The 2020 Emmy nominations were announced yesterday, with a lot of buzz surrounding the record number of minority nominees and so on. While that was expected, considering the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter movement and the slow-but-sure awakening, there were a lot of other interesting things to note about the Emmy nominations this year. For one, this is the first year of the Primetime Emmy Awards after the end of GAME OF THRONES and VEEP—both of which won the big awards multiple times. More significantly, with these series out of the running, a lot of nominee slots opened up, particularly in the supporting acting (drama) categories.
Moreover, with up to eight nominees per category, there was so much Emmys love to go around. And that’s why we’ve seeing not just two, but up to three nominations for a series within a category. For example, there’s SUCCESSION with three and THE MORNING SHOW with two nominations in supporting actor, drama; there’s BIG LITTLE LIES with two supporting actress, drama, nominations; and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL with two nominations each in supporting actress and actor, comedy. And with THRONES and VEEP out, there’s also a wave of first-time contenders for outstanding series, especially in comedy, including DEAD TO ME, INSECURE, THE KOMINSKY METHOD, and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (THE MANDALORIAN is the only first-timer in drama).
One can talk endlessly about the shows and performances that were snubbed, especially since there are up to eight nominees in several categories this year. But with the number of series that are produced in this day and age, it’s impossible to do justice to everything, even for a Television Academy full of people. Yet, I do want to talk about the five biggest surprises, for me, among the main categories:
1. STRANGER THINGS for outstanding drama series:
STRANGER THINGS was a thrilling and exciting series, with endearing doses of friendship and camaraderie. While the latter has been true for the series through all three seasons, it’s still not been enough to hold up the quality of the show. The mystery, action and so on have actually become increasingly campy and ridiculous since the first season. While it’s still engaging, I’d say it’s as much of a popcorn entertainer as, say, a slasher film is, and certainly doesn’t qualify as high-quality, compelling television. It’s definitely not something that deserves to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of THE CROWN and SUCCESSION.
2. KILLING EVE for outstanding drama series:
Another series that had a stellar first season, KILLING EVE even lived up to the hype in its second season, as it interestingly unraveled facets of the characters that we knew existed but hadn’t seen on the surface. However, season three, which is in contention this year, was a sheer drag. Even over-exaggerated plotlines couldn’t excite enough, considering how they were too incoherent. They took whimsy to a level beyond the absurdity of heightened reality. It didn’t tie in together quite so well, and left me wanting it to end soon. There was some excitement in the finale, but it was too little too late. It was a wasted season, and definitely didn’t deserve to earn an outstanding series nomination like the show’s previous season had.
3. Steve Carell, THE MORNING SHOW, for outstanding lead actor in a drama series:
Yes, he’s an A-lister, he’s one of the three faces of the show and so on, but he’s far from being a protagonist, and hence it’s odd that he was entered as a lead actor. He was really good, and even made us despise Mitch Kessler, and would have been a shoo-in for a supporting actor win, considering he plays a supporting character with such a big impact and with such conviction. Perhaps they didn’t want to pitch him against costars Billy Crudup and Mark Duplass, who are both nominated for supporting actor, but Carell certainly isn’t one of the leads of the show. And that’s going to work against him. A win for him now would be a shocker for sure.
4. Kerry Washington, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie:
Now Kerry Washington can act. She’s done some really good work in the past. But she tends to overdo it at times, with the excessive facial acting—the extreme frowning and unnatural lip movements during dialogue delivery. These are things that emerged most prominently during her SCANDAL days, and they sure were in overdrive in LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE, making several parts of the performance seem gimmicky. Still, I wouldn’t question the Television Academy’s subjective opinion of her performance, if it didn’t come at the cost of a nomination for Reese Witherspoon for the same show. Witherspoon was exceptional as Elena and overshadowed Washington without a doubt. So here is one snub I will hold against the Emmys.
5. Jeffrey Wright, WESTWORLD, for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series:
Jeffrey Wright may be a good performer. I don’t recall any of his other work that I’ve seen. However, in WESTWORLD, he’s an immense bore. Watching scenes featuring Bernard is like watching paint dry. Agreed, he’s a host, and expressionlessness works to his advantage at times, but most of the times, he just exists on-screen, with little or no presence. I would agree that that may be in the job description of this role, but does such a role and performance deserve a nomination for one of the top television honors? I think not.