’s Creek, The Good Place, GLOW) getting in some farewell nominations, all while exciting newcomers (Succession, What We Do in the Shadows, Watchmen) get some much-deserved recognition.
Who will win on the big night? And who actually deserves them? Read on to find out.
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Killing Eve (BBC America/AMC)
The Mandalorian (Disney Plus)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
While Jesse Alexander’s endearingly caustic drama about an ultra-wealthy family reveling in their unabashed greed already had a stellar first season under its belt, it wasn’t until Season 2 of HBO’s Succession that the culture at large caught up with the show’s deadpan genius. It’s a show perfectly suited to an era where we’re forced to pay attention to the Jared Kushners of the world, and its writing and performances are sharper than ever. Saul had a killer Season 5, and Ozark usually has a shot at these things, but 2020 is the year of the Roys, by gum, and it’s time the Emmys engaged in some executive-level business.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Dead to Me (Netflix)
The Good Place (NBC)
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
SHOULD: What We Do in the Shadows
WILL: Schitt’s Creek
Speaking of shows that built on the strengths of their first season, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows offers one of the highest laugh-per-minute ratios on the small screen now. “On the Run”, the episode that gave us the man and the legend, Jackie Daytona, is maybe the best single episode of television this year. But with Schitt’s Creek going out on a high note in a landscape that only caught on to its delightful, optimistic charms late in the show’s life, the Emmy will likely go to them as a parting gift.
Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
Mrs. America (Hulu)
The era of the limited series is back, baby, and there’s a lot to appreciate about Hulu’s melodramatic Little Fires Everywhere and complicated Mrs. America. But the Emmy belongs to HBO’s Watchmen, a stunning continuation of the acclaimed graphic novel that not only built lovingly on the comic book origins of the source material, but tied it to the legacy of white supremacy in America in staggeringly timely ways. Its ambition is matched only by its execution, and we’ll not see its like again soon.
Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend
SHOULD: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
WILL: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
I feel for Bad Education, I really do — a darling at TIFF last year that became a refugee of the COVID landscape, moving from theatrical release to an HBO Original, thus robbing it of the rightful Oscar campaign it should be enjoying in a few months’ time. Still, as incisive and interesting as Cory Finley’s window into academic corruption is, we were blown away by El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Vince Gilligan’s intense epilogue to the story of Jesse Pinkman. We think it should win, and we’re guessing the Emmy voters will feel uncomfortable enough voting for a Real Movie(tm) to agree.
Read ahead for our predictions on leads in Comedy and Drama Series…
Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Steve Carell, The Morning Show
Brian Cox, Succession
Billy Porter, POSE
Jeremy Strong, Succession
SHOULD: Jeremy Strong, Succession
WILL: Jeremy Strong, Succession
Porter won the prize last year, and he’s stellar again in Season 2; likewise, the Ozark vote is always a safe bet. But we think it’ll end up (deservedly) going to Jeremy Strong’s perpetually stymied failson Kendall Roy. Season 2 put Ken through the wringer, starting him off as the perpetually overlooked right-hand man of his father Logan (fellow nominee Brian Cox), essentially blackmailed by dark events in Season 1, to his heel turn to whistleblower in the closing moments of the season. Strong has to wear many different hats (and, in one episode, a pathetically Daddy-themed baseball jersey), morphing from calculating to cowed on a dime, and it never fails to be totally compelling. It’s his for the taking.
Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Laura Linney, Ozark
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
SHOULD: Olivia Colman, The Crown
WILL: Laura Linney, Ozark
The field is stacked this year (both leads in Killing Eve are great, even if Season 3 was so-so), but we were most struck by Olivia Colman’s turn on the Throne of England, replacing Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in Peter Morgan’s The Crown. As an older Elizabeth, now settled into the monarchy but still wracked with the responsibilities of leadership, she brings a similar sense of vulnerability to the role as she did with Queen Anne in The Favourite, but with a greater sense of resolve. Even so, though, we think this time, the Ozark vote will win out, and it’ll go to the ever-reliable Laura Linney. (What we wouldn’t give for an at-home version of Colman’s Oscars acceptance speech, though.)
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Don Cheadle, Black Monday
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Ramy Youssef, Ramy
SHOULD: Ted Danson, The Good Place
WILL: Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Never underestimate the love Emmy voters have for The Kominsky Method, a show I’m certain no one under the age of 50 has ever watched. Still, among the remaining candidates, we’d sure love to give Ted Danson a sendoff for his superlative portrayal of the demon-turned-angel Michael in Michael Schur’s dearly departed The Good Place; it’d also double as a lifetime achievement award of sorts (just as it would for Levy, frankly). Still, we think/fear the Kominsky vote will win out.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Issa Rae, The Good Place
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
SHOULD: Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
WILL: Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Dead to Me is a great little show with two wonderful leads in Applegate and Cardellini; either of them would handily deserve this award. But we all know this is Catherine O’Hara’s to lose, as the show that gave her one of the best characters of her (or anyone’s) career, the eloquent, eccentric wig-mistress Moira Rose, comes to its end. This is another lifetime-achievement award, but a) she deserves it and b) she deserves it specifically for this role, so it’s an easy pick. Give her the bay-bay.
Read ahead to see our picks for Lead and Supporting talent in Drama and Limited Series…