After months of anticipation, the 2020 Emmy nominations will finally be announced tomorrow morning. Nomination morning (at a sensible 8:30am PST) is already one of our favorite days of the year, but this year, it will be particularly interesting because of the peculiar circumstances we are in.
The industry has essentially shut down since March, and as of now, we don’t really know how that will affect this year’s Emmy race. Voters have been stuck at home for months now with nothing to do but binge TV. Does that mean that they’ve seen more than in years past? The FYC season was also cancelled which means voters aren’t going to events and they’re not running into their peers. This means that buzz won’t be building in the same way that it has in the past.
We’re also in the middle of an incredibly political climate, and it will be interesting to see how that affects the taste of voters. Will they use their ballots as a way to make a statement? This year’s Emmys are also at risk of being glaringly white. Is there a chance that voters realize that? On the other hand, voters might be dismayed by everything happening in the world right now and gravitate towards TV that is more light-hearted. Will something like I Know This Much is True be too dark for them? Will they instead turn to something less critically received but more revisionist and positive like Hollywood?
What to Look for in the Acting Races
Last year, the actors branch gave us some major clues as to what shows were the biggest contenders heading into the main ceremony.
We all expected The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to do well, and it did with seven acting nominations, eventually awarding four of those nominees. What we didn’t anticipate was the actors branch fully embracing Fleabag with five nominations, a showing of support that eventually led to the comedy becoming the big winner. This year we should all be keeping an eye on the two supporting races. They both expanded to eight nominees each and it will be interesting to see if The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Schitt’s Creek are able to capitalize off of their popularity and get more castmembers in there.
Last year, the supporting drama categories were overrun with the Game of Thrones cast. This year, we have a huge assortment of actors hoping to break into the supporting races, and with so many contenders, voters might pick their few favorite shows and vote for them across the board. Right now, it seems like Ozark and Succession are the two most likely contenders. If we start to see actors like Tom Pelphrey and Janet McTeer in the supporting races, then it will be a good sign that Ozark is the favorite of the year. Succession has yet to be nominated in any acting race. If the show is as popular as it seems, then that will change, and we could see a handful of names from Sarah Snook to Kieran Culkin to Matthew Macfadyen.
And then there’s a question of how well the limited series frontrunners will do. How many supporting nominations will Watchmen rack up? Jean Smart and Tim Blake Nelson are at the top of everybody’s predictions, but if it is as popular as we anticipate, we could see names like Louis Gossett Jr., Hong Chau, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Then there’s Mrs. America. How many actresses will be singled out in the supporting actress lineup? With no less than five strong contenders and only six slots, it will be a bloodbath.
Some below-the-line categories have become the ultimate bellwethers of the top series categories and are the first major indicators of which shows will be the frontrunners heading into the big night.
For whatever reason, the casting directors peer group have an excellent track record at nominating the eventual winners of the top three categories. Over the past twelve years, they have nominated the casting director for every single winner in both the comedy series and limited series race. For drama series, they ended up nominating the winner for eleven out of the past twelve years, only missing the penultimate season of Breaking Bad.
The picture editors also have a strong track record predicting the eventual top winners as well. They’ve nominated every eventual limited series winner over the past twelve years. For comedy series, they nominated eleven of the past twelve winners, only skipping out on the first year that Veep won. They even nominated and awarded Fleabag last year. For drama series, they have nominated ten of the past twelve eventual winners, skipping the first seasons of both Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Any show tomorrow that has nominations for both casting and picture editing should be taken seriously as a top contender, especially if that support is mixed in with acting, directing, and writing nominations. If they miss out on either nomination, it might be a major indicator that enthusiasm is lacking in such a crowded year.
The Fluctuating Number of Nominees
2020 is also ushering in the new set of Emmy rules, the single most tone deaf thing the Television Academy has done in years. These new rules directly correlate the number of nominees to the number of submissions in a given category. Some categories, like the comedy and drama supporting races, will have eight nominees this year while the lead limited series acting categories will drop to five nominees each. A full breakdown of how many nominees each of the major categories will have can be found here.
These new rules also affect the craft categories with the number of nominees fluctuating drastically. Look at the three major costume categories for example. Both the period and fantasy categories will only highlight five nominees each while contemporary costume design will feature seven nominees.
Some of these categories that will only have five nominees will be particularly telling because it will show in a competitive year what shows standout the most. With that in mind keep an eye on what gets nominated for things like half-hour cinematography, music composition for a limited series, sound mixing for a limited series, sound editing for a half hour series, and limited series casting.
Also, when looking at the lineup for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series don’t forget the recent rule that requires one of the nominees to be from a mult-cam comedy. Two years ago, even the Television Academy forgot about their own rule and were forced to retroactively nominate The Big Bang Theory. This year the nominee will most likely be Will & Grace with their I Love Lucy-themed episode. At least there will be seven nominees this year.
Readers, what categories are you most looking forward to with tomorrow’s nominations announcement? What do you think of the new Emmy rules?