Who will, should win at the 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Illustration of predicted 2020 Emmy award winners, ranging from Sandra Oh and Issa Rae to Sandra Oh.
Lucy Yang/File

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In a virtual ceremony this upcoming Sunday night on ABC, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will likely be handing out awards to some long-deserving titles formerly overlooked in the era of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep.” In the absence of these giants, there are significant opportunities for newcomers such as “Succession,” “Ozark” and “Schitt’s Creek” to take trophies home. Look out for the competition between “Watchmen” and “Mrs. America,” the two fiercest contenders in the limited series categories.

Outstanding Drama Series

    • “Better Call Saul”
    • “The Crown”
    • “The Handmaid’s Tale”
    • “Killing Eve”
    • “The Mandalorian”
    • “Ozark”
    • “Stranger Things”
    • “Succession”

In a post-“Game of Thrones” world, previously ignored contenders such as “Ozark” and “Better Call Saul” finally have a chance to shine. The series that stands out above all its peers, though, is “Succession.” A wide-ranging show that deals out comedy as seamlessly and swiftly as it does drama, it elicits deep hatred for its characters one moment and gut-wrenching sympathy the next. “Succession” received more major nominations than any other contender in its category, and it’s likely that it will take the top award — which it undoubtedly deserves.

Will win: “Succession”

Should win: “Succession”

 

Outstanding Comedy Series

    • “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
    • “Dead to Me”
    • “The Good Place”
    • “Insecure”
    • “The Kominsky Method”
    • “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
    • “Schitt’s Creek”
    • “What We Do in the Shadows”

This year, “Schitt’s Creek” surged from underdog to major contender after winning 15 nominations over last year’s four. “Schitt’s Creek” might have a difficult time measuring up to the glitzy production design and dramatic impact of “Mrs. Maisel,” but its advantage in momentum has a good chance of carrying it over the finish line. However, this competition overshadows a show that awards competitions have neglected for years: “Insecure.” The heartbreaking disintegration of the show’s central friendship made this season a must-watch, and the engrossing plotline was consistently undergirded by a style and a musicality unmatched by most other programs. “Insecure” brought its A-game this year, but we’ll have to keep waiting for it to get the recognition it deserves.

Will win: “Schitt’s Creek”

Should win: “Insecure”

 

Outstanding Limited Series

    • “Little Fires Everywhere”
    • “Mrs. America”
    • “Unbelievable”
    • “Unorthodox”
    • “Watchmen”

If there was an award for overall outstanding series, “Watchmen” would and should win it by a mile. None of its fellow nominees possess the combination of compelling performances, thought-provoking examinations of American culture and history and genuinely unpredictable plot direction that “Watchmen” is able to balance over the course of its near-perfect season. “Watchmen” rightfully earned the most nominations of any program this year, and it will surely take home the limited series award on Sunday night.

Will win: “Watchmen”

Should win: “Watchmen”

 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

    • Steve Carell, “The Morning Show”
    • Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
    • Billy Porter, “Pose”
    • Brian Cox, “Succession”
    • Jeremy Strong, “Succession”
    • Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”

Billy Porter’s Pray Tell is unlike any other performance nominated in this category (or any other). He won the award last year, and his work in the latest season of “Pose” is just as sharp, putting him in good standing to take home another win this Sunday. His strongest competition is Jason Bateman, whose sardonic Marty Byrde gives “Ozark” much of its humor and forward motion. It’s a toss-up between these two, but as the reigning champ, the odds are in Porter’s favor.

Will win: Billy Porter

Should win: Billy Porter or Jason Bateman

 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

    • Olivia Colman, “The Crown”
    • Zendaya, “Euphoria”
    • Jodie Comer, “Killing Eve”
    • Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
    • Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show”
    • Laura Linney, “Ozark”

Laura Linney has quietly been doing fantastic work in “Ozark” for all three seasons, but she shines in the series’s most recent installment, which follows Wendy Byrde’s complicated relationship with her troubled brother. Linney brought new layers of complexity to Wendy this season without losing the incisive, nimble qualities that made her a great character from the beginning. It’s possible that Jodie Comer could be given her second prize for her performance as Villanelle, but while “Ozark” as a whole grew stronger this year, “Killing Eve” faltered; it’s likely that Linney will be rewarded for her consistently improving work.

Will win: Laura Linney

Should win: Laura Linney

 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

    • Don Cheadle, “Black Monday”
    • Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
    • Ted Danson, “The Good Place”
    • Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”
    • Ramy Youssef, “Ramy”
    • Eugene Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”

In many ways, Eugene Levy’s bewildered, sardonic performance as Johnny Rose is what makes “Schitt’s Creek” work. He anchors the bizarre antics of the Rose family, while also providing the show with many of its sweetest emotional appeals. His win would certainly be deserved, but it would also deprive Ted Danson of his last chance to win for his fabulous portrayal of Michael, the demon-turned-sweetheart on “The Good Place.” The childlike joy that Danson brings to the role is what makes the show’s fierce adoration of human nature so endearing, and he deserves a nod for his contribution to one of the better comedies in recent years.

Will win: Eugene Levy

Should win: Ted Danson

 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

    • Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”
    • Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me”
    • Linda Cardellini, “Dead to Me”
    • Issa Rae, “Insecure”
    • Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
    • Catherine O’Hara, “Schitt’s Creek”

She deserves it for the accent alone. Catherine O’Hara’s Moira Rose is the most delightful part of one of the year’s most delightful shows. O’Hara never lost control of her ever-surprising performance as Moira experienced her highest highs and lowest lows this season. The increase in attention for “Schitt’s Creek” this year gives her an edge in a category already lacking in competition, so this decision should be an easy one for television academy voters. Catherine O’Hara should have been a part of the Emmys conversation since “Schitt’s Creek” began airing in 2015, but a prize for the end of her run will have to do.

Will win: Catherine O’Hara

Should win: Catherine O’Hara

 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series

    • Hugh Jackman, “Bad Education”
    • Jeremy Pope, “Hollywood”
    • Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much Is True”
    • Paul Mescal, “Normal People”
    • Jeremy Irons, “Watchmen”

Jeremy Irons plays an older version of the iconic Adrian Veidt with a disarming sense of humor, revitalizing the character while remaining faithful to the original comic book character’s callousness. The true standout of the year, however, was Paul Mescal in his breakout performance as Connell Waldron in “Normal People.” Mescal’s vulnerability in the role is breathtaking in every episode, especially in the flooring scenes when Connell opens up to a therapist about his depression. Irons is a much bigger name, and “Watchmen” a much bigger presence at the awards, so it’s possible that Mescal will slip through the cracks. Hopefully, though, the television academy will see it fit to award one of the year’s best television performances.

Will win: Jeremy Irons

Should win: Paul Mescal

 

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series

    • Kerry Washington, “Little Fires Everywhere”
    • Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”
    • Octavia Spencer, “Self Made”
    • Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
    • Regina King, “Watchmen”

Cate Blanchett’s empathetic portrayal of the controversial Phyllis Schlafly was met with widespread critical acclaim, and rightfully so. Her successful embodiment of the role centers what could have otherwise been a hectic mishmash of supporting roles without a strong, dramatic throughline to keep it together. Kerry Washington’s performance as Mia Warren serves a similar purpose in “Little Fires Everywhere,” but arguably to a greater degree. “Little Fires” was often unsure of its direction throughout its season, but Washington’s ability to deliver tenderness and quiet rage in equal measure elevates the series above a mediocre family drama. It’ll be Blanchett, but Washington deserves a second look.

Will win: Cate Blanchett

Should win: Kerry Washington

The 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be airing on ABC this Sunday at 5pm PST.
Matthew DuMont covers television. Contact him at [email protected].