Before Hollywood shut down, Peak TV was continuing to get peak-ier and binge-ier. Apple TV+ had launched, joining the many other outlets in flooding the categories with more potential nominees than ever before. Alas, next year’s categories will most likely be a lot less crowded, in keeping with these socially distant times.
The official 2020 Emmy nominations are going to be announced on Tuesday, in anticipation of the Sept. 20 awards telecast. In the meantime, permit me to announce my fantasy nominations, the shows and actors I’d love to see get nominated — even while I know, in many of these cases, that will never, ever happen. A fella can dream, can’t he? This is my wish list, and it does not necessarily include those names I know the Television Academy will nominate no matter what.
This year, the Television Academy has a complex system that adjusts the number of nominees in some categories according to the number of submissions for that category. For the purposes of my fantasy list, I’m simply going to give eight slots to the series categories and six to the acting categories.
“The Crown,” Netflix
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu
“This Is Us,” NBC
“My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name,” HBO
Without last year’s winner “Game of Thrones” in the mix, the drama nominations may be less predictable. The second season of “Succession” may well take its place as the HBO juggernaut, and deservedly. It was phenomenal — darkly funny, clever, and dramatically sound. Even though its future is uncertain, and it’s not a typical Emmy series, I’d like to see “Mindhunter” in the mix — I’m hoping voters won’t waste spots on the over-nominated “Westworld” — because the second season was riveting. So was the first season of “Euphoria,” a dark show that explores the finer shadings of teen love and identity as well as the cycle of abuse. Despite its schmaltz, “This Is Us” continues to impress me with its narrative command. “Ozark” finally went from uneven to consistently good, as the season brought the women in the cast to the fore. And “My Brilliant Friend” continues to be the gorgeous journey that too-few viewers are taking.
I’d also consider: FX’s “Pose,” Apple TV+‘s “The Morning Show”
LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
Laura Linney, “Ozark”
Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
MJ Rodriguez, “Pose”
Gaia Girace, “My Brilliant Friend”
Jodie Comer won last year, but then “Killing Eve” became unwatchable. Now I see Linney as the frontrunner. Along with a strong supporting cast, she made the third season of “Ozark” its best and most coherent so far. I know some people (ahem, Don Aucoin) were not thrilled with Colman’s somewhat dour interpretation of Queen Elizabeth. I found it a layered extension of Claire Foy’s younger version and commanding in its own right. Rodriguez is the emotional core of “Pose,” even more than last year’s best-actor winner, Billy Porter. Her powerhouse performance has yet to get its due. Likewise Girace, whose torment as Lila is palpable and drives the series.
I’d also consider: Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Deuce”
LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
Brian Cox, “Succession”
Tobias Menzies, “The Crown”
Ben Mendelsohn, “The Outsider”
Holt McCallany, “Mindhunter”
Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
Mendelsohn and McCallany deserve nods for their downbeat and yet intricate leads. Brown has won for his “This Is Us” role before; he had another remarkable season (with Pamela Adlon as his therapist). Cox and Strong are both quite deserving, and “Succession” will likely get its first acting nods this year after last year’s odd oversights. I find Cox, who metes out crooked justice on his weak brood, particularly compelling.
I’d also consider: Billy Porter in “Pose” and Paul Giamatti in “Billions”
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Meryl Streep, “Big Little Lies”
Sarah Snook, “Succession”
Janet McTeer, “Ozark”
Jeannie Berlin, “Hunters”
Hunter Schafer, “Euphoria”
Sadly, Lisa Emery was not submitted for an Emmy, despite her scene-stealing work as Darlene Snell on “Ozark.” She’d be near the top of my list. Schafer was a dramatic heavyweight as a transgender teen manipulated and misused by the men around her. Snook was both player and played, and it was always entertaining to watch her bounce between the two positions. Streep was one of the few reasons to watch the unnecessary second season of “Big Little Lies.” The comic-book-like “Hunters” turned out to be excessive, and, in the end, gimmicky; but Berlin’s presence brought the soul it needed. She is a treasure.
I’d also consider: Susan Kelechi Watson in “This Is Us” and Indya Moore in “Pose”
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”
Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
Tom Pelphrey, “Ozark”
Asia Kate Dillon, “Billions”
Mark Duplass, “The Morning Show”
Mark O’Brien, “City on a Hill”
Dillon has never been nominated, despite their rich performance as a nonbinary powerhouse in the “Billions” world of toxic men. Get on it, voters. Pelphrey was a revelation as Wendy’s bipolar sibling who represents a threat to the Byrdes, and so was O’Brien as the two-faced Charlestown bro. Duplass was at his best as the loyal producer, and Crudup and his white teeth were suitably creepy; they were the opposite poles of “The Morning Show.” But my favorite has to be Culkin, who is effectively dislikable and endlessly funny as he delivers his jam-packed lines.
I’d also consider: Matthew Macfadyen in “Succession”
“Schitt’s Creek,” Pop
“What We Do in the Shadows,” FX
“Better Things,” FX
“Little America,” Apple TV+
“The Great,” Hulu
“Sex Education,” Netflix
“Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” Apple TV+
“High Maintenance,” HBO
Even with “Veep” and “Fleabag” out of the running, and “Barry” and “Atlanta” between seasons, this is a crowded category. “Little America” is an overlooked — but just exactly perfect — anthology group portrait of people who’ve moved to this country. “What We Do in the Shadows” is my current obsession, an irreverent, endearingly batty vampire comedy. “Mythic Quest” is a winning merger of “Silicon Valley” and “The Office.” “The Great” is as smart as it is funny. “Sex Education” is a joy, and so is the always original — but never nominated — “High Maintenance,” which featured an episode this season that tracked the life of a lighter. And “Schitt’s Creek” just kept getting better, and, unlike too many shows, left at just the right moment.
I’d also consider: “The Kominsky Method” (Netflix), “Feel Good” (Netflix)
LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY
Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”
Issa Rae, “Insecure”
Natasia Demetriou, “What We Do in the Shadows”
Elle Fanning, “The Great”
Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, “Never Have I Ever”
O’Hara never failed to make me laugh out loud, with her affected language and pronunciation. She may be the show’s best chance for a win. Demetriou is an endless kick; her whiny ancient voice still rings happily in my ears. Fanning works those clever lines effortlessly, and Ramakrishnan is a fantastic discovery who always kept an unexpressed grief playing underneath her comedy. Rae had some great moments, as the show took a deep dive into the relationship between friendship and personal change.
I’d also consider: Aidy Bryant in “Shrill,” Mae Martin in “Feel Good”
LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
Ted Danson, “The Good Place”
Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
Asa Butterfield, “Sex Education”
Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Matt Berry, “What We Do in the Shadows”
Kayvan Novak, “What We Do in the Shadows”
Bill Hader, who won last year and the year before, is not eligible this time. Danson, Douglas, and Levy are veterans whose work is finely tuned. Butterfield is a charming leading man; his nervous young Otis knows everything and nothing. And the “Shadows” pair are undead treasures, particularly Berry with his Jackie Daytona persona.
I’d also consider: Rob McElhenney in “Mythic Quest”
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Yvonne Orji, “Insecure”
Gillian Anderson, “Sex Education”
Emily Hampshire, “Schitt’s Creek”
Lori Tan Chinn, “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens”
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, “High Fidelity”
What a wonderfully crowded category. Chinn steals “Awkwafina” whenever she’s onscreen, not easy when your costar is Awkwafina. Randolph buoys every episode with her twist on the “High Fidelity” bestie, Murphy brought a lovely depth to her frivolous “Schitt’s” character, and Anderson’s dry comedy is irresistible as the sex therapist who needs a few lessons in love. Orji had a particularly strong season, as she and Rae played off each other more than usual.
I’d also consider: Lisa Kudrow in “Feel Good,” D’Arcy Carden in “The Good Place,” Kate McKinnon in “Saturday Night Live,” Sarah Baker in “The Kominsky Method,” Jessie Ennis in “Mythic Quest”
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
F. Murray Abraham, “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet”
David H. Holmes, “High Fidelity”
Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Jay Ellis, “Insecure”
Nicholas Hoult, “The Great”
Paul Reiser, “The Kominsky Method”
Abraham is a natural as the drunken office mascot who is blessed with the name C.W. Longbottom. Ellis gave us a character whose growth has been clearly defined across the seasons. Reiser and his ponytail were just what “Kominsky” needed. And Holmes was a lovely addition to “High Fidelity” as the gay friend.
I’d also consider: Daniel Levy in “Schitt’s Creek,” Alan Arkin in “The Kominsky Method,” Zach Woods in “Avenue 5,” Harvey Guillen and Mark Proksch in “What We Do in the Shadows”
“Mrs. America,” FX on Hulu
“The Plot Against America,” HBO
“Years and Years,” HBO
“Watchmen” is the one to beat here. But I went crazy for “Years and Years,” a kind-of extended “Black Mirror” episode. And “Unbelievable,” “Unorthodox,” and “The Plot Against America” were each potent, timely, and beautifully acted.
I’d also consider: “Mrs. Fletcher”on HBO, “The Loudest Voice” on Showtime, and “Normal People” on Hulu
LEAD ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”
Regina King, “Watchmen”
Merritt Wever, “Unbelievable”
Kaitlyn Dever, “Unbelievable”
Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
Daisy Edgar-Jones, “Normal People”
This is a packed category with a number of magnificent performances, not least of all Haas as the young woman craving freedom from her ultra-Orthodox community. It’s an embarrassment of riches.
I’d also consider: Kathryn Hahn in “Mrs. Fletcher,” Zoe Kazan in “The Plot Against America,” Anne Reid in “Years and Years,” Michelle Dockery in “Defending Jacob”
LEAD ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much Is True”
Paul Mescal, “Normal People”
Russell Crowe, “The Loudest Voice”
Hugh Jackman, “Bad Education”
Nick Offerman, “Devs”
Morgan Spector, “The Plot Against America”
“Devs” is brainy and flawed, but Offerman is a great surprise as a cool guru tech leader with mysterious motivations. Ruffalo was impressive as two characters, even if the story didn’t know what to do with them. And as a beloved con man, Jackman was better than I’ve seen him.
I’d also consider: Russell Tovey in “Years and Years”