Film & Television

Emmy Noms: Sure Bets, Surprises,
and a Three-Way Snub

Over the past six months, we’ve probably all watched more TV than usual. In fact, those of us with streaming services and a predisposition to binge have never had a better excuse. With access to restaurants, cinemas, museums, libraries, sporting events, and live theater either denied or drastically limited, watching television has become the most popular way to quarantine. Nielsen estimates that the total number of hours spent watching connected-device programming (Internet-delivered entertainment, such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu) since Covid-19 went up 81 percent year-over-year, amounting to 4 billion additional hours per week in the U.S. 

Last week, Leslie Jones, Laverne Cox, Josh Gad, and Tatiana Maslany announced the nominees for the 2020 Emmy Awards. As you might expect, given Nielsen’s numbers and their sheer volume of content, streaming services are well represented. Netflix broke a record for the most nominations. with 160. Pay service HBO was next with 107, followed by NBC with 47. 

(BTW, I’m old enough to remember when the Emmys were dominated by the big three broadcast networks and any nod to a cable service was an anomaly. But, as my Gen Z daughter might say…”Okay, Boomer.” Let’s get back to the subject at hand.)

Another way to cut the nominations is by program. By that count, HBO is very much a winner. Their limited series Watchmen scored 26 nominations. Coming in at second, Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has 20; and HBO’s Succession and Netflix’s Ozark are tied for third, with 18 apiece.

Despite a fairly substantial snub, which I’ll get to in a moment, women and people of color were well represented in this year’s honorees. There was some disappointment — prompted by the notable exclusion of Rita Moreno for her role in Netflix’s One Day at a Time — that there weren’t more Latino nominees. Still, the Emmy Awards seem to be much more inclusive than the Oscars.

Outstanding Drama Series nominees include: Better Call Saul, The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve, The Mandalorian, Ozark, Stranger Things, and Succession. Outstanding Comedy Series nominees include: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dead to Me, The Good Place, Insecure, The Kominsky Method, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Schitt’s Creek, and What We Do in the Shadows. And Outstanding Limited Series nominees include: Little Fires Everywhere, Mrs. America, Unbelievable, Unorthodox, and Watchmen.

The Lead Actress categories include a fine selection of talented women, most of whom have been nominated (and won) in years past. For Drama, they include: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show; Olivia Colman, The Crown; Jodie Comer, Killing Eve; Laura Linney, Ozark; Sandra Oh, Killing Eve; and Zendaya, Euphoria. This is Oh’s eleventh nomination; Linney’s seventh (she’s won four times); Anniston’s seventh (she won in 2002); Colman’s third; and Comer’s second (she won last year). For Comedy, Lead Actress nominations include: 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. Again, we have some actresses who’ve been recognized by the Emmys before. This is O’Hara’s eighth nomination (she won in 1982); Applegate’s sixth (she won in 2003); Brosnahan’s fourth (she won in 2018); Ross’s fourth; and Cardellini’s second. For Limited Series, nominees include: Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America; Shira Haas, Unorthodox; Regina King, Watchmen; Octavia Spencer, Self Made; and Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere. This is King’s fifth nomination (she won in 2015, 2016, and 2018), as well as Washington’s.

The Supporting Actress categories also acknowledge fine performances. For Drama, nominees include: Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown; Laura Dern, Big Little Lies; Julia Garner, Ozark; Thandie Newton, Westworld; Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve; Sarah Snook, Succession; Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies; and Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale. If Streep wins, this will be her fourth Emmy. However, I was thoroughly blown away by Dern’s performance in the same series, and she won the Emmy for Big Little Lies first season, three years ago. Garner and Wiley also have Emmys. For Comedy, Supporting Actress nominees include: Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place; Betty Gilpin, GLOW; Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live; Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek; Yvonne Orji, Insecure; and Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live. Gilpin and Hinkle have been nominated before, while Borstein has won three, and McKinnon has won two. Finally, Supporting Actress for Limited Series nominees include: Uzo Aduba, Mrs. America; Toni Collette, Unbelievable; Margo Martindale, Mrs. America; Jean Smart, Watchmen; Holland Taylor, Hollywood; and Tracey Ullman, Mrs. America. Ullman has won seven times; Martindale has won three times, as has Smart; Aduba has won twice; and Collette and Taylor have won one apiece.

The number of repeat nominees and winners is both disconcerting and satisfying. On the one hand, it makes you wonder whether new, younger actresses are being given enough opportunity to shine. On the other, it speaks to some tremendous acting available to watch and enjoy (especially since so many of the titles are available in perpetuity — or at least until the coronavirus is under control — thanks to streaming and subscription services). 

The Emmy Awards have more categories for writers and directors than the Oscars do, and while women are still in a distinct minority, they are better represented. Directing category nominees include: Gail Mancuso for Modern Family; Amy Sherman-Palladino, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland; Jessica Hobbs, The Crown; Mimi Leder, The Morning Show; Lynn Shelton, Little Fires Everywhere; Maria Shrader, Unorthodox; Nicole Kassell, Watchmen; Ariel Boles, Top Chef; Linda Mendoza, Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready; Nadia Hallgren, Becoming; Rebecca Chaiklin, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness; and Pamela Fryman, Live In Front of a Studio Audience: “All In The Family” and “Good Times.” Nominated women writers include Stefani Robinson for What We Do in the Shadows; Miki Johnson, Ozark; Tanya Barfield, Mrs. America; Sally Rooney and Alice Birch, Normal People; Susannah Grant and Ayelet Waldman, Unbelievable; and Anna Winger, Unorthodox.

All of the women I’ve mentioned have reason to celebrate. But it was disappointing not to see Reese Witherspoon’s name on the list of nominees this year, especially when she had three potential shots at an Outstanding Actress nomination. Through her production company, Hello Sunshine, founded upon a mission to tell and celebrate women’s stories, Reese was the driving force behind three programs that attracted Emmy attention. In each, she played a unique, significant, and exceptionally well-acted role. In Big Little Lies, she reprised the part of Madeline Mackenzie, a Monterey wife and mother with a big heart and some even bigger mistakes to atone for. In Little Fires Everywhere, her upstanding and politically correct Elena Richardson transforms in seven episodes from someone who prides herself on being a perfect and “woke” mother to a racist monster. And, in The Morning Show, she plays new TV host Bradley Jackson, trying to succeed at a network fraught with #MeToo accusations. In each case, Reese’s costars (Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman; Kerri Washington; and Jennifer Anniston) have been recognized by Emmy nominations. Hopefully, Reese won’t be too upset, however. She did win an Emmy for executive-producing Big Little Lies first season in 2017, and she might walk away with another this year for producing Little Fires Everywhere. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. You can find it on Hulu.

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, September 20, on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel will host the show. 


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