The 2020 Emmy Nominations’ Good, Bad and Ugly: ‘Watchmen,’ Quibi, and Hillary Clinton vs. ‘Tiger King’
This year’s Emmy list is infuriating—no “The Good Fight” again?—but pleasantly surprising, with “Watchmen” dominating a diverse slate. Here’s a rundown of the most shocking nods.
Tuesday morning’s Emmy nominations announcement began with Leslie Jones screaming into the void, perhaps as apt a metaphor as any for fêting the year’s best television at a time when the creation of new television content has ceased entirely. At a time when there is such a ridiculous amount of television that cherry-picking a “best” seems like a ludicrous exercise. At a time when the country is enduring both an out-of-control pandemic and a political black hole in addressing it.
Given those circumstances it shouldn’t be a surprise that this year’s nominees are at once baffling, maddening, and refreshingly fine. They were exceptionally diverse, as far as Hollywood awards go, though still disappointing on many fronts in that regard. (A deserved windfall for Watchmen, but a confusing cold shoulder to Pose season two.) Series most of us love—Succession, Schitt’s Creek, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, or, again, Watchmen—got a ton of nominations, but also...maybe too many?
It’s the unavoidable truth when it comes to these things: some of your favorite things are going to score nods, and many of them aren’t.
That’s reflected in my personal, pleasant shock that What We Do in the Shadows performed so well, or that underdog standouts like Zendaya (Euphoria) and Shira Haas (Unorthodox) scored nominations. Yet the three series I would put in strong consideration to win the respective Best Comedy, Drama, and Limited Series categories—Better Things, The Good Fight, Years and Years—were snubbed completely, receiving zilch between them.
And it will be the death of me to figure out how living legend and EGOT-winner Rita Moreno keeps getting ignored for her unbelievable comedic work on One Day at a Time.
Even Jones couldn’t disguise her own biases, bellowing with glee as she read best series nominees Dead to Me and Schitt’s Creek, and then announcing “The Kominsky...Method…? Did I say that right?” (Sadly, yes.)
So from the good, the bad, to the ugly Kominsky of it all, here’s what we were most surprised by looking at this year’s list. See the full list here.
What We Do in the Shadows Steps Into the Light
The FX vampire comedy was a cult hit in its second season and, while critically beloved, considered too peculiar or under the radar to be a major Emmys player. Yet it found itself with eight nominations, including Comedy Series and a whopping three Writing nods. (That’s like peak Mad Men/West Wing-level of writing accolades.)
The Mandalorian and The Morning Show Score for Disney+ and Apple TV+
The Mandalorian was expected to score a slew of below-the-line nods, befitting of a Star Wars production on Disney+. But few expected it to be the show to break historic ground in the recent streaming platform boom and land a Drama Series nod, too.
That was expected to go to Apple TV+ for The Morning Show, which otherwise performed beyond expectations, not only winning the presumptive Jennifer Aniston nod in Actress and Billy Crudup in Supporting Actor, but also Steve Carell in Actor, Mark Duplass in Supporting Actor, Martin Short in Guest Actor, Mimi Leder in Best Directing, and two other nods.
Pose and This Is Us Miss Out
After Pose made history with its Drama Series nomination last year and This Is Us maintained its stronghold as the last remaining broadcast series in the category, both missed out this year. While previous winners Billy Porter and Sterling K. Brown are back in Best Actor, both series missed out in the major categories, as well as writing and directing. (Seeing Pose’s Angelica Ross fail to crack Best Supporting Actress was a major bummer.)
So Much Watchmen Love…
The HBO limited series was, by a large margin, the most nominated program of the year, with 26 nominations. That includes a surprise dominance in the acting categories, where shoo-in nominees Regina King (Actress) and Jean Smart (Supporting Actress) were joined by Jeremy Irons (Actor) and three mentions in Supporting Actor, making up half of the category’s nominees: Yahya Abdul-Mahteen II, Jovan Adepo, and Louis Gossett Jr.
...But HBO Struggles in Limited/TV Movie Categories
Watchmen may have dominated, but several other well-reviewed HBO limited series underperformed. Mrs. Fletcher and Years and Years got zero nods. The Plot Against America only scored a Cinematography mention. Bad Education got TV Movie and an Actor mention for Hugh Jackman, but missed out in writing, directing, and in supporting actress for Allison Janney. Meanwhile I Know This Much Is True only got a nod for star Mark Ruffalo. (Rosie O’Donnell is a personal major snub.)
Ozark and Succession Dominate
Both Ozark and Succession received 18 nominations, the most of any drama series. We’re not a fan of the former and couldn’t love the latter more, but feel that may be more nods than either deserve. In addition to a Drama Series mention and acting nods for Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and Julia Garner, Ozark earned a surprising two directing and three writing nods. Really? And Succession got a whopping nine acting nominations, more than any other show on television. (They were for Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Nicholas Braun, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, Sarah Snook, Harriet Walter, Cherry Jones, and James Cromwell.)
So Does The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Schitt’s Creek
After its most critically-mixed season yet, Maisel received 20 nominations, the most of any comedy. And after its most critically-hailed season, Schitt’s Creek was right behind with 15. For Maisel, that includes seven acting nods: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Marin Hinkle, Sterling K. Brown, Tony Shalhoub, Luke Kirby, and Wanda Sykes. And for Schitt’s Creek, that includes, finally, a nod for each member of the Rose family—Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel Levy, and Annie Murphy. (Daniel Levy also was nominated for writing and directing the series finale.)
Dead to Me and Ramy Have Sophomore Breakouts
After its first season was recognized with an Actress nod for Christina Applegate, Dead to Me’s season two lands Comedy Series, Casting, and another Actress nod for co-star Linda Cardellini. And after being shut out for its first season, Ramy scores acting nods for Ramy Youssef and Mahershala Ali, as well as a directing nomination.
Tiger King and Love Is Blind Are Now Emmy Nominees
The nonfiction/docuseries categories are always bizarre and ill-defined, despite the genre being the most popular on TV right now. And two of those most popular, if polarizing, entries scored major nods. Tiger King joins the likes of Hillary, The Last Dance, and McMillion$ in Documentary or Nonfiction Series. Meanwhile Love Is Blind is a Best Structured Reality Program nominee along with Queer Eye, Shark Tank, and A Very Brady Renovation.
Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama’s Documentaries Were Both Nominated
Hillary faces the aforementioned Tiger King in Documentary or Nonfiction Series while Becoming contends against The Apollo and Beastie Boys Story in Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
Quibi Has 10 Nominations (???)
Yep, somehow Quibi racked up 10 nods. That’s more than AMC, more than Bravo, more than CNN, more than National Geographic. The notorious new platform can thank the Short Form categories for its windfall, where it dominated the acting categories. That means that Kaitlin Olson (Flipped) and Kerri Kenney-Silver (Reno 911!) are Emmy nominees! And so is Anna Kendrick for that series about Dan Harmon’s sex doll.
And Maya Rudolph Has Three (!!!)
Maya Rudolph was nominated twice in Guest Actress in a Comedy, for The Good Place and for playing Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live, as well as in Character Voice-Over Performance for voicing the Hormone Monstress on Big Mouth.
Brad Pitt Was Nominated for Playing...Anthony Fauci on Saturday Night Live
Who gets in for what random-ass SNL appearances has always been an exhausting quirk of the Emmys. This year Pitt’s two-minute Fauci appearance takes the cake. He’s nominated against hosts Adam Driver and Eddie Murphy in Guest Actor in a Comedy, while Rudolph’s Kamala Harris appearance squares off against host Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Elsewhere, Cecily Strong finally scored her first acting nod in Supporting Actress, joining previous winner Kate McKinnon, while Kenan Thompson shows up again in Supporting Actor.
Why Are They So Weird About Seth Meyers?
It is baffling that Late Night with Seth Meyers still can’t get into Variety Talk Series, but only in the writing category. The curiosity extended to Variety Special this year, too, where Meyers’ special Lobby Baby was snubbed in the main category, but then nominated in writing.
Tough to Be Reese
Reese Witherspoon was legitimately excellent in three different prestige, otherwise Emmy-nominated series this year with Big Little Lies, The Morning Show, and Little Fires Everywhere... yet wasn’t nominated for any of them. Worse, her work narrating a Quibi series about hyena penises was snubbed, too.
Lynn Shelton and Fred Willard Receive Posthumous Nods
Lynn Shelton was nominated for directing Little Fires Everywhere, while Fred Willard earned one last Guest Actor in a Comedy Series nomination for Modern Family.
Amazon’s Big Making the Cut Gamble Comes Up Short
The globe-hopping, mega-expensive fashion show starring Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn was snubbed completely. (Though for what it’s worth, so was Project Runway.)
The Biggest Comedy Snubs
- The Great and its stars, Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult
- One Day at a Time and star Rita Moreno
- Better Things and star Pamela Adlon
- Avenue 5 and star Hugh Laurie
- Run and its stars, Merritt Wever and Domnhall Gleeson
- The Good Place star Kristen Bell
- Black Monday star Regina Hall
- Space Force and stars Steve Carell and John Malkovich (the show sucked, but this is a surprise!)
The Biggest Drama Snubs
- The Good Fight shut out
- David Makes Man shut out
- Better Call Saul stars Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks
- Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks
- This Is Us
- The Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss
- Big Little Lies star Nicole Kidman
- Homeland stars Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin
- The Outsider star Cynthia Erivo
The Biggest Limited Series Snubs
- Years and Years shut out
- Mrs. Fletcher shut out
- I Know This Much Is True and star Rosie O’Donnell
- Hollywood and stars Joe Mantello and Patti LuPone
- Quiz shut out
- Unbelievable stars Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Wever
- Patsy and Loretta shut out
- Defending Jacob stars Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery
The Biggest Surprises
- Unorthodox and star Shira Haas
- Euphoria star Zendaya
- Normal People star Paul Mescal
- Hollywood stars Jeremy Pope and Dylan McDermott (the latter over Joe Mantello)
- Hollywood star Holland Taylor (over Patti LuPone)
- Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker star Octavia Spencer
- Insecure star Yvonne Orji
- Mrs. America stars Uzo Aduba, Margo Martindale, and Tracey Ullman (over Rose Byrne and Sarah Paulson)