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The Trophy Hunter: Emmys snubs and surprises

| Monday, August 24, 2020

Liya Blitzer | The Observer

With the state of moviegoing and the future of the Oscars in flux, the Trophy Hunter column will shift its attention to the next best thing: the Emmys. This year’s nominations — announced in July, with the show scheduled for September — were more genre-agnostic than in years past, as HBO’s gripping superhero drama “Watchmen” led the way with 26 nominations. Elsewhere, broadcast television’s grip on the ceremony continued to slip, with streamers like Netflix, Hulu and even relative newbie Apple TV+ garnering attention for their flagship shows. Below, find my picks for the biggest snubs and surprises of this year’s nominations.

Surprise: 26 nominations for “Watchmen”

“Watchmen’s” dominance on nomination morning was no fluke. The HBO show was the year’s best program, one that faithfully adapted its totemic source material while still finding room to create a mood and philosophy of its own. Regina King and Jean Smart are the presumptive favorites in the Limited Series/TV Movie Lead Actress and Supporting Actress categories, respectively, and the show filled four more slots in the Lead and Supporting Actor categories, as well. There probably should’ve been room for more, leading me to my next selection.

Snub: Tim Blake Nelson and Aaron Paul left out of Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie

To some degree, this snub is moot; Hugh Jackman and Mark Ruffalo are the odds-on favorites here, with Jackman’s performance in “Bad Education” getting relegated to the Emmys instead of the Oscars after the movie was moved to HBO. Nelson’s work in “Watchmen” and Paul’s return to the “Breaking Bad” world in “El Camino,” however, shouldn’t be overlooked. Perpetual character actor Nelson got to flex his leading man muscles as Looking Glass, “Watchmen’s” wounded Okie-with-a-heart, while Paul didn’t miss a step in the role that has already won him three Emmys.

Of the non-Ruffalo/Jackman noms, “Normal People’s” Paul Mescal seems to be the most replaceable. The Irish newcomer was the most direct beneficiary of a wave of internet support for Hulu’s perfectly forgettable Sally Rooney adaptation; his anodyne good looks are perhaps the perfect summation of the show’s erotica-for-virgins vibe. 

Surprise: Showing love to first-year shows

By virtue of television’s serial nature, the Emmys have an inertia that is absent in the Oscars; once a show wins a category, it is all but guaranteed a nomination in the same slot for the rest of its run. (Case in point: “Modern Family,” which rode a single perfect season to eight increasingly baffling Best Comedy Series noms.) It was refreshing, then, to see the Emmys recognize freshmen shows in lieu of established favorites. In particular, the Television Academy rightfully nominated Zendaya for being the only bright spot of “Euphoria” and found space in the Best Drama Series category for Disney+’s “Star Wars” smash “The Mandalorian.” 

Snub: Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

As AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel gets closer and closer to matching the quality of its source material, one would think that the Television Academy would move themselves to nominate the two actors who drive the show. Instead, they continued their baffling streak of ignoring Seehorn. Odenkirk has been priorly nominated four times for the show, only missing for the first time this year. As the conflicted, probably-doomed Kim Wexler, Seehorn gives a performance that, at times, equals the legendary work that Bryan Cranston did in the original series. With time ticking away for “Saul” and Kim, the Emmys are running out of chances to give Seehorn the recognition she deserves. 

Surprise: Veteran comedies

More so than the drama awards, the Emmys have always found room for little-watched, critically-beloved shows in the comedy category, from “30 Rock’s” dominance to the acting success of “Baskets.” That streak continued this year with a plethora of nominations for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Good Place” and “Schitt’s Creek,” the latter of which is the favorite to win Best Comedy Series for its final season. Also, she probably won’t win in her last chance to do so, but I have a feeling that D’Arcy Carden never winning a single Emmy statue for her hilarious, surprisingly internal work as Janet on “The Good Place” is going to look downright absurd a few years from now. 

Snub: Ignoring the music of “Succession”

I’ll just leave these here.

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