Emmys 2020 predictions: who will win and who should win?

With end of former juggernauts Game of Thrones and Veep, this year’s virtual Emmys are a mixed bag, with Succession, Schitt’s Creek and Watchmen leading the nominations

Outstanding drama series

Nominees: Better Call Saul (AMC), Killing Eve (BBC America), The Crown (Netflix), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), The Mandalorian (Disney+), Ozark (Netflix), Stranger Things (Netflix), Succession (HBO)

With the reign of Game of Thrones now over – the Emmys juggernaut won four out of the last five years – the dramatic field is cracked wide open, though with a familiar hue. Critically adored Better Call Saul, the contract killer romp Killing Eve, and constant Netflix recommended suggestion Ozark all return with consecutive nominations this year, as does 2017 winner The Handmaid’s Tale. The fact that the The Mandalorian, director Jon Favreau’s expansion of the Star Wars universe, is here is at least half attributable to the viral freakout over Baby Yoda; Emmy voters are unlikely to go for the marquee launch of Disney+, nor for the magnetic, if narratively redundant, third outing of Stranger Things, which aired in the summer of 2019. The steady, sumptuous royal drama of The Crown is reliable awards material, but all odds are and should be on HBO’s Succession, whose second season turned the prickly, brutally funny portrait of a media conglomerate family of scoundrels into can’t-miss television.

Will win: Succession

Should win: Succession

Outstanding comedy series

Nominees: Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), The Good Place (NBC), Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV), Dead To Me (Netflix), Insecure (HBO), The Kominsky Method (Netflix), The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Amazon), What We Do In The Shadows (FX)

Last year, Fleabag, the caustic, fourth wall-smashing British series created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, upstaged the final season of perennial favorite Veep to sweep the comedy awards. With Fleabag and Veep off the table, and former darling The Marvelous Mrs Maisel middling in its third season, the comedy field is once again turned over; new entries Dead to Me, starring Linda Cardellini and Christina Applegate as two women who meet in a grief support group, and FX’s What We Do In The Shadows, a spin-off of the beloved Taika Waititi vampire mockumentary, are outside shots, as are sturdy but niche favorites Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Kominsky Method. There’s a case to be made for awarding Insecure’s deft handling of the rift between best friends Issa (best comedic actress nominee Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji, nominated for best supporting) in the show’s resurgent fourth season. But the award is all but certain to go to the final season of Schitt’s Creek, the bubbly Canadian sitcom about a rich family forced to move to a small town that found new life (and Emmy voters) on Netflix.

Will win: Schitt’s Creek

Should win: Insecure

Yvonne Orji and Issa Rae in Insecure.
Yvonne Orji and Issa Rae in Insecure. Photograph: HBO

Outstanding limited series

Nominees: Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu), Mrs America (FX), Unbelievable (Netflix), Unorthodox (Netflix), Watchmen (HBO)

Stories written, directed, and focusing on women make for one of the most stacked limited series categories in years, from Hulu’s buzzy, high-wattage Little Fires Everywhere (Reese Witherspoon taking Big Little Lies maternal melodrama to suburban Ohio) to Netflix’s Unorthodox, a searing portrait of a young runaway bride from ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Brooklyn. It’s hard to snub Netflix’s Unbelievable, whose true-story portrait of catching a serial rapist was gutting, gripping competence porn buoyed by stellar performances from Kaitlyn Dever, Merritt Wever, and Toni Collette. In any other year, FX’s meticulous and expansive historical drama Mrs America, anchored by a mesmerizing Cate Blanchett as bête noire of 70s feminism Phyllis Schlafly, would take the prize. But no show was as ambitious in addressing America’s dark present or as critically hailed this year as Watchmen.

Will win: Watchmen

Should win: Watchmen

Outstanding lead actress in a drama

Nominees: Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Zendaya (Euphoria), Jennifer Aniston (Morning Show), Laura Linney (Ozark), Olivia Colman (The Crown)

Last year’s surprise winner Jodie Comer returns again for her fierce, chameleonic portrayal of contract killer Villanelle, after upstaging 2019’s favorite: co-star, Sandra Oh. This year’s slate of actresses include returning and established awards talent Laura Linney and Oscars queen Olivia Colman (as none other than Queen Elizabeth II herself) and the welcome addition of Zendaya, who grounded the teenage melodrama of Euphoria with relatable, human weight. Though Oh deserves the prize for carrying the other half of a Killing Eve’s zany tone, Emmy voters are more than likely to favor Aniston, Hollywood’s long-reigning girl-next-door, for her career-high performance as under-appreciated, stoic morning news anchor Alex Levy.

Will win: Jennifer Aniston

Should win: Sandra Oh

Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show
Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show. Photograph: AP

Outstanding lead actor in a drama

Nominees: Jason Bateman (Ozark), Sterling K Brown (This Is Us), Billy Porter (Pose), Steve Carrell (Morning Show), Jeremy Strong (Succession), Brian Cox (Succession)

Ozark’s Jason Bateman and Sterling K Brown of This Is Us return as best actor nominees this year, as does last year’s triumphant winner Billy Porter, still delivering career-best work on FX’s Pose, Ryan Murphy’s portrait of New York’s ballroom scene in the early 90s. Steve Carrell, playing a long-running morning show host disgraced in the #MeToo movement (the comparisons to Matt Lauer are clear) replaces the oft-nominated but as yet unrewarded Bob Odenkirk of Better Call Saul. But as with best drama, this category belongs to breakout hit Succession: Jeremy Strong delivered an impressive turn playing wounded dog Kendall, the heir to a billion-dollar media conglomerate you hate to love, and deserves his own category for Kendall’s “L to the OG” rap. But there is no Succession without a compelling, infuriating tyrant at the center, and Cox’s half-smile in the season finale is as inscrutably good as it gets.

Will win: Brian Cox

Should win: Brian Cox

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy

Nominees: Christina Applegate (Dead to Me), Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs Maisel), Linda Cardellini (Dead to Me), Tracee Ellis-Ross (black-ish), Catherine O’Hara (Schitt’s Creek), Issa Rae (Insecure)

For six years, until the Fleabag sweep, there was only ever one answer to best comedy actress: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for her portrayal of bumbling vice president Selina Meyer. With Louis-Dreyfus and last year’s champ Phoebe Waller-Bridge gone, the comedy category is up in the air – there’s 2018 winner Rachel Brosnahan for The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, and duo Christian Applegate and Linda Cardellini for Dead to Me. Issa Rae, as creator and star of Insecure, and Black-ish’s Tracee Ellis-Ross both deserve recognition, but voters will most likely be swayed by long-standing goodwill for the luminous work of Catherine O’Hara, who hasn’t won an Emmy since 1981 and whose outrageous, bizarrely accented role as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek has earned her a new legion of passionate fans.

Will win: Catherine O’Hara

Should win: Issa Rae

Ted Danson in The Good Place.
Ted Danson in The Good Place. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Outstanding lead actor in a comedy

Nominees: 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)

HBO’s hitman-comedy Barry, starring last year’s winner Bill Hader, is on hiatus this year, so the best comedy actor slot is anyone’s game. Anthony Anderson as conflicted family man Dre, Don Cheadle as a manic Wall Street trader, and Michael Douglas (seriously, who has seen The Kominsky Method?) are outside shots; given Schitt’s Creek general popularity, we’ll give an edge to Eugene Levy as broke video store tycoon Johnny Rose. Voters are most likely to favor Ted Danson, whose portrayal of The Bad Place’s best character on The Good Place anchored the NBC series’ finale, but a just world would reward Ramy Youssef, who won a Golden Globe for best actor in January, for his darkly observant POV comedy as a Muslim, Egyptian-American man in New Jersey.

Will win: Ted Danson

Should win: Ramy Youssef

Outstanding lead actress in a limited series or TV movie

Nominees: Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere), Octavia Spencer (Self Made), Cate Blanchett (Mrs America), Regina King (Watchmen), Shira Haas (Unorthodox)

This is perhaps the most competitive category in the field, a slot stacked with heavyweights – Kerry Washington as a black mother upending a ferociously white suburb, Octavia Spencer as America’s first black female millionaire — as well as a remarkable debut from Israeli actor Shira Haas for her starring turn in Unorthodox. If this were not 2020, it likely be a lock for Cate Blanchett, who somehow both disappears into and radiates from the character of Phyllis Schlafly, the 1970s political organizer who mobilized housewife opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. But this is 2020 — a dark year presaged by Watchmen, and held together by the unimpeachable Regina King.

Will win: Regina King

Should win: Regina King

Paul Mescal in Normal People.
Paul Mescal in Normal People. Photograph: Enda Bowe/BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu

Outstanding lead actor in a limited series or TV movie

Nominees: Jeremy Irons (Watchmen), Hugh Jackman (Bad Education), Jeremy Pope (Hollywood), Paul Mescal (Normal People), Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True)

The race for lead actor in a limited series is one of the few to be truly up in the air; Emmy voters are as likely to reward veteran actors such as Jeremy Irons in the critically beloved Watchmen as Broadway star Jeremy Pope for Ryan Murphy’s uneven revisionist history drama Hollywood. Odds are better for Hugh Jackman for his anchoring turn in HBO’s well-reviewed, if under-seen, Bad Education, but voters will most likely reward Mark Ruffalo for a performance seemingly written in a lab to garner Emmy votes; in HBO’s too-brutal-to-watch I Know This Much Is True, Ruffalo plays identical twins afflicted by schizophrenia, grief, and myriad other tragedies. Ruffalo’s dual performances holds together what many critics have called a slog of a series, Irish actor Paul Mescal deserves the prize for a fearless debut performance in Normal People that, along with costar Daisy Edgar-Jones keeps what could’ve been a stale adaptation of the Sally Rooney novel tactile and vulnerable.

Will win: Mark Ruffalo

Should win: Paul Mescal

Outstanding variety talk series

Nominees: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS), Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC), The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Entertainment has had to make massive adjustments this year (see: host Jimmy Kimmel presiding over a Zoom ceremony), and no genre has evinced the resourcefulness, resiliency, and flexibility as late-night television. The at-home sets – the white void of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Stephen Colbert’s pre-monologue riffs with wife Evie, Trevor Noah’s apartment – have captured the strange universality and humanizing scramble of the pandemic. Emmy voters have long favored the brash yet deeply researched rambles of John Oliver – Last Week Tonight has won the past four years – and likely will again, as the show has continued to rip into critically misunderstood or under-seen aspects of the American criminal justice system. But the award should go to Trevor Noah, whose pivot to raw responses to the horrors of police brutality – grounded but searching, didactic without condescending – have become widely shared, essential viewing during America’s summer of racial reckoning.

Will win: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Should win: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series

Mahershala Ali (Ramy)

Alan Arkin (The Kominsky Method)

Andre Braugher (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

Sterling K Brown (The Marvelous Mrs Maisel)

William Jackson Harper (The Good Place)

Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek) — Should win, Will win

Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs Maisel)

Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live)

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series

Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs Maisel) – Will win

Betty Gilpin (GLOW)

D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place)

Marin Hinkle (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live)

Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek)

Yvonne Orji (Insecure) — Should win

Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live)

Kieran Culkin in Succession.
Kieran Culkin in Succession. Photograph: AP

Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series

Nicholas Braun (Succession) — Should win

Kieran Culkin (Succession) — Will win

Billy Crudup (The Morning Show)

Mark Duplass (The Morning Show)

Giancarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul)

Matthew Macfayden (Succession)

Bradley Whitford (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Jeffrey Wright (Westworld)

Outstanding supporting actress in a drama series

Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown) – Will win

Laura Dern (Big Little Lies)

Julia Garner (Ozark)

Thandie Newton (Westworld)

Sarah Snook (Succession) — Should win

Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve)

Meryl Streep (Big Little Lies)

Samira Wiley (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or TV movie

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen) – Should win

Jovan Adepo (Watchmen)

Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend)

Louis Gossett Jr. (Watchmen)

Dylan McDermott (Hollywood)

Jim Parsons (Hollywood) – Will win

Outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie

Uzo Aduba (Mrs America)

Toni Collette (Unbelievable)

Margo Martindale (Mrs America)

Jean Smart (Watchmen) – Will win, should win

Holland Taylor (Hollywood)

Tracey Ullman (Mrs America)


Adrian Horton

The GuardianTramp

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