The Emmy Awards nominations were announced on Tuesday, July 28, with HBO’s Watchmen leading with a total of 26 nominations. Amazon Prime’s comedy series The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is in second with a total of 20, followed by Netflix’s Ozark and HBO’s Succession, both with 18.
While the list was made up of the usual, very predictable (but not all unworthy) suspects, such as Ozark, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, all of which have received nominations in previous years, there were some surprising new additions. This year’s nominees broke the record for being the most diverse, with 34.3% of actors being Black. This was likely influenced by recent calls for more representation at awards shows, but with the growing momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is a welcome change, regardless of the reason.
The Emmys recognised a large number of Black actors this year, including an unexpected nomination for Zendaya, for her role as “Rue” in Euphoria. This drama series offered a much-needed, refreshing take on mental health, and at its core, told the fundamental truth that everyone knows: being a teenager can be incredibly cruel. Zendaya’s performance was remarkable, so to see her receive this recognition for it was a pleasant surprise.
Also making history, “Ramy” became the first Muslim American sitcom to receive an Emmy nomination, with Youssef Ramy being recognised in the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category.
HBO’s Watchmen was the biggest success story. Although it aired in 2019, a series confronting race and policing in America is achingly relevant to society right now. It is deserving of its 26 nominations.
There was also much recognition for British talent, including The Crown’s Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter; Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer and Fiona Shaw; Irish actor Paul Mescal for Normal People, and Brian Cox for Succession.
It wouldn’t be an awards show without some snubs, however. Among them is Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, who starred in The Morning Show (Apple TV+), Big Little Lies (HBO) and Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu). She was snubbed in the acting category for all three shows, while several of her co-stars received recognition.
Another snub (and one of the most disappointing for me) was Daisy Edgar-Jones, for her performance as Marianne in Normal People. Her co-star, Paul Mescal, received a nomination for his role as Connell. While a melancholy Irish romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, there should be no doubt about the worthiness of Edgar-Jones’ performance. Marianne is an achingly vulnerable character; her story resonates with so many young people today, and much of that is due to the radiant, nuanced and beautiful way she is portrayed.
The most disappointing for me though, and yes, I am probably biased, was the lack of any nominations for Starz’s Outlander. Despite receiving recognition at the Golden Globes in previous years, it remains a repeat snub at the Emmys. The show’s leads, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, both gave utterly breath-taking performances in season five, and their dedication to the story and their characters is almost unparalleled. It is disappointing, but by now, not surprising, to see their acting go unrecognised yet again.
Despite the snubs, many brilliant performances in TV received nominations, and the Emmys took a big step in recognising the diversity that has been lacking in award shows for too long.
The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will air September 20, 2020, at 8 pm ET. (That’s 1 am on September 21 for us in the UK.)