Emmy Awards 2020 Predictions and Analysis

The nominations for the 2020 Emmy Awards weren’t perfect but some excellent shows should be honored all the same. Here are our predictions.

Emmy 2020 Predictions
Photo: HBO | FX | Disney | CBC

After several years of, let’s say, improved taste, the Emmy Awards backslid a bit last year. Sure, it was nice to see Fleabag get the recognition it deserved. But that recognition came along with a Game of Thrones final season onslaught that nobody asked for.

With Thrones firmly in the rearview, the 2020 Emmy Awards have a chance to welcome in some new blood. And with an eclectic list of first-time nominees like The Mandalorian, The Morning Show, and Watchmen they may be able to do just that! Below you can find all the major categories that will be announced during the 2020 Emmy Award ceremony at 8 p.m. ET on Sept. 20 on ABC. We have indicated what shows we think will win in bold and what shows should win in italics

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul

The Crown

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The Handmaid’s Tale

Killing Eve

The Mandalorian

Ozark

Stranger Things

Succession

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Who Will Win: The Emmy Awards have a preoccupation with HBO dramas and who could blame them? For the better part of 30 years, HBO has been the go-to spot for brilliant television drama. That preoccupation went too far last year though with the choice of the questionable final season of Game of Thrones. Thankfully, this year’s HBO choice won’t be nearly as onerous. Succession season 2 is a superb year of television.

Who Should Win: Though Succession is a wonderful TV series and a fine choice for Outstanding Drama, the real winner here should be Better Call Saul. Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad prequel just gets better with age and arguably reached its apex with its fifth season. 

Outstanding Comedy Series 

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Dead to Me

Insecure

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Schitt’s Creek

The Good Place

The Kominsky Method

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

What We Do in the Shadows

Who Will Win: The Emmys have largely ignored Schitt’s Creek’s existence up to this point but could no longer do so in its final season. The little Canadian show that could took in an impressive 16 nominations – the most for any comedy in its final season. And the Emmys didn’t hand out all those nominations just to leave the show hanging at the podium. Schitt’s Creek will win big throughout the night, including taking home Outstanding Comedy Series

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Who Should Win: We have no complaints with Schitt’s Creek winning Outstanding Comedy Series to honor its contributions to television and comedy for the past six years. But for the purposes of choosing 2020’s best comedy, What We Do in the Shadows has to be it. Shadows was at its absolute best in season 2, a year that contained zombies, witches, and one Jackie Daytona, normal human bartender. 

Outstanding Limited Series

Little Fires Everywhere

Mrs. America

Unbelievable

Unorthodox

Watchmen

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Who Will Win: Watchmen will win. Obviously.

Who Should Win: Unbelievable is a remarkable piece of work. Mrs. America more than lives up to its potential. But let’s not overthink this one – Watchmen was arguably the best thing on television this past year and will likely be remembered for years to come. It’s the only choice here.

Outstanding Television Movie

American Son

Bad Education

Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend

Who Will Win: The Emmys always like to honor big name film actors like Hugh Jackman when they can. This time they get to do so and select the best TV movie of the year to boot.

Who Should Win: Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings is great but not really a TV Movie and slipped in here as a technicality. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt interactive special was wonderfully executed. But Bad Education is as deserving as any. 

Outstanding Reality/Competition Program

The Masked Singer

Nailed It!

RuPaul’s Drag Race

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Top Chef

The Voice

Who Will Win: RuPaul’s Drag Race has won this honor for the past two years and there’s no reason to believe it can’t be victorious again. 

Who Should Win: It would be nice to see Netflix’s charming Nailed It! take home the top prize. And though The Masked Singer is certainly a corny endeavor, one cannot argue that the show hasn’t executed its concept perfectly. 

Outstanding Variety/Talk Series

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

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Jimmy Kimmel Live

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Who Will Win: At this point, for as long as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is on television, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be expected to take home the Outstanding Variety/Talk Series trophy. 

Who Should Win: And there’s a reason for Last Week Tonight’s dominance. The category has gotten weaker in recent years with many talk shows understandably working on expanding their respective brands into the digital space. Last Week Tonight does the most research, has the best writing staff, and the most appealing host. It’s the best show of its kind on television and will likely continue to be so for quite awhile. 

Outstanding Animated Program

Big Mouth

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Bob’s Burgers

BoJack Horseman

Rick and Morty

The Simpsons

Who Will Win: The Emmys do enjoy honoring series in their last season. The fact that BoJack Horseman’s last season was truly superb is just icing on the cake. 

Who Should Win: Rick and Morty’s creative demise is not as steep as some cultural commentators would have you believe. It would be a decent choice here. As would the relentless charming Bob’s Burgers, which just keeps getting better. But BoJack Horseman deserves this trophy for a pitch-perfect final season that brilliantly blends the series comedic and dramatic impulses. 

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Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show

Olivia Colman, The Crown

Jodie Comer, Killing Eve

Laura Linney, Ozark 

Sandra Oh, Killing Eve

Zendaya, Euphoria

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Who Will Win: At first glance, Aniston seems like a solid possibility for her work on The Morning Show. She has the biggest name recognition and the world’s most valuable company marshaling its resources behind her. But something tells us that Olivia Colman is the surer bet. The Emmys have always been fond of The Crown. And after Colman took home an Oscar for The Favourite, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences might be eager to remind folks what medium Colman is best known for. 

Who Should Win: Anyone would be a fine choice here, really. We will go with Zendaya for the degree of humanity she brought to a truly difficult role. 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, Ozark 

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Steve Carell, The Morning Show 

Brian Cox, Succession

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Billy Porter, Pose

Jeremy Strong, Succession

Who Will Win: Billy Porter was a pleasant surprise last year but this time around the Emmys likely won’t be able to resist the allure of Succession. Either Brian Cox or Jeremy Strong are extremely likely to win this. We will guess Cox as his Golden Globe win is likely fresh in voters’ minds. 

Who Should Win: Being the lead on a prestige HBO drama often means getting to play with a pretty showy role. Jeremy Strong’s beaten down Kendall Roy is anything but showy and that just makes the actor’s performance all the more impressive. The consequences of a lifetime of outrageous wealth and outrageous paternal neglect play out mostly between Strong’s ears in a superb, subtle performance. 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Christina Applegate, Dead to Me

Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me

Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek 

Issa Rae, Insecure

Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Who Will Win: It’s likely to be a big night for Schitt’s Creek but even if it isn’t, all involved can be pretty certain that they’re taking home at least this award. Catherine O’Hara is Schitt’s Creeks MVP and here she becomes the show’s Emmy firewall. 

Who Should Win: O’Hara absolutely should win for her consistently larger-than-life performance. It’s a shame we won’t be able to honor Issa Rae with a statue this year though. 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish 

Don Cheadle, Black Monday 

Ted Danson, The Good Place 

Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method

Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek 

Ramy Youssef, Ramy

Who Will Win: Look, we’re just betting big on Schitt’s Creek around these parts. Comedy all-timer Levy has won an Emmy for writing but never for performance and that seems bound to change this year. 

Who Should Win: We have absolutely no problem with Levy getting his first acting Emmy. But Ted Danson would be the slightly better pick this time around. His performance as Michael on The Good Place is one of TV’s most human creations…despite Michael being a demon.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie

Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America

Shira Haas, Unorthodox

Regina King, Watchmen

Octavia Spencer, Self Made

Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere

Who Will Win: Lock this one in. Empty out your savings and 401k and take it all to the betting markets. 

Who Should Win: Duh.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie

Jeremy Irons, Watchmen

Hugh Jackman, Bad Education

Paul Mescal, Normal People

Jeremy Pope, Hollywood

Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True

Who Will Win: It’s tempting to make fun of the Emmys preoccupation with big name film talent as a reason for giving Mark Ruffalo this award. In fact, this award in recent years has been all but reserved for film stars “slumming it” on television. But the truth is that Ruffalo gives a spectacular performance in I Know This Much is True and is certainly worthy of recognition.

Who Should Win: Also worthy of recognition in Paul Mescal for his warm, human performance on Normal People.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Laura Dern, Big Little Lies

Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve

Julia Garner, Ozark

Sarah Snook, Succession

Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown

Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale

Thandie Newton, Westworld

Who Will Win: Julia Garner won this award last year and has done nothing to lose it since. But if Succession is destined for a big night, Sarah Snook is likely to be a part of it.

Who Should Win: Snook should win anyway for her performance this year. Until Kendall pulls off his major finale maneuver, Snook’s Shiv is undoubtedly the character who grows the most in Succession’s second season. 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul

Nicholas Braun, Succession

Kieran Culkin, Succession

Matthew Macfadyen, Succession

Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale

Billy Crudup, The Morning Show

Mark Duplass, The Morning Show

Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Who Will Win: Look, Succession is really good. And Kieran Culkin gets to play one of the show’s flashier characters. 

Who Should Win: Culkin’s castmate Matthew Macfadyen deserves consideration here but in the end it’s hard to justify anyone other than Kieran winning. 

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Betty Gilpin, GLOW

Yvonne Orji, Insecure

Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live

Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek

D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place

Alex Borstein, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 

Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Who Will Win: This might be the hardest award to predict of the night. Though Borstein and Hinkle are wonderful, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel feels like a bit of an afterthought this year. And who knows if Schitt’s Creek’s big run will make it all the way down to the supporting category. Gilpin and Orji are very intriguing but in the absence of a sure thing, this feels like a year in which the Emmys could return to McKinnon. 

Who Should Win: It’s hard to think of someone in the TV landscape more deserving of an Emmy than D’Arcy Carden for her work on The Good Place. The actress has taken a Siri-like digital assistant of the afterlife and transformed it (not a girl) into a full-fledged character. 

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Mahershala Ali, Ramy

Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live

Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek

William Jackson Harper, The Good Place

Alan Arkin, The Kominksy Method

Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Who Will Win: This is a particularly stacked category that is hard to pick. And when that happens at the Emmys, a good rule of thumb is to go with recency bias – who has won the most awards recently? Multiple Oscar award-winner Mahershala Ali fits the bill here but Shalhoub and Arkin are also appealing in that regard. Levy could ride the Schitt’s Creek wave as well.

Who Should Win: It’s quite frankly asinine that Andre Braugher has not won an Emmy yet for his nuanced, yet still utterly hilarious performance as Captain Raymond Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Portrayals of police officers are particularly fraught this year but Braugher deserves some recognition all the same.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

Gordon Smith – Better Call Saul “Bagman”

Thomas Schnauz – Better Call Saul “Bad Choice Road”

Chris Mundy – Ozark “All In”

John Shiban – Ozark “Boss Fight”

Miki Johnson – Ozark “Fire Pink”

Jesse Armstong – Succession “This is Not for Tears”

Peter Morgan – The Crown “Aberfan”

Who Will Win: This is a strong category. Sometimes writing awards can be seen as a consolation prize for excellent series that can’t otherwise pick up the biggest honor of the night. Should that formula hold true, one of the two Better Call Saul entries has a shot, but the allure of Succession will likely prove too strong this year.

Who Should Win: Both Better Call Saul options are worthy of an Emmy. But the writing of season 5’s penultimate episode “Bad Choice Road” is brilliant and absolutely teeming with tension.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

Daniel Levy – Schitt’s Creek “Happy Ending”

David West Read – Schitt’s Creek “The Presidential Suite”

Michael Schur – The Good Place “Whenever You’re Ready”

Tony McNamara – The Great “The Great”

Sam Johnson and Chris Marcil – What We Do in the Shadows “Collaboration”

Paul Simms – What We Do in the Shadows “Ghosts”

Stefani Robinson – What We Do in the Shadows “On the Run”

Who Will Win: “Happy Ending” is the platonic ideal of a comedy series finale. It’s perfectly executed with callbacks, humor, and heart. The Emmys will be happy to award it. 

Who Should Win: “Happy Ending” is a superb choice but any half hour of television that features Matt Berry living a life as a bartender in Pennsylvania just cannot be allowed to lose. Justice for Jackie Daytona!

Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Special

Tanya Barfield – Mrs. America “Shirley”

Sally Rooney and Alice Birch – Normal People “Episode 3”

Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, and Ayelet Wadman – Unbelievable “Episode 1”

Anna Winger – Unorthodox “Episode 1”

Damon Linelof and Cord Jefferson – Watchmen “This Extraordinary Being”

Who Will Win: A good rule of thumb for this year’s Emmy Awards is that if Watchmen is in a category, it’s going to win that category. Such is the case here. 

Who Should Win: “This Extraordinary Being” deserves to win. Lindelof and Jefferson’s script was the starting point for a stunning episode of television that presented an idea so radical (and yet so logical) it inspired Lindelof and HBO to reimagine an already near-perfect graphic novel. 

Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series

Leslie Linka Glatter – Homeland “Prisoners of War”

Alik Sakharov – Ozark “Fire Pink”

Ben Semanoff – Ozark “Su Casa Es Mi Casa”

Andrij Parekh – Succession “Hunting”

Mark Mylod – Succession “This is Not for Tears”

Benjamin Caron – The Crown “Aberfan”

Jessica Hobbs – The Crown “Cri de Coeur”

Mimi Leder – The Morning Show “The Interview”

Who Will Win: The Emmys really love Ozark. And they should! It’s a good show. Having said that, the dominance of Succession will likely close off a lot of opportunities for the series this year. But it should be able to at least squeak this one out.

Who Should Win: Ironically, this is the one award that Succession really should win this year above all else. Mark Mylod’s direction of “This is Not for Tears” is a minor miracle, turning a sun-drenched day on a luxury yacht into a tense, paranoid thriller. 

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series

Gail Mancuso – Modern Family “Finale Part 2”

Ramy Youssef – Ramy “Miakhalia.mov”

Andrew Civdino and Daniel Levy – Schitt’s Creek “Happy Ending”

Matt Shakman – The Great “The Great”

Amy Sherman-Palladino – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel “It’s Comedy or Cabbage”

Daniel Palladino – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel “Marvelous Radio”

James Burrows – Will & Grace “We Love Lucy”

Who Will Win: It’s a little weird to see the Modern Family series finale in a category and not be favored to win. For years, the Emmys heaped statues upon this very good but not all-time classic comedy. In the end, the Academy will instead opt to honor the tasteful direction of another series finale in Schitt’s Creek

Who Should Win: The Great has a real argument here with its drama-level production design assisting director Matt Shakman. But at the end of the day, “Happy Ending” accomplishes exactly what it needs to accomplish and is a fine choice. 

Outstanding Direction for a Limited Series or Special

Lynn Shetlon – Little Fires Everywhere “Find a Way”

Lenny Abrahamson – Normal People “Episode 5”

Maria Schrader – Unorthodox

Nicole Kassell – Watchmen “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”

Stephen Green – Watchmen “Little Fear of Lightning”

Stephen Williams – Watchmen “This Extraordinary Being”

Who Will Win: Watchmen will win this category. It’s only a question of which episode. The premiere, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice” thanks to the two stunning setpieces guided by Nicole Kassell. 

Who Should Win: And “It’s Summer…” is the right choice in the end. “Little Fear of Lightning” and “This Extraordinary Being” are both superb but credit always goes to the premiere director for establishing a visual tone for the rest of a series.