As much as I look forward to the annual day in which the Oscar nominations are announced, I think, for sheer time-killing fun, I look forward to Emmy-nomination day even more. I mean, what's not to love? The Oscars give us 20 performance nominees; the Emmys give us more than one hundred and 20! The Oscars cite a few dozen titles; the Emmys, this year at least, acknowledged 200-plus! The Oscars oddly ignored The Simpsons Movie. At the Emmys, though? You can't get rid of the flippin' Simpsons! (No matter how much some of us may want to.)
This year's nominations for the best in television that aired from June of 2019 to May of 2020 were announced on Tuesday, and as usual, they provided a thrilling, enraging, fascinating blend of “Yes!”, “No!”, and “Huh?!?” If you've got a few hours to spare, you can do a deep dive into all of the contenders at the Emmy Awards' official Web site. But if you're looking for something shorter, less comprehensive, and certainly less authoritative considering just how much TV I don't see on a yearly basis, here are a dozen personal, arguably meaningless takeaways from yesterday's announcement:
1) My Favorite Drama and Comedy Might Be the Favorite Drama and Comedy: I'm used to my best-loved shows rarely winning Outstanding Comedy and Drama Series, partly because I don't see much – of those categories' 16 collective nominees this year, I've only watched four – and partly because Emmy hogs such as Game of Thrones and Veep tend to keep winning time and time again. But this year might actually be different, and not just because both of those productions recently ended their runs.
My hands-down-favorite drama was HBO's dysfunctional-media-family saga Succession, which tied for the most drama-series nominations with 18, a full half of them for acting. (Series regulars Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Nicholas Braun, Kieran Culkin, and Matthew Macfadyen will compete alongside guest performers Cherry Jones, Harriet Walter, and James Cromwell.) Adding its citations in bellwether categories such as directing, writing, editing, and casting, and 2019's victim to the Thrones juggernaut might be 2020's odds-on favorite.
And on the comedy side of things, almost nothing on TV the past few years has made me quite as deliriously happy as Pop TV's friendly-fish-out-of-water delight Schitt's Creek, which ended its six-season run this past spring. Yesterday, the show got a helluva going-away present: 15 nominations (up from last year's four, which was up from the previous four seasons' zero), including nods for the entire Rose family of Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Annie Murphy, and Daniel Levy, the latter also cited for writing and directing. Sure, Prime Video's own Emmy hoarder The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (16 wins to date, with more certainly on the horizon) could take the series prize instead. But admit it: Aren't you missing Schitt's Creek already? I think voters might be, too.
2) Watchmen Really Is the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: It took a pandemic for me to (re)subscribe to HBO, which meant it took far longer than it should have for me to catch up with this radical re-imagining of Alan Moore's legendary graphic (and I do mean graphic) novel. Once I did, though, I absolutely devoured the thing, and it looks like Emmy voters did, too: Creator Damon Lindelof's superheroes-in-hiding stunner landed more nominations – a whopping 26 – than any other program.
Unfortunately, barring a few improbable ties, the 26 trophies Watchmen deserves won't be happening, as the series is competing against itself in four of its 19 cited categories. I'm counting on at least a dozen Emmys, though, and hopefully at least one among nominated performers Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jovan Adepo, and the 84-years-young Louis Gossett Jr. And nope, I didn't accidentally leave Tim Blake Nelson's name off that list. The television academy did, which just figures, because I finally really dug the guy for the first time since 2000's Coen-brothers comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? Fingers crossed for a sequel.
3) Looks Like I Have Some Catching Up to Do: What do The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (20 nominations), NBC's Saturday Night Live (15), Netflix's The Crown (13), and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale (10) all have in common? I didn't see a single one of their episodes from this past Emmy-eligibility season. And what do Disney+'s The Mandalorian (15), HBO's Westworld (11), BBC America's Killing Eve (8), HBO's Insecure (8), Netflix's Unorthodox (8), Apple TV+'s The Morning Show (8), and FX's What We Do in the Shadows (8) have in common? I haven't seen a single minute of those shows at all. What the hell have I been doing with myself these past few months?!
4) These Shows Eventually Got Good, I Guess: I'm one of those people who has to read a book all the way to the end even if I don't entirely care for it. Thankfully for me and my spare time, I absolutely do not feel the same way about television, and have probably given up on more series than I've seen through to their completion. So there's nothing quite like Emmy-nomination day for making me feel moderately guilty about jumping ship, and I suppose I have to grudgingly accept that a lot of people, among them a healthy number of Emmy voters, really enjoyed several entertainments I bolted from after a few hours in their company: Netflix's dramas Ozark (18 nominations) and Stranger Things (8), Netflix's comedy The Politician (5), and Netflix's mini-series Hollywood (12). Hmm … . It is somehow easier to ditch programs when you know they'll always be there on Netflix?
5) These Shows Were Still on the Air, Apparently: Not seeing a lot of broadcast and cable TV, at least during original prime-time airings, also means not seeing a lot of ads for broadcast and cable TV. And perusing this year's full list of Emmy nominees, I was startled to see acknowledgment for so many shows I didn't realize were still running. Did you know HBO's Silicon Valley, which used to be a mainstay in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, aired its final season last winter? I had no idea, and might have continued not knowing had it not just received a nomination for its sound editing.
But I'm quite clearly out of the loop when it comes to these things, because I also wasn't aware that FX's American Horror Story (3 nominations), HBO's Ballers (1), ABC's black-ish (4), NBC's The Blacklist (1), Comedy Central's Crank Yankers (1) and Drunk History (3), USA's Mr. Robot (1), CBS' S.W.A.T. (1), and NBC's reboot of Will & Grace (5) were airing new episodes, either. As for Modern Family, I actually was aware that the ABC sitcom just completed its eleventh and final season, even though I lost interest in it years ago. But huzzah for the posthumous recognition for the show's guest-actor nominee Fred Willard, who, astonishingly, never received an Emmy while he was alive. R.I.P. Dunphy père.
6) If You Want an Emmy Nomination, It Helps to Have an Oscar: At the Academy Awards this past February, Brad Pitt won Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Laura Dern received Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story, and Taika Waititi earned the Best Adapted Screenplay trophy for Jojo Rabbit, the World War II comedy in which the New Zealander also portrayed the film's slapstick Hitler. You'd think that would be enough professional respect for one year, but lo and behold, all three are newly Emmy-nominated, too – Pitt for his Saturday Night Live cameo, Dern for HBO's Big Little Lies (she won an Emmy for the same role in 2017), and Waititi for his vocal performance in The Mandalorian. This isn't really a surprise, though, as the television academy has been crushing on film actors for decades, and it's much easier to publicly do so now that so many movie stars are less snooty about doing TV.
So in addition to Pitt, Dern, and Waititi, you'll find another dozen Oscar winners in contention this year for their on-screen or vocal work: Mahershala Ali (Hulu's Ramy), Alan Arkin (Netflix's The Kominsky Method), Cate Blanchett (FX's Mrs. America), Olivia Colman (The Crown), Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), Louis Gossett Jr. (Watchmen), Jeremy Irons (Watchmen), Regina King (Watchmen), Lupita Nyong'o (the Discovery Channel's Serengeti), Octavia Spencer (Netflix's Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker), Meryl Streep (Big Little Lies), and Christoph Waltz (Quibi's Most Dangerous Game).
You'll also find a bunch of Oscar nominees: Angela Bassett (HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show and Disney+'s The Imagineering Story), Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown), Steve Carell (The Morning Show), Don Cheadle (Showtime's Black Monday), Toni Collette (Netflix's Unbelievable), James Cromwell (Succession), Adam Driver (Saturday Night Live), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Apple TV+'s The Elephant Queen), Laurence Fishburne (Quibi's #FreeRayshawn), Hugh Jackman (HBO's Bad Education), Anna Kendrick (Quibi's Dummy), Laura Linney (Ozark), Bette Midler (Netflix's The Politician), Eddie Murphy (Saturday Night Live), Dev Patel (Prime Video's Modern Love), Mark Ruffalo (HBO's I Know This Much Is True), and Cicely Tyson (ABC's How to Get Away with Murder). Don't spend time looking for eligible contenders Russell Crowe, Viola Davis, Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway, Holly Hunter, Allison Janney, Nicole Kidman, Rami Malek, Al Pacino, Mary Steenburgen, or Reese Witherspoon, though. I didn't say that winning an Oscar meant an Emmy gimme.
7) It Doesn't Hurt to Have a Tony, Either: The TV academy also adores Broadway stars … though maybe not quite as much as movie stars. Still, Tony Award champs – some of them also Oscar winners or nominees – are nicely represented in this year's race: Alan Arkin, Billy Crudup (The Morning Show), Laurence Fishburne, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Irons, Cherry Jones (Succession), Bette Midler, Leslie Odom Jr. (Apple TV+'s Central Park), Billy Porter (FX's Pose), Phylicia Rashad (NBC's This Is Us), Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Martin Short (The Morning Show), Cicely Tyson, and Jeffrey Wright (Westworld).
And mere, by which I mean “mere,” Tony nominees augment the performance categories, as well: Hank Azaria (FOX's The Simpsons), Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Adam Driver, Corey Hawkins (Quibi's Survive), Anna Kendrick, Laura Linney, Margo Martindale (Mrs. America), Jeremy Pope (Hollywood), Mark Ruffalo, Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve), Jean Smart (Watchmen), Holland Taylor (Hollywood), and Harriet Walter (Succession). Oh, and Meryl Streep. Because when it comes to securing Emmy nods, being Meryl Streep also doesn't hurt.
8) There Are Too Many Nominees … and Still, Somehow, Not Enough: If you take the time to read, or even scan, the complete list of this year's Emmy contenders, your eyes can easily start glazing over at the tonnage of cited individuals and the categories you can't believe exist. “Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program"? “Outstanding Contemporary Makeup for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Program (Non-Prosthetic)"? “Outstanding Derivative Interactive Program"? (I think that's the first time I've seen the word “outstanding” directly precede the word “derivative.”) Yet while it could be argued that there are simply too many nominations, we Emmy fans will also never quit bitching about there being too few, at least whenever our favorites get dissed.
Here, in my humble and limited opinion, are some of this year's most egregious omissions beyond the irksome lack of Tim Blake Nelson love: J. Smith-Cameron and Holly Hunter for Succession. Emily Hampshire and Noah Reid for Schitt's Creek. Sarah Paulson, Ari Graynor, and Rose Byrne (how in Heaven's name did she get skipped over?!) for Mrs. America. Daisy Edgar-Jones for Hulu's Normal People. (Though, blessedly, her mini-series co-star Paul Mescal did receive his deserved Best Actor nod.) Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever for Unbelievable. Russell Crowe for Showtime's The Loudest Voice. The eternally ignored Kristen Bell for NBC's The Good Place, even though I'm delighted about the nods for the series itself, the finale's script, and castmates Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper, D'Arcy Carden, and Maya Rudolph, the latter also cited – in the same category! – for her Kamala Harris on SNL. John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and Sara Gilbert for ABC's The Conners. Jake Gyllenhaal for John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch. (Mr. Music apparently wasn't eligible, but still … !) And the most baffling performance exclusions of all, which make me think that ...
9) … Voters Love Better Call Saul, Unless They Really Don't: I will forever consider this superb Breaking Bad offshoot my first official Pandemic Show, as I managed to watch all five seasons – all for the first time – in the span of about three weeks of self-quarantining. And as they did in the program's first four years, members of the television academy rightly nominated Better Call Saul for Outstanding Drama Series in its fifth, also giving it a half-dozen additional nods including one for castmate Giancarlo Esposito (who's also cited as a guest actor in The Mandolorian) and two for writing. Gosh, voters sure must like this show!
Then again, if they really really liked it, why hasn't the show won a single Emmy to date? And where the hell are the Emmy mentions for Bob Odenkirk (nominated all four previous seasons), Jonathan Banks (also nominated all four previous seasons), and the maddeningly never-nominated Rhea Seehorn, whose increasingly complex portrayal of attorney/ally Kim Wexler is about as good as acting gets? I guess I should take some consolation in her wonderful Legal Ethics with Kim Wexler scoring a nod for Outstanding Short-Form Comedy or Drama Series. Considering she's not one of its producers, though, that doesn't increase Seehorn's Emmy tally at all. Dammit.
10) #EmmysSoWhite Won't Be Trending: Not this year, at least. Because while our most recent Oscars just narrowly avoided a rehash of the #OscarsSoWhite debacles of 2015 and 2016 when no actors of color were nominated (and only Harriet's Cynthia Erivo was cited this past January), all 20 of the Emmys' 2020 performance categories feature at least one black talent represented. Even more gratifyingly, a full eight find the 47 nominated performers of color (three actors nominated twice, one nominated thrice) composing either half or the majority of their categories' lineups, with the Outstanding Actor in a Short-Form Comedy or Drama Series roster, just as an example, citing Laurence Fishburne, Stephen James, Mamoudou Athie, and Corey Hawkins. So just watch the award go to Christoph Waltz instead.
11) TV Movies Have Become Completely Irrelevant: This year's Outstanding Television Movie category boasts HBO's Bad Education and four titles from Netflix: American Son, Dolly Parton's Heartstrings: These Old Bones, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend. They amassed 10 Emmy nominations. Combined. I'm just sayin'.
12) Brad Pitt Should Just Land a Sitcom Deal and Be Done with It: Nineteen years ago, Pitt appeared in an episode of Friends opposite then-wife Jennifer Aniston for roughly 15 minutes, and he eventually got an Emmy nomination for the role. A few months ago, Pitt appeared in an episode of SNL as Dr. Anthony Fauci (and then as himself) for roughly three minutes, and he got an Emmy nomination for that, too. At this rate, in a couple of decades, the opening credits to some new comedy series will feature a quick flash of Pitt's head shot and the dude's gonna win.