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Emmy Nominations 2020: HBO's 'Watchmen' Leads Contenders

07/28/2020 | 01:45pm EDT

By John Jurgensen

HBO's limited series "Watchmen," which used a comic-book adaptation to explore racism in America and seemed to anticipate the real-life social unrest that exploded across the country in recent months, leads the contenders for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards with 26 nominations. Other top nominees include Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Netflix's "Ozark" and HBO's "Succession."

With last year's comedy and drama series winners "Fleabag" and "Game of Thrones" out of the way, there was room for some new blood. Half of the nominees for best comedy series were new to the category, including FX's vampire mockumentary "What We Do in the Shadows," HBO's "Insecure" and Netflix's "Dead To Me" and "The Kominsky Method."

Baby Yoda and the Star Wars brand helped streaming service Disney+ secure its first ticket to the Emmys, with 15 nominations for " The Mandalorian," including one for best drama. It is the only freshman nominee in that category, which includes "Succession," AMC's "Better Call Saul," BBC America's "Killing Eve," Hulu's past winner "The Handmaid's Tale" and three from Netflix: "The Crown," "Ozark" and "Stranger Things."

Netflix, which has jockeyed with HBO in recent years for supremacy in total nominations, led the pack this time around with 160, a record that breaks the one set by HBO's 137 nominations last year. HBO scored 107 nominations Tuesday, followed by NBC (47), ABC (36) and FX (33).

The brass at Apple got a reason to elbow bump with nominations in top categories for its drama "The Morning Show," including for lead actor Steve Carell and lead actress Jennifer Aniston. They represent the tech giant's first prime-time Emmy nods and come less than a year after the launch of original series on streaming platform Apple TV+.

As the first of the big entertainment award ceremonies to move forward post-Covid-19, the Emmys is shaping up to be a mix of business as usual and unusual. The top categories feature lots of familiar titles and talent, recognized for work that aired before the pandemic paralyzed the TV industry. But Tuesday's nominee list also has examples from our new reality, including late-night shows forced to shift to homemade affairs. All of this is leading up to a Sept. 20 ceremony on ABC whose format -- live or virtual? -- hasn't been decided yet, but is unlikely to resemble any past telecast (except for third-time host Jimmy Kimmel).

Still, it isn't easy to say how different the nods would look in a more normal year. Lockdown meant TV networks, streamers and other stakeholders couldn't host their usual hobnobs, opting for virtual panels and other campaign events instead. At the same time, members of the Television Academy had more time to watch programs submitted for contention, both because of quarantine and because the Academy extended its typical deadline.

Despite the abrupt surprise ending to the season caused by coronavirus, there were 15% more submissions for Emmy consideration than in 2019. In fact, there were lots of coronavirus-related programs submitted for contention, including former "Office" star John Krasinski's YouTube show "Some Good News," though it failed to secure a nomination among entrenched talk-show contenders, such as four-time winner "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver." Under new rules, the Academy opened up space in some categories, expanding comedy series and drama series to eight nominees each and adjusting the number of slots in other categories based on the number of contenders submitted.

Nominations in key categories:

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Don Cheadle, "Black Monday" (Showtime)

Anthony Anderson, "black-ish" (ABC)

Ted Danson, "The Good Place" (NBC)

Michael Douglas, "The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)

Ramy Youssef, "Ramy" (Hulu)

Eugene Levy, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Tracee Ellis Ross, "black-ish" (ABC)

Christina Applegate, "Dead to Me" (Netflix)

Linda Cardellini, "Dead to Me" (Netflix)

Issa Rae, "Insecure" (HBO)

Rachel Brosnahan, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon Prime Video)

Catherine O'Hara, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)

Outstanding Lead Actor in Drama Series

Steve Carell, "The Morning Show" (Apple TV+)

Jason Bateman, "Ozark" (Netflix)

Billy Porter, "Pose" (FX Networks)

Brian Cox, "Succession" (HBO)

Jeremy Strong, "Succession" (HBO)

Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us" (NBC)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Olivia Colman, "The Crown" (Netflix)

Zendaya, "Euphoria" (HBO)

Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve" (BBC America)

Sandra Oh, "Killing Eve" (BBC America)

Jennifer Aniston, "The Morning Show" (Apple TV+)

Laura Linney, "Ozark" (Netflix)

Outstanding Lead Actor in Limited Series or Movie

Hugh Jackman, "Bad Education" (HBO)

Jeremy Pope, "Hollywood" (Netflix)

Mark Ruffalo, "I Know This Much Is True" (HBO)

Paul Mescal, "Normal People" (Hulu)

Jeremy Irons, "Watchmen" (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Kerry Washington, "Little Fires Everywhere" (Hulu)

Cate Blanchett, "Mrs. America" (FX Networks)

Octavia Spencer, "Self Made" (Netflix)

Shira Haas, "Unorthodox" (Netflix)

Regina King, "Watchmen" (HBO)

Outstanding Comedy Series

"Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO)

"Dead to Me" (Netflix)

"The Good Place" (NBC)

"Insecure" (HBO)

"The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon Prime Video)

"Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)

"What We Do In the Shadows" (FX Networks)

Outstanding Drama Series

"Better Call Saul" (AMC)

"The Crown" (Netflix)

"The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)

"Killing Eve" (BBC America)

"The Mandalorian" (Disney+)

"Ozark" (Netflix)

"Stranger Things" (Netflix)

"Succession" (HBO)

Outstanding Limited Series

"Little Fires Everywhere" (Hulu)

"Mrs. America" (FX Networks)

"Unbelievable" (Netflix)

"Unorthodox" (Netflix)

"Watchmen" (HBO)

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" (Comedy Central)

"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" (TBS)

"Jimmy Kimmel Live!" (ABC)

"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" (HBO)

"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" ( CBS)

Write to John Jurgensen at john.jurgensen@wsj.com


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