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…
Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Jeremy Irons, Watchmen
Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
Paul Mescal, Normal People
Jeremy Pope, Hollywood
SHOULD: Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
WILL: Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much is True
Again, in a just world, Jackman would be gearing up for a well-deserved Best Actor campaign right now for Bad Education, playing a school administrator who hides his narcissism behind a veneer of slick suits and sleazy charm. It’s a great role for the greatest showman himself, and it’s a shame its relegation to HBO will mean it gets left behind in the Emmy race. Instead, we think it’ll go to Mark Ruffalo for the dreary-but-rewarding I Know This Much is True, pulling double duty as two brothers linked by tragedy, trauma and mental illness. It’s good work, and I won’t be mad at it, but I’ll weep for Wolverine anyway.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America
Shira Haas, Unorthodox
Regina King, Watchmen
Octavia Spencer, Self-Made
Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere
SHOULD: Regina King, Watchmen
WILL: Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America
Undergirding Watchmen‘s pitch-perfect exploration of race throughout American history is Regina King’s superlative turn as a masked police detective with surprising connections to the incredible, world-shattering events that happen over the series’ nine episodes. It’s a role that calls for heartbreaking sorrow and back-breaking ferocity, and King pulls off both ends of the spectrum in ways the Oscar-winning actress could only be expected to. If anyone’s going to beat her, though, it’s Cate Blanchett as the controlled, fiercely committed Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. America, exploring the origins of the modern conservative movement.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul
Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
Mark Duplass. The Morning Show
Nicholas Braun, Succession
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Matthew Macfadyen, Succession
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
SHOULD: Matthew Macfadyen, Succession
WILL: Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
Billy Crudup has gotten a lot of attention as one of the best parts of the already-stacked cast of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show, playing a self-absorbed network news executive as concerned with ratings as he is with the state of the larger media world. (Plus, there’s that mid-show duet of Sweeney Todd‘s “Not While I’m Around” with Aniston.) To that end, we think he’ll get it over Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom in Succession, who plumbed new depths of amoral depravity with Nicholas Brauns’ Greg the Egg in hapless tow, no matter how much we’d love to see him win it.
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale
Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve
Julia Garner, Ozark
Sarah Snook, Succession
Thandie Newton, Westworld
SHOULD: Sarah Snook, Succession
WILL: Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Again, our preferences go to the Roys, as Snook’s Shiv Roy was in cutting-edge form in Season 2, attempting to negotiate her way to the top of her dad’s company while dragging Tom along a hastily-opened marriage as loveless as it is gripping to watch. Still, you can’t stop the Meryl Streep, and the screen titan joining Big Little Lies for a big, showy, Streep-y role (she screams and wails with the best of them) is enough to convince Emmy voters she probably deserves the trophy.
Read ahead to see our picks for Supporting talent in Comedy and Limited Series…
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
William Jackson Harper, The Good Place
Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Mahershala Ali, Ramy
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek
SHOULD: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
WILL: Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek
As this year’s Black Lives Matter protests have spurred conversations about the way media glorifies and valorizes the behavior of the police, shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine will have to look long and hard about how they want to avoid the dreaded phrase “copaganda.” It’s a shame, too, since Andre Braugher’s Captain Raymond Holt remains one of the best characters on television, a man as principled as he is deliciously deadpan. Still, we’d be happy to see the award go to its likely recipient, the creator and secret weapon of Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy — it’s as much for his creative role on the show as it is his (also great) performance on the show, but what a way to go out.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Betty Gilpin, GLOW
D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place
Yvonne Orji, Insecure
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live
Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek
SHOULD: Yvonne Orji, Insecure
WILL: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Insecure is Issa Rae’s show through and through, but stand-up comedian Yvonne Orji’s motivated, self-sabotaging bestie Molly just about stole the season out from under her — and we’d love to see her take home the trophy. But as shaky as Maisel has been in its ensuing seasons, Alex Borstein’s caustic, butch Susie Meyerson is still far and away the best part of that show. Plus she’s won the award twice in a row. Third time’s the charm?
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Dylan McDermott, Hollywood
Jim Parsons, Hollywood
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen
Jovan Adepo, Watchmen
Louis Gossett Jr., Watchmen
SHOULD: Jovan Adepo, Watchmen
WILL: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen
It’s the battle of the Black superheroes for this award, two of the most crucial components of Watchmen‘s exploration of America’s legacy of white supremacy, and the masks Black people have to wear just to survive. Obviously, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II‘s otherwordly turn as Dr. Manhattan (who spends most of the season masquerading as King’s husband) is a true highlight of the show’s melancholic look at history and identity. But if we can give it to Jovan Adepo’s one-episode wonder as the younger version of Hooded Justice Will Reeves (played in the modern age by fellow nominee Louis Gossett Jr.) for the marvel that is episode six, “This Extraordinary Being,” we really should. Adepo imbues the role with an incredible sense of loneliness and awe at the scope of Will’s pain, and the unhealthy outlets he takes toward redressing it.
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Holland Taylor, Hollywood
Uzo Aduba, Mrs. America
Margo Martindale, Mrs. America
Tracey Ullman, Mrs. America
Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Jean Smart, Watchmen
SHOULD: Jean Smart, Watchmen
WILL: Margo Martindale, Mrs. America
Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake is a comedian, just like her father, and Watchmen‘s all the funnier (and more tragically powerful) for it. She has just about all the good lines in the show (and a truly superheroic dildo in a suitcase), and I’m all for rewarding the great ensemble at the center of HBO’s one-and-done genre masterpiece. But Mrs. America is also a showcase for America’s Greatest Character Actresses, and there are three(!) of them vying for the award here; by law of averages alone, the show should get a trophy in this category. And who better to give it to than our most Esteemed Character Actress, Margo Martindale, as witty, acerbic Manhattan congresswoman Bella Abzug?