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The 2020 Emmys are closer than you think. Get ready with our TV viewers’ guide

An Emmy award
The 2020 Emmys are just around the corner. No, really.
(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)
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The Emmy Awards are a long way off. But with more TV than ever, networks have made spring a showcase for some of their best series, hoping taxed voters will mark their ballots accordingly. That means you don’t have to wait for the shows everyone will be talking about. They’re already here.

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12 TV shows you’ll need to watch to get ready for this year’s Emmys
Brian Cox, left, and Jeremy Strong in “Succession.”
Brian Cox, left, and Jeremy Strong in “Succession.”
(Zach Dilgard / HBO)

If you start watching now and apply yourself — I mean, really grind it out — then you might see about half the programs and performances that figure to be nominated for an Emmy this year.

That kind of abundance means you need to be disciplined and discerning (or possess a limitless amount of free time). And, these days, who has that? To help, I’ve put together an early guide, mixing series that have already aired with promising programs that will premiere in the next several weeks. One way or another, they’ll all be in the conversation leading up to July 14.

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Times TV writers choose their most eagerly anticipated TV shows — new and returning — of 2020.

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Supporting actors are TV’s secret weapon. Let us count the ways
Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and Simon (David H. Holmes) in Hulu’s “High Fidelity.”
Cherise (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and Simon (David H. Holmes) in Hulu’s “High Fidelity.”
(Phillip Caruso / Hulu)

Supporting actors, who are sometimes but not always “character actors,” make up the ranks of best friends, colorful sidekicks, strange relations, eccentric coworkers, superior officers, crazy neighbors, service workers. In life, stars are the outliers, “bigger than life.” Life is what supporting actors bring, a taste of the world as most of us routinely experience it; they provide color, context, depth. They create a community, where the stars stand alone. Stars are other people. Supporting actors are us.

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‘Billions’ has become a critics’ darling. When will Emmy voters notice?
David Levien and Brian Koppelman
David Levien, left, and Brian Koppelman are the co-creators and executive producers of “Billions.”
(Rick Loomis / For The Times)

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“Billions,” Showtime’s acclaimed drama about the cutthroat world of New York finance and politics, is about to launch its fifth season in May, just in time to catch the wave of an election season that saw two billionaires running for president.

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The Silicon Valley of ‘Devs’ is years away. Here’s how its tech compares with reality
“Devs”
“Devs”
(Miya Mizuno / FX)

Science is at the heart of all Alex Garland’s work, but the writer-director is less interested in erudite theories than he is in what those theories reveal about humanity itself. That growing obsession has resulted, years later, in “Devs,” a self-contained, eight-episode series for FX on Hulu, which Garland pursued after making “Annihilation” in 2018.

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Confused by ‘Westworld’? That’s a feature, not a bug
Tessa Thompson in “Westworld.”
Tessa Thompson in “Westworld.”
(John P. Johnson / HBO)

HBO’s sci-fi drama “Westworld,” the award-winning series that debuted in 2016, returns to the fold this month with a third season of murderous robot fun.

The dystopian mind-bender of a series has inspired little to no gray area between its fans and critics. One side sees the show as a multifaceted maze of reality-meets-fantasy genius. The other complains it’s a confusing tangle of future-shock nonsense.

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Meet the new star of your scam obsession: the working stiff
Michael Sheen as Chris Tarrant in AMC’s “Quiz.”
Michael Sheen as Chris Tarrant in AMC’s “Quiz.”
(Matt Frost / /ITV/Left Bank Pictures/AMC)

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“Quiz,” about two men accused of cheating their way to a million-pound prize on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in 2001, is not the only new show in 2020 to tell an absurd, stranger-than-fiction story about a forgotten scam involving a popular game from the early ’00s. It follows on the heels of “McMillions,” a six-part HBO documentary chronicling a massive fraud in which a group of conspirators stole $24 million in prize money from the McDonald’s Monopoly game.

These shows join a growing list of pop culture about cons, hoaxes, frauds and debacles — a thriving subgenre of (mostly) blood-free true crime that feeds on a shared contempt for a rigged system and the people who most shamelessly manipulate it.

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