Emmy Nominations Yield Pleasant Surprises

By D'Addario, Daniel; Framke, Caroline | Variety, July 30, 2020 | Go to article overview

Emmy Nominations Yield Pleasant Surprises


D'Addario, Daniel, Framke, Caroline, Variety


This year's Emmy Awards nominations saw Netflix claim a decisive lead with 160 overall nominations, while HBO's "Watchmen" was the mostnominated series overall and several surprise newcomers entered the fray. Variety's chief TV critics Daniel D'Addario and Caroline Framke discuss this year's especially promising nominees, and those they wish had made the shortlist.

DANIEL D'ADDARIO: I will say the narrative I'm struck by this year may be ... a distinct lack of narrative. It's very difficult to divine an overarching mood from this lineup. Perhaps the past always seems clearer by comparison, but last year's final laurel for HBO's "Game of Thrones" and insurgent run by Amazon's "Fleabag" provided a throughline to Emmy season that's less apparent in this collection of well-made, well-liked shows.

What got much of my attention here was the unexpected: FX's "What We Do in the Shadows" for comedy series, Disney Plus' "The Mandalorian" for drama series. In both cases, these shows made it in over past category winners (there was to be no victory lap in comedy for ABC's "Modern Family," or in drama for Showtime's "Homeland"); both seem something other than built for the affections of a traditional voting body.

And yet Emmy seems more oddball, and more genrefriendly, than ever. (The fact that the shows in question are crossover hits tends to overshadow that the past five years have seen the drama series trophy go to two different shows set in fantasy or dystopian universes.)

The continued diminishment of broadcast TV at the Emmys - with no representation at all in the drama category this year - is more than a business reality: It also means that the Emmys is increasingly pulling its nominees from distinct niches, or fandoms. That makes the show more representative - with, for instance, a first-ever comedy-series nomination for HBO's "Insecure," a fitting and overdue reward. It also makes it, perhaps, all the more fitting that the dominant show, with 26 nominations, is HBO's "Watchmen": A chewy, challenging series that plays with tropes ripped from comic-book pages.

I was slow to warm to "Watchmen," but it's hard to deny it was the event of the past TV season - and one that I'm glad the Academy embraced so warmly, in a list of nominees it's hard to quibble with. What did you make of the nominees list?

CAROLINE FRAMKE : It's not surprising to see Netflix pull so far ahead of HBO in overall nominations this year given its ever-ballooning slate of content, but I'm thrilled to see "Watchmen" make it to the top of the nominated shows list nonetheless. I'd love to believe that such an ambitious, intensely cerebral series would be recognized in this way no matter when it was released. But its 2019 debut made its examination of race, white liberalism and the history of policing in America breathtakingly prescient. Limited series is an especially stacked category this time; any other year, "Mrs. America" or "Unbelievable" might justifiably cakewalk to a win. But for so many reasons, 2020 should be "Watchmen's" year.

Poring over the nominees list, I was happy to see so many "Succession" actors (just about everyone but Alan Ruck's "first pancake" Connor and J. Smith-Cameron's Gerri - justice for Gerri!), and most especially, so many deserving first nominations. The supporting comedy actor and actress categories, for example, welcomed a GOAT of worthy talent, including Yvonne Orji ("Insecure"), William Jackson Harper and D'Arcy Carden (both from "The Good Place"). …

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