A pandemic-induced television drought may be forthcoming, but for the 2020 Emmy nominations, it’s (mostly) business as usual. With an eligibility window from June 2019 to May 2020, this year’s Emmy nominees are (mostly) unaffected by the production constraints caused by COVID-19. As a result, September’s Emmys figures to (mostly) be the last entertainment awards ceremony that will be able to maintain any degree of normalcy—as long as you can get past the show being presented remotely. But before we look that far ahead, let’s break down what was (mostly) an exciting slate of nominees by singling out some winners and losers. You can check the full list of nominees here.
Loser: Rhea Seehorn (and Bob Odenkirk)
The Television Academy doesn’t have a spotless track record for nominations—as is the case with any awards show, there are egregious oversights that become more and more inexplicable with each passing ceremony. I was indoctrinated to this nonsense when Carrie Coon was snubbed for her incredible work on The Leftovers—still one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on the small screen. But that, frustrating as it was, at least made some sense: no part of The Leftovers was ever on the Emmys’ radar, totaling a single nomination for its three-season run.
But what keeps happening to Rhea Seehorn is unconscionable—and more infuriating. Better Call Saul has been showered with nominations since it debuted in 2015; this is the fifth consecutive eligible year that the show has been up for Outstanding Drama Series. (Deservedly so!) And yet, despite the cast—Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito—consistently being recognized with their own nominations, Seehorn keeps getting left in the dust. Everyone is doing great work on this show, but as Kim Wexler, Seehorn has turned into Better Call Saul’s undisputed MVP. She is, quite simply, giving the best performance on television right now—for my money, only Jeremy Strong’s devastating, insular work on Succession deserves similar plaudits.
Naturally, Seehorn was snubbed again—as was, shockingly, Odenkirk, despite doing his finest work on the series to date. Again, the Academy clearly has Better Call Saul on the brain; there’s no excuse to snub Seehorn in a Supporting Actress category that ballooned to eight nominees this year. It’s a travesty. If Seehorn is once again ignored after the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul, it will be the most embarrassing oversight by the Emmys this century. And my faith in the Emmys giving Seehorn justice is eroding quicker than Kim Wexler’s moral compass.
Winner: All Things Succession
With last year’s drama category acting as a big send-off for Game of Thrones—whether that truncated final season deserved any love is a question for another day—there’s space for another buzzy drama to fill that huge void. And, well, it certainly looks like the sleek boardrooms and scathing dialogue of Succession will make it HBO’s heir apparent.
With an Outstanding Drama Series nod to go along with a ridiculous slate of acting nominees—Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun, and Matthew Macfadyen, Harriet Walter, James Cromwell, and Cherry Jones were all represented—the biggest challenge to full Succession Emmys domination are the fact that some of the show’s nominations overlap. (That includes two episodes being up for Outstanding Directing.) But regardless of how many statuettes the series ends up snatching in September, Succession’s Emmys bona fides are legit. Time to celebrate with a round of boar on the floor.
Who would’ve thought that the program with the most nominations this year (26!) would be a superhero series? Such is the power of HBO’s Watchmen, a thrilling extension of Alan Moore’s seminal comic series that burst onto the scene with serious social resonance by tackling America’s history of racial violence. Along with bringing more attention to real-life historical horrors like the Tulsa Black Wall Street massacre of 1921, Watchmen happened to be one of the best shows of 2019—with compelling performances throughout and a stellar score from Trent Reznor among its many highlights.
There’s so much to like about Watchmen that to say the limited series deserves everything that came its way would be an understatement. Don’t be surprised if Watchmen is among the shows with the most statuettes come September.
Winner: The Mandalorian?!
Relatedly: Who would’ve thought that a live-action Star Wars series would be up for Outstanding Drama Series? This is the way.
Loser: Big Little Lies
Not every Emmys hopeful HBO series went according to plan. After nabbing 16 nominations and eight wins in 2017—including Outstanding Limited Series—Big Little Lies returned for a shamelessly unnecessary second season, departing from its source material and hoping to lure viewers back for more with the addition of Meryl goddamn Streep. Alas, Season 2 was an inert mess, and the Emmys did the right thing by largely ignoring the returning series, which nabbed only two nominations. (This was actually a pleasant surprise, seeing how much the Academy tends to fawn over movie stars and their associated projects on the small screen.)
One of those nominations did, of course, go to Meryl Streep.
Loser: Mr. Robot (and Other Shows in Their Final Year of Eligibility)
While they didn’t have the fanfare of a Game of Thrones or Veep, there were former Emmys darlings in their last year of eligibility that were quietly ushered out without any nominations—chief among them Mr. Robot, How to Get Away With Murder, and Silicon Valley. They might’ve been on the outside looking in on their respective categories, but it’s still a shame that the likes of Rami Malek, Viola Davis, and Zach Woods couldn’t get a shout.
Knowing Mr. Robot and Silicon Valley’s fandoms, though, maybe some actors can hack their ways back into the race.
Unclear: Apple TV+’s Prestige Push
With a cast led by Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell, everything about Apple TV+’s The Morning Show screamed, “We wanna get some Emmys.” (Never mind that the series had fairly tepid reviews.) And, well, it sort of worked out?
Aniston, Carell, Billy Crudup, and Mark Duplass all scored acting nominations; however, the series was left out of the Outstanding Drama Series race. That might not seem too bad until you look at some of the other nominees in the category: Killing Eve, for a really weak third season; Stranger Things, for a somewhat mediocre third season; and the freshman season of The Mandalorian, which wasn’t expected to get that much attention from the Academy. Apple TV+ might have hoped for more from one of its flagship dramas—the company will have to hope for better luck in Season 2.
Winner: Emmys Expansion
For the comedy and drama categories, the Academy expanded the number of potential nominees to eight. Along with the departure of winning shows like Game of Thrones, Veep, and Fleabag, that left a pretty open field for some wild cards. (Hello, The Mandalorian; sorry, I still can’t believe this show is up for Outstanding Drama Series, and I liked it!)
Widening the pool of nominees feels like a win-win. More shows and performances can be recognized, and the expansion could make the winners of some categories harder to predict. I wouldn’t know where to begin if I had to guess who will win the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category—Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, Samira Wiley, Fiona Shaw, Julia Garner, Sarah Snook, and Thandie Newton is a murderers’ row, even without Rhea Seehorn.