TV

Our Not-Guaranteed-To-Be-Accurate Predictions For The Very Weird 2020 Emmys

It is, somehow, time for the Emmys. Seriously. The Emmys are this Sunday night, September 20. That doesn’t seem right. Does that seem right? And it’s somehow not even the weirdest part. The ceremony will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, with no audience, and the nominees will be at home Zooming in. It’s going to be a whole thing. We don’t know, either.

There is one normal aspect of it all, though: there are still awards to hand out and snubs to get angry about. Below, our TV crew — Brian Grubb, Kimberly Ricci, Josh Kurp, and Jessica Toomer — attempts to make sense of the major categories to figure out what’s what. None of this is written in stone. We could be very wrong. Which would, in a way, be the most normal part of the whole experience.

Here we go.

Drama Series

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

OUR PICK: If I were a betting man, I’d toss a fiver or so on Succession. It’s not that I think Succession is that much better than the other nominees (more on this in a second), it has more to do with… well, scan through the rest of these categories. They are just littered with cast members of the show. Almost every actor who plays an important character on the show picked up a nomination, sometimes multiple actors in a single category. It’s like they’re trying to tell us something. It’s especially important because…

ANALYSIS: … Rhea Seehorn did not get a nomination for Best Actress despite turning in a performance for the ages in Better Call Saul, the show I would probably pick if they let me choose winners by myself, which is an option I have offered repeatedly and have yet to receive a response about. Still on the table. — Grubb

Comedy Series

FX

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Dead to Me (Netflix)
The Good Place (NBC)
Insecure (HBO)
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

OUR PICK: Remember when Fleabag won this category last year? That was cool, and it gives me hope that the Academy will do the right thing again and give Outstanding Comedy Series to What We Do in the Shadows. “On the Run” is, I’d argue (and did!), the funniest thing to air on TV this year, but it wasn’t a one-off showcase for the vampire comedy — the entire season was great, from Colin Robinson’s “updog” jokes to Nandor checking his email for the first time since The Blind Side was in theaters. One human Emmy for What We Do in the Shadows, please!

ANALYSIS: Schitt’s Creek went from the obligatory “best show you’re not watching” to a genuine hit in its final season. The Emmys are less sentimental than you might think — previous winners 30 Rock, Modern Family, Veep, and The Office all failed to win in their final seasons — but I don’t think that will be the case on Sunday. (This could apply to The Good Place, as well.) — Kurp

Limited Series

Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
Mrs. America (Hulu)
Unbelievable (Netflix)
Unorthodox (Netflix)
Watchmen (HBO)

OUR PICK: Watchmen, man. This isn’t a tough call but not altogether easy, since those limited series beginning with Un- put up a good fight. Unbelievable brought us a hard-boiled Toni Colette and an empathetic Merritt Wever, along with Kaitlyn Dever, who has been crushing every role since Justified‘s Loretta. She turned her portrayal of a rape survivor who was treated like a criminal upon its head. And Unorthodox gave us the absolute vision of Shira Haas in one woman’s flight from Hasidic Judaism. Both are very important shows to showcase young women fighting against institutions; however, no one can beat the clear master of this category.

ANALYSIS: It was always gonna be Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen. He wove an ambitious tapestry, which managed to convince even non-comic-book lovers that this story’s breathtaking relevance could not be ignored. He recontextualized Alan Moore’s “unfilmable” graphic novel with all the historical resonance from the Tulsa Race Massacre. He wrote Black characters into history instead of the other way around (how history customarily does it). This show was kickass and funny and serious and full of so many pieces to dissect. We also got to meet Lube Man and witness the sheer joy of a fart-squeaking Jeremy Irons. Sold. — Ricci

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)

OUR PICK: There are many good options here and I will not begin to argue with you if you want to give it to Brian Cox for his thundering performance as Logan Roy or Billy Porter for Pose or even Jeremy Strong, just for that painful rap performance (shoutout to his boy Squiggle), but I have this weird feeling bubbling inside me. Bubble bubble bubble. And as the bubbles rise and pop (I did not intend for this analogy to be gross when I started it but it’s too late to back out now) (sorry), a faint whisper escapes and floats into the air, and that whisper says “Steve Carell wins a make-up Emmy after getting snubbed for his entire run as Michael Scott on The Office.” Listen closely. Listen to the bubbles. The answer is in the air.

ANALYSIS: I really am sorry again for that bubble analogy. — Grubb

Lead Actress in a Drama Series

HBO

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

OUR PICK: We love a good underdog story and that’s what Zendaya’s road to the Emmys feels like right now. The Euphoria star could become the youngest Emmy winner in history were she to beat out the rest of the talented actresses on this list, but that headline-making scenario isn’t the only reason we’re rooting for her. Euphoria is a show that stands on the shoulders of its lead and Zendaya carries that responsibility well, playing a drug-addicted teen sorting out her demons despite the pressures and temptations of youth. She easily teeters between an innocent, compassionate young woman and an angry, misguided kid willing to sacrifice anything for her next fix. She makes a “dislikable” character relatable, empathetic even, and she does it on a show that doesn’t carry the same kind of star-powered back-up the rest of these ladies enjoy.

ANALYSIS: If you’re forcing us to acknowledge reality – which, shame on you – the truth is this is Laura Linney’s to lose. She did terrific work in the latter half of Ozark’s drama-filled third season as the Byrde family matriarch began to spiral thanks to the arrival of her estranged brother. Although we wouldn’t count out Aniston, who’s come a long way from her Friends days playing a news anchor fighting for recognition in a sexist industry. It’s a little on the nose, but academy voters like that. — Toomer

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)

OUR PICK: Ramy is a great show, my favorite of the bunch, but the best episodes of Ramy are the ones where Ramy (the character) cedes the spotlight to his sister Dena, or parents Maysa and Ahmed, or his uncle Naseem. Is there a category for Outstanding “Deepest Sympathies” Cake-Eating in a Comedy Series? Because Naseem should win that. Anyway, that leaves Ted Danson as the should-be winner for his performance as a reformed demon (a fun combination of words) Michael. That would almost make up for Danson — who has more nominations in this category than any actor ever — not winning for his [evil laugh] back in season one. Almost.

ANALYSIS: Anderson, Cheadle, Danson, Douglas, and Levy were all up for Lead Actor last year, and they all lost to repeat winner Bill Hader. That tilts the scale towards Youssef, but I bet that Levy wins in an upset. Everyone loves Eugene Levy! He’s won an Emmy for his writing (Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program along with his SCTV buddies in 1983), but not for his acting. I’m sure Ramy and Ted wouldn’t mind losing to Jim’s dad. — Kurp

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 (Insecure)
Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish)

OUR PICK: Christina Applegate takes this one for me. Yes, Catherine O’Hara fans are gonna throw things at me, I realize, as well those who (most deservedly) appreciate Issa Rae, but I believe that this category should come down to the two nominees from Netflix’s wildly popular showcase on female friendship. That means I’m setting myself up for even more failure because it’s almost impossible to choose between Dead To Me‘s two leads, who are both integral to the show’s success and play off each other so beautifully while rolling around in pitch-black humor. This show has mastered the fine art of captivating an audience despite an endless supply of chain-yanking cliffhangers. I adore it and want it to win things.

ANALYSIS: Yes, Linda Cardellini is often the best part of any given project, but she’s met her endearing match here. Even more amazing is that Applegate’s performance manages to be more endearing despite how she’s playing an abrasive, unlikeable character. The audience still empathizes with her and admires that scrappiness, and I also want to see Applegate get her due. For too many years, she’s been Kelly Bundy to everyone, despite all her work in Hollywood, and frankly, it’s overdue for people to finally recognize her not only for being damn funny but a fine dramatic actress as well. — Ricci

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

HULU

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

OUR PICK: Again, we’re going to vote against the insider crowd and crown Paul Mescal as the unofficial winner in this race. His breakout role in Hulu’s beloved Normal People elevated the story of a young couple’s doomed romance to something more than just your garden variety soap opera. Mescal played a young man tortured by anxiety and depression, forced to choose between a public persona and who he genuinely wanted to be. And his chemistry with co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones (who was robbed of recognition this year) was off the charts. Men’s mental health is a topic rarely treated well, if at all, on TV so it’d be nice to see Mescal get the credit he deserves for such a grounding, emotionally wrought performance. And for rocking the hell out of that gold chain.

ANALYSIS: Sadly, HBO knew what it was doing when it recruited Mark Ruffalo to play a pair of twin brothers – one a paranoid schizophrenic – in a drama about the effects of generational trauma. This kind of heavy-handed, exquisitely-acted tearjerker is like Emmy voter catnip. — Toomer

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)

OUR PICK: Ahhhh, this is a gut-wrenching category to call, but I’m going with Regina King for her commanding performance as Sister Night. Yes, it’s entirely wrong that Kaitlyn Dever didn’t get nominated for Unbelieveable, and Shira Haas put in emotionally grueling work, while both Cate Blanchett and Octavia Spencer owned their roles with the star turns that we always expect from them. Yet Watchmen should sweep this category along with most of its other nominations.

ANALYSIS: Regina King played a badass superhero who didn’t even have superpowers and was somehow still the most powerful being on this show. Yes, I’m placing Sister Night above even Doctor Manhattan; because hey, Regina gave us both the softer side of her character and the hardened one. She authentically portrayed a woman who’s getting the job done and juggling family responsibilities that a lot of shows with female cops let slide away. She also pulled off a fine portrayal of a good cop, which is something that’s sorely needed in our current times. And Regina gave us a true hero from a marginalized community while adding in all the layers that this show’s historical context demanded. Let her walk on water, I say. — Ricci

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

HBO

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)

OUR PICK: Good God, what a stacked category. You could go any of about six ways here, and even the ways I probably wouldn’t go are reasonably defensible. Like, Westworld was weird and not great this season, but Jeffrey Wright is always awesome. Gus Fring wasn’t even the best villain on Better Call Saul this season (Lalooooooo), but Giancarlo Esposito rules. The Succession boys are very good and better when they are bad, and with all due respect to the masterful work Kieran Culkin has done in making Roman Roy a character I no longer want to heave into a stinky lagoon…

ANALYSIS: … let’s give it to my sweet boy Cousin Greg, as played by Nicholas Braun. There’s no big reason I have for this, no professional defensible explanation. I just like him and want to see him be happy. Sometimes that’s all it takes. — Grubb

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)

OUR PICK: Me trying to pick a winner:

HBO

Let’s go straight to the analysis.

ANALYSIS: Meryl Streep and Laura Dern are the biggest names, but no one liked Big Little Lies season two; since 2000, only three actresses have won this category in back-to-back years, which likely leaves out Julia Garner (maybe she’ll win an Oscar for The Assistant as a consolation prize); Thandie Newton rules, but Westworld does not; and Helena Bonham Carter, Samira Wiley, and Fiona Shaw aren’t Sarah Snook, therefore the award must (and should) go to Sarah Snook. — Kurp

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)

OUR PICK: We’re just going to say it: The 2020 Emmys belong to Dan Levy. He’s nominated for writing, producing, directing, and acting in the comedic critical darling that is Schitt’s Creek and the fact that the show’s final season is something of a Cinderella story – its brilliance was only just recognized by academy voters last year – means the Rose family will probably live on that (virtual) stage come Emmys night. Levy spent seasons crafting an iconic comedy that became both a meme-able oddball and a sort of comforting reminder that realistic, nuanced, “normal” queer characters do still exist on TV, and they have the power to change perceptions and promote more inclusiveness when given the chance. But really, David Rose’s sweater-game alone should be reason enough for Levy to walk away with some hardware this year.

ANALYSIS: Levy should (and hopefully will) win but if we’re playing devil’s advocate, David Rose didn’t feel like a supporting character in Schitt’s Creek’s final season. For that reason, we wouldn’t count out William Jackson Harper or Andre Braugher in this category. — Toomer

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

NBC

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)

OUR PICK: Sheesh. Another Murderer’s Row. I would be very happy if the award went to D’Arcy Carden or Kate McKinnon or Annie Murphy. I would be happy if they all tied. Give everyone a trophy! Trophies for everyone!

ANALYSIS: Ugh, fine. Let’s pick one person. I’m going to eliminate McKinnon just because the other two actresses were on shows that ended their runs, so they’re out of chances for these characters. Murphy was so good as Alexis Rose. So good. The arc that character went on was incredible. But I just realized I used a picture of D’Arcy Carden as Janet at the top of this section, so it would be weird if I didn’t pick her. There you go. There’s the tiebreaker. That wasn’t so hard. — Grubb

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)

OUR PICK: I, someone who has binged Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a Billie-Eilish-watching-The-Office number of times, would love for Tituss Burgess to triumph in the same category as previous winners Marlon Brando, James Earl Jones, and the voice of Paddington. Titus Andromedon would love that, too. His acceptance speech would include a snippet of the National Anthem (the America’s Funniest Home Videos theme song). But that’s not going to happen. And honestly? It shouldn’t, because the award clearly belongs to…

ANALYSIS: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II should get two awards: one for his powerful and frequently naked acting, and one for keeping his character’s identity a secret. I would have blabbed to the first person who wondered why I had [redacted] paint on my fingernails (I don’t want to ruin it). — Kurp

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)

OUR PICK: Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever from Unbelievable might’ve been snubbed by Emmy voters but one, if not both, of them deserve to be on this list. For that reason, we’re siding with Toni Collette, who plays a tough-as-nails detective trying to get justice for the women under her charge. Collette delivered a solid, if not unsurprising performance against Wever’s emotionally-woke victim’s advocate and Dever’s hauntingly brave rape survivor, and a win for her means a win for all three ladies in our book.

ANALYSIS: It’s likely the Mrs. America cast will cancel each other out in this category so really, Collette’s only competition is Jean Smart, who did good work on Watchmen but not enough to pull focus from castmates like Regina Kind and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and certainly not enough to challenge Collette’s amount of screen time and character growth. — Toomer

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