In a year that feels increasingly like a time warp, it’s fitting that the 2020 Emmy Awards would also be so bizarre. Not only were there some surprising nomination snubs—including little recognition for Pose or The Plot Against America and practically no love for trans or Latinx performers—but the ceremony itself will look notably different. Jimmy Kimmel will host the virtual event, with no audience and no red carpet, when the show airs from 140 different locations on ABC Sunday, September 20 at 8 p.m. ET.
Such an occasion feels anticlimactic for what has, against all odds, proved a powerful year of television, with innovative series like Watchmen, Succession, and Schitt’s Creek in a race for the gold. Some categories have a clear favorite to win, but others are so stacked it’s nearly impossible to predict. Here’s how we expect TV’s biggest night to go down this year.
Outstanding Drama Series
The nominees: Better Call Saul, The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, Killing Eve, The Mandalorian, Ozark, Stranger Things, Succession
What will win: Succession
What should win: Succession
Why: HBO has had its claws around the Emmys for quite some time now, and this year is no different with the acclaimed second season of the media empire drama Succession. Perhaps no other series has better captured the gut-wrenching dark comedy of when money and trauma collide in a family that’s lost its moral compass.
Outstanding Comedy Series
The nominees: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dead To Me, The Good Place, Insecure, The Kominsky Method, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Schitt’s Creek, What We Do In The Shadows
What will win: Schitt’s Creek
What should win: Schitt’s Creek
Why: Although there are a number of powerful contenders this year, no comedy series has enjoyed quite the acclaim or adoration as the once-sleeper hit Schitt’s Creek. A spectacularly well-developed series with not a single bad episode, the Canadian riches-to-rags comedy made us fall in love with terrible people who slowly learn to change, and it deserves every award coming its way.
Outstanding Limited Series
The nominees: Little Fires Everywhere, Mrs. America, Unbelievable, Unorthodox, Watchmen
What will win: Watchmen
Who should win: Watchmen
Why: Although FX’s Cate Blanchett-helmed Mrs. America might swoop in to steal the show, the honor belongs to Watchmen, HBO’s graphic novel sequel that was so much more. Insightful, audacious, and at times downright difficult to watch, the series racked up the most overall Emmy nominations this year and brought something to the tired superhero genre that’s never been seen before.
Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series
The nominees: American Masters, Hillary, The Last Dance, McMillions, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness
What will win: The Last Dance
What should win: McMillions
Why: Because it became an overnight phenomenon in a sports-starved TV landscape, ESPN’s Chicago Bulls-focused The Last Dance will almost definitely take the prize. But the documentary, while gorgeous and entertaining, was also clunky and overly worshipful of His Airness. It lacked the skeptical rigor of a true documentarian, and therefore HBO’s McMillions, the tale of a man who rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly game, deserves the documentary win.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama
The nominees: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show; Olivia Colman, The Crown; Jodie Comer, Killing Eve; Laura Linney, Ozark; Sandra Oh, Killing Eve; Zendaya, Euphoria
Who will win: Jennifer Aniston
Who should win: Aniston, Linney, or Zendaya
Why: I have a hard time advocating for any one actress over another in this category because each has genuinely impressed me. But the overwhelming hype rests on Aniston, who finally shed her comedy veneer to reveal a gorgeously complex (and, at times corrupt) television host on The Morning Show. Her performance was by far one of the first season’s biggest highlights, but that doesn’t guarantee she’ll steal the award away from Ozark’s spectacular Laura Linney or Zendaya, whose nuanced performance in Euphoria makes her a worthy contender.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama
The nominees: Jason Bateman, Ozark; Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us; Steve Carell, The Morning Show; Brian Cox, Succession; Billy Porter, Pose; Jeremy Strong, Succession
Who will win: Jason Bateman
Who should win: Brian Cox
Why: This is another category that’s hard to call, but after several seasons of harried money-laundering, it’s likely Jason Bateman will finally get recognition for his performance as controlled, calculating Marty Byrde on Ozark. But not all critics are a fan of Marty’s subdued agony, so there’s a good argument to be made instead for Brian Cox, Succession’s twisted, fascinating patriarch.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy
The nominees: Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish; Christina Applegate, Dead To Me; Linda Cardellini, Dead To Me; Issa Rae, Insecure; Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek
Who will win: Catherine O’Hara
Who should win: Catherine O’Hara
Why: No other comedienne has captured the internet’s adoration quite like Catherine O’Hara’s Moira Rose, whose absurd inflections and outrageous outfits in Schitt’s Creek make her almost cartoonish until O’Hara reveals her gentler side. The other nominees certainly deserve the recognition, but Moira was born for this red carpet.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy
The 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
Who will win: Ted Danson
Who should win: Ramy Youssef
Why: For his depiction of the Bad Place’s most lovable demon in The Good Place, Ted Danson will likely get the praise he deserves as one of comedy’s finest. But to award Danson would be to sleep on Ramy Youssef, who won a Golden Globe for his show Ramy, a smart and hilarious take on life as a young American Muslim caught at a political crossroads in New Jersey. Youssef deserves the statue, but given that The Good Place has finally wrapped, we shouldn’t be surprised if Danson walks away with it.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie
The nominees: Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America; Shira Haas, Unorthodox; Regina King, Watchmen; Octavia Spencer, Self Made; Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere
Who will win: Cate Blanchett
Who should win: Regina King
Why: Cate Blanchett made for a compelling, chilling anti-feminist as Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. America, and as it’s one of the acclaimed actress’s relatively few television roles, she could go home with the gold. But Regina King is a beloved Emmy heavyweight, and her stunning work as Sister Night fighting white supremacy in Watchmen should give her the juice to rightfully earn the award.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie
The nominees: Jeremy Irons, Watchmen; Hugh Jackman, Bad Education; Paul Mescal, Normal People; Jeremy Pope, Hollywood; Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True
Who will win: Hugh Jackman
Who should win: Paul Mescal
Why: I’ll get some naysayers on this one, but I stand by my decision: Mark Ruffalo is a national treasure, Hugh Jackman deserves every good thing, and the two Jeremys are each multifaceted talents, BUT! Paul Mescal managed to make an insecure, sensitive young white boy character compelling. Imagine such a feat! His performance in the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People was one of my favorites of the year, especially coming from a previously unknown actor. He might not snag the award away from Jackman, whose performance as a corrupt superintendent has earned him heaps of praise, but if he does, you can rest assured I’ll be cheering.
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama
The nominees: 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
Who will win: Helena Bonham Carter
Who should win: Sarah Snook
Why: Queen Elizabeth’s sister has always been one of the more enchanting royals on Netflix’s massive hit The Crown, and Helena Bonham Carter stole every breath as the grown-up partying princess in the series’s third season. For her beguiling cigarette-smoking alone, Bonham Carter will likely take the cake. But Sarah Snook deserves the Emmy for becoming TV’s favorite ice queen as Succession’s Shiv Roy, the diabolical daughter hellbent on capturing her father’s company.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama
The nominees: 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 Macfayden, Succession; Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
Who will win: Billy Crudup
Who should win: Kieran Culkin
Why: I won’t lie and tell you I didn’t grin every time Billy Crudup’s weird but charming (maybe??) TV executive Cory Ellison came on screen in The Morning Show. For reasons I still can’t quite put my finger on, he is one of the show’s most mystifying highlights. You hate him but adore him, and that’s why he’ll likely get the Emmy. Still, that doesn’t convince me the award doesn’t belong to Kieran Culkin, whose portrayal of Roman Roy in Succession is equally funny but much more nuanced.
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy
The nominees: 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
Who will win: Annie Murphy
Who should win: Annie Murphy
Why: Sick of hearing about Schitt’s Creek yet? Sorry, but Annie Murphy is yet another powerhouse alum of the Canadian comedy, and her performance as the shallow-turned-surprising Alexis Rose transformed her into one of the most meme-able and beloved actresses in the game. I’d be shocked if she doesn’t win this race in a landslide.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy
The nominees: 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; Daniel Levy, Schitt’s Creek
Who will win: Daniel Levy
Who should win: Daniel Levy
Why: Guess what—another Schitt’s Creek sweep! Several nominees in this category have already taken home Emmys, so the obvious choice is Levy, who not only made David Rose a household name but brought one of the most endearing gay couples to the screen in a way that felt authentic.
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie
The nominees: Holland Taylor, Hollywood; Uzo Aduba, Mrs. America; Margo Martindale, Mrs. America; Tracey Ullman, Mrs. America; Toni Collette, Unbelievable; Jean Smart, Watchmen
Who will win: Jean Smart
Who should win: Jean Smart
Why: This stacked category is a tough one to call. Unbelievable deserves much more Emmy recognition than it got, and Toni Collette could be the one to give it the star power it needs. But then, of course, there’s the inimitable Uzo Aduba or Tracey Ullman, whose Betty Friedan in Mrs. America was gruff and nuanced. Still, it’s likely Jean Smart will pull away with the victory with her clever-but-guarded Agent Blake in Watchmen.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie
The nominees: Dylan McDermott, Hollywood; Jim Parsons, Hollywood; Tituss Burgess, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen; Jovan Adepo, Watchmen; Louis Gossett Jr., Watchmen
Who will win: Jim Parsons
Who should win: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II
Why: The Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons has already proven his drama chops in performances like 2014’s The Normal Heart, but he really revealed his skill as Hollywood’s predatory agent Henry Willson. Always an Emmy favorite, Parsons will likely snatch the statue, but if Watchmen gets the Emmy love it deserves, the victor should be Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. His big reveal was one of TV’s most interesting moments of the year.
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