Emmy Predictions 2020: Who Should Win, Who Will Win, and Dark Horse Picks

TV Lists Emmy Awards
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Emmy Predictions 2020: Who Should Win, Who Will Win, and Dark Horse Picks

It has been said, and I don’t mind saying again, that I’m not a fan of the Primetime Emmy Awards. I think it’s a deeply flawed and outdated metric by which we judge television, and I wish that we had a more viable competing awards body that could help rectify that (as a member of the Television Critics Association I obviously recommend our awards as a start).

Nevertheless, the Emmys do remain the most high-profile celebration of television every year, and therefore we have to pay attention to it. The nominations this year were somehow both woke and backwards, deserving and boring. And ultimately, the winners all seem very clear-cut: Watchmen, Succession, Schitt’s Creek. I’m not mad about it! Those are all some of the best TV shows of the last year and beyond. Sure, there might be an Ozark thrown in here and there to mix things up but … that’s really it, folks. Baby Yoda is not going to win an Emmy, but just for the chaos I really wish he would.

Below are my thoughts on who and what should win, will win, and has an outside chance of taking home—virtually, for now—a very pointy and extremely dangerous statue at the end of the night, at least regarding the major categories:

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV movie

Jeremy Irons (Watchmen)
Hugh Jackman (Bad Education)
Paul Mescal (Normal People)
Jeremy Pope (Hollywood)
Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True)

Should Win: Paul Mescal
Will Win: Paul Mescal
Dark Horse: Mark Ruffalo

Movie starts often get preferential treatment when it comes to Emmy wins. Elder statesmen especially. So while Jeremy Irons has an outside shot here as a two-for-one, Mark Ruffalo literally playing two characters in a technically interesting, if emotional slog of a miniseries, could give him the edge. Still, on the flip side, voters like rewarding brand-new faces. Paul Mescal is an out-of-nowhere talent who gave so much in this performance and surely broke the heart of every person watching Normal People—plus the fact that this is oddly the only nomination for the much-loved miniseries—seems to suggest he’ll be the winner here.


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV movie

regina-king-watchmen-main.jpg

Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America)
Shira Haas (Unorthodox)
Regina King (Watchmen)
Octavia Spencer (Self Made)
Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere)

Should Win: All
Will Win: Regina King
Dark Horse: Octavia Spencer or Shira Haas. Honestly anything could happen.

Thanks to the resurgence of the miniseries format (now called “limited” because apparently that sounds more chic), once again this Lead Actress category has become impossible. I think in another year with another group this would have been unabashedly Cate Blanchett’s Emmy to lose, but instead it is absolutely Regina King’s win. Having said that, with such a strong field of contenders and so many favored series in the mix, this could be a category that sees something unexpected occur.


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

schitts-creek-eugene-levy.jpg

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)

Should Win: Eugene Levy
Will Win: Eugene Levy
Dark Horse: Ramy Youssef

Following the rule that Elder Statesmen of Hollywood tend to be rewarded by the Emmys doesn’t really help here, as this category is full of them. That puts Ramy Youssef in the position of being a standout, which could give him the edge. But Ramy Season 2 wasn’t as well-received as its first, and while this could be a make-up award of sorts, I still think that Schitt’s Creek is going to sweep comedy given that it was the final season (and it is so universally beloved—as is Levy).


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

schitts-creek-moira-pope.jpg

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

Should Win: Catherine O’Hara
Will Win: Catherine O’Hara
Dark Horse: Issa Rae

All of these women are putting in great performances, but all of them will have the chance to be nominated again other than O’Hara. And let it be said that even if this wasn’t Schitt Creek’s final season, O’Hara has helped create one of the most unique and iconic TV characters ever in her portrayal of Moira Rose. She deserves this win, and I think she’ll get it.


Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

succession-jeremy-strong-brian-cox.jpg

Jason Bateman (Ozark)
Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Steve Carell (The Morning Show)
Brian Cox (Succession)
Billy Porter (Pose)
Jeremy Strong (Succession)

Should Win: Jeremy Strong
Will Win: Succession, one way or another
Dark Horse: Billy Porter

Emmy voters love Ozark, but I just don’t see it edging out Succession this year. Having Brian Cox compete against Number 1 Boy Jeremy Strong is perhaps an unavoidable tragedy, but as excellent as they both are I have to give the edge to Strong. He has, against all odds and all logic, made Kendall into a character worth genuinely caring about despite his exceptional amount of foibles. Still, I think there is a chance they split the vote and make room for someone like Billy Porter. Or, indeed, Jason Bateman.


Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

the-crown-season-3-olivia-colman.png

Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show)
Olivia Colman (The Crown)
Jodie Comer (Killing Eve)
Laura Linney (Ozark)
Sandra Oh (Killing Eve)
Zendaya (Euphoria)

Should Win: Olivia Colman
Will Win: Olivia Colman
Dark Horse: Jennifer Aniston

Predictions are all for Laura Linney, but I’m going to zig to that zag and say Olivia Colman will win for just that single tear Elizabeth shed privately in that one moment of The Crown Season 3 at the close of “Aberfan.” I mean that is why she’s one of our greatest talents today, folks. But then there is, of course, the Ozark of it all, not to mention Jennifer Aniston waiting in the wings. I do not, however, think that this is Killing Eve’s year. Sandra Oh had very little to work with in this last season, and while Jodie Comer is still excellent, I think the shine is wearing off that show. Outside shot for Zendaya as well, if Netflix doesn’t split its vote and HBO makes a strong stand.


Outstanding Reality / Competition Series

rupauls-drag-race-logo.jpg

The Masked Singer (Fox)
Nailed It! (Netflix)
RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)
Top Chef (Bravo)
The Voice (NBC)

Should Win: The Masked Singer
Will Win: RuPaul’s Drag Race
Dark Horse: The Voice

This is admittedly a category I am not well versed in, so I’m turning to awards circuit experts here. RuPaul’s Drag Race has all of the momentum this year, but I am going to take a chance and say that something like The Masked Singer could sneak in. The Voice remains a solid but boring choice instead.


Outstanding Variety Talk Series

last-week-tonight-john-oliver-main.jpg

Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)
Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS)

Should Win: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Will Win: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Dark Horse: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Only part of these talk shows’ pandemic-affected seasons will be in contention for the 2020 Emmy Awards, but that experience will, I think, sharpen voters’ feelings about each. Who feels necessary right now? The answer, as it has been for a long time, is John Oliver. Samantha Bee as well, but the Warner voting bloc is likely to back Oliver instead. These are really the only two possibilities, but I think when it comes to any betting pools it would be foolish to think this will go to anyone else but Last Week Tonight.


Outstanding Limited Series

watchmen-main-large.jpg

Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
Mrs. America (FX on Hulu)
Unbelievable (Netflix)
Unorthodox (Netflix)
Watchmen (HBO)

Should Win: Mrs. America
Will Win: Watchmen
Dark Horse: Unorthodox

Like the Best Actress in a Limited Series category, Limited Series itself is truly impossible (and there should still be more nominees). I mean, Watchmen will win. But Unbelievable? Mrs. America? The real winner here is really Hulu, who has stepped up their presence at the Emmys in a big way (with help from FX). Hulu’s Normal People deserves to be here as well, but in what world are the Emmys ever fair? The other real winner are TV viewers, because folks, these are some of the best shows of the last 12 months, easy.


Outstanding Comedy Series

schitts-creek-finale.jpg

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Dead to Me (Netflix)
The Good Place (NBC)
Insecure (HBO)
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop TV)
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

Should Win: Schitt’s Creek
Will Win: Schitt’s Creek
Dark Horse: Insecure

As noted in the acting categories, this is Schitt’s Creek year for comedy. Of the remaining series, Insecure is the only one with a fighting chance against it (I don’t even think the power of Maisel is in the running this time, nor the Old Men Emmy Voting Bloc that loves The Kominsky Method). It’s Schitt’s Creek, and it should be.


Outstanding Drama Series

succession-season-2-main-large.jpg

Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Crown (Netflix)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Killing Eve (BBC America)
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Ozark (Netflix)
Stranger Things (Netflix)
Succession (HBO)

Should Win: Succession
Will Win: Succession
Dark Horse: Ozark

Best drama is a real mixed bag this year. Some of these shows snuck in and should just be happy to be nominated at all—and I’m not talking about The Mandalorian, a series I think is genuinely great and I am rooting for mainly so I can see Baby Yoda accept an Emmy. If that happened I would quit the business because nothing would ever top it. Back in reality, though, it’s a clear-cut victory for Succession. A show that I liked in Season 1 really came into its own in Season 2 and captured the zeitgeist in ways that cannot be ignored. And it shouldn’t be; it’s exceptional television. Better Call Saul had a good year and The Crown absolutely blew me away with its new cast, but the only choice is Succession. Unless, of course, Emmy voters decide to go with Ozark anyway. Because they would. But hopefully not.

The 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards will air Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, and we will have some thoughts about it right here the following day.



Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

Also in TV