The biggest snubs and surprises from the 2020 Emmy nominations

Zendaya in a scene from "Euphoria." Her lead actress Emmy nom came as a surprise.
Zendaya in a scene from “Euphoria.” Her lead actress Emmy nom came as a surprise.

Even with the Emmys expanding the drama and comedy series categories to eight nominees and boosting the supporting acting races to number eight as well, there are omissions. Surprises too. But also crushing, demoralizing exclusions that leave a bitter taste in the mouth and a black cloud over the psyche.

We’ll call them, for the sake of alliteration, “snubs,” but they’re mostly just a sign that there remains too much good television for voters to parse — even during these isolated times when we’re stuck inside for too much of the day, wondering if anyone else is enjoying “Never Have I Ever” as much as we are.

So here we present the snubs (sob) and surprises (hurray!) of the 2020 Emmy nominations.
SURPRISE: Zendaya (lead actress, drama)


Making it in ahead of Emmy winners Nicole Kidman, Viola Davis and Elisabeth Moss, the star of HBO’s dark drama “Euphoria” pulled off the morning’s biggest surprise, but voters were spot-on in recognizing her haunting, unsettling work in the show. The former Disney star carried this uneven series with style and sensitivity to spare.

SNUB: “Ramy” (comedy series)

Ramy Youssef picked up an acting nomination, with “Ramy” making history as the first Muslim American sitcom to earn Emmy recognition. Castmate Mahershala Ali joined him. But voters didn’t recognize the show itself, a shocking omission for one of the best-reviewed comedies of the season. “Ramy’s” second season surpassed its first. It’s a smart, soulful and altogether singular show about a sinner trying to be a better man. Instead, voters went with lighter fare, including the ridiculous (albeit clever) “What We Do in the Shadows.” I know we need escape right now, but aren’t we supposed to be looking inward too?

SNUB: Rhea Seehorn (supporting actress, drama)

What did Seehorn, arguably the most important cast member of one of television’s best dramas, do to Emmy voters? Did she cut to the front of a buffet line at a TV academy party? Was she overheard making some disparaging remark about puppy dogs and rainbows? Tell me! Please! What did she do? Because her consistent, controlled turn as attorney Kim Wexler in “Better Call Saul” has been a marvel for 50 episodes, and this past season gave her a few great, big moments, including a nerve-jangling, truth-bending, life-saving face-off with Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton) in the penultimate episode.

SNUB: Bob Odenkirk (lead actor, drama), Aaron Paul (lead actor, limited series/TV movie)


It wasn’t a great day for the “Breaking Bad” universe. In addition to Seehorn’s omission, voters decided this was the year to ignore her “Better Call Saul” co-star Odenkirk, who had picked up nominations for each of the show’s first four seasons, along with Jonathan Banks, another four-time nominee for the show. And then there was Paul, who won three Emmys playing Jesse Pinkman on “Breaking Bad,” but couldn’t score a nomination for the satisfying stand-alone movie “El Camino.”

SURPRISE: William Jackson Harper (supporting actor, comedy)

Finally, a rightful reward for Harper’s turn as the neurotic Chidi, the awkward, indecisive philosopher king with the killer recipe for Peeps and M&Ms chili on “The Good Place.” Also great that he’ll be joined by castmate D’Arcy Carden. It’s about time Ted Danson gets some company at the Emmys!

SNUB: Reese Witherspoon (lead actress, drama; supporting actress, drama; lead actress; limited series/TV movie

You could argue that between “The Morning Show,” “Big Little Lies” and “Little Fires Everywhere,” no one had a better year than Reese Witherspoon. But maybe she had too much of a year? She also had to compete with her castmates — Jennifer Aniston for “The Morning Show,” Nicole Kidman in “Big Little Lies” and Kerry Washington in “Little Fires.” She was every bit their equal, but perhaps voters just couldn’t decide which spot to put her.

SURPRISE: “The Mandalorian” (drama series)

Never underestimate the power of Baby Yoda or the Child or, as I call this bundle of joy, the Light of My Life. “The Mandalorian” was everything fans wanted the last “Star Wars” trilogy to be, superbly crafted sci-fi that tapped into Lucasfilm lore and created its own vivid, Sergio Leone-inspired spaghetti western world. It absolutely belongs among the year’s best drama series.

SNUB: “Big Little Lies” (drama series)

OK, sure, the Bonnie story line didn’t work and there may have been competing visions for the show’s direction, but the second season still gave us plenty of juicy pleasures as well as some powerful scenes examining the poisonous nature of denial. Plus, any series starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz beats a show that takes its John Hughes references a little too seriously (“Stranger Things”). Also: Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh for the waning “Killing Eve” ... but no Kidman? That’s not right.

SURPRISE: “Insecure” (comedy series)

Issa Rae, the star and co-creator of the excellent HBO comedy “Insecure,” earned a lead actress comedy nomination two years ago, but, outside of two well-deserved cinematography nominations, that was it. So this series nomination comes as a pleasant surprise, an acknowledgment that a show depicting Black women finding love and struggling and succeeding can be powerful and worthy of attention. Plus, it’s really funny.

‘Schitt’s Creek’ star and comedy veteran Catherine O’Hara finds the subtleties in the seemingly outrageous Moira Rose. That deserves an Emmy.

July 28, 2020

SNUB: “Better Things” (comedy series)
Pamela Adlon’s inventive, beautifully observed comedy being omitted from an expanded comedy series category reminds me of this past Oscars, when voters ignored so many worthy films made by women. These groups are still male-dominated and, sometimes, you can chalk up a lapse in judgment to demographics. Times television editor Matt Brennan tweeted not long ago that if “Better Things” had been made by a man, it would likely have won several Emmys by now. He’s right. And Adlon not getting nominated for lead actress only makes this feel worse.

SURPRISE: Shira Haas, “Unorthodox” (lead actress, limited series/TV movie)

To be clear, there could be no wrong choices in a category that also included Regina King (“Watchmen”), Cate Blanchett (“Mrs. America”), Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington (“Little Fires Everywhere”), Merritt Wever and Kaitlyn Dever (“Unbelievable”) and Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Normal People”). And Haas, playing a young woman escaping a Hasidic community in Brooklyn, went above and beyond for her art. On her first day of filming, she had to get partially nude for a scene in a mikveh and then, in the afternoon, she shaved her head. And that was just the start of this demanding role.

SNUB: Viola Davis (lead actress, drama)

I thought that voters would want to send the former Emmy winner out in style for the last season of “How to Get Away With Murder.” But the lead actress drama category was packed with possibilities, so Davis’ Emmy run as Annalise Keating ends at five noms, including a guest actress spot she did as the character on “Scandal.”

SURPRISE: Anthony Anderson (lead actor, comedy) and Tracee Ellis Ross (lead actress, comedy)

There were signs that voters were tiring a bit of “black-ish,” giving it only two nominations last year, including one for Anderson. But both its stars returned to the list this year, signaling that the show remains a reliably smart and funny network comedy six years into its run.

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones live just a couple miles apart but feel worlds away with self-isolation. Dance music -- or maybe some ABBA -- is in their future

July 7, 2020

SNUB: Daisy Edgar-Jones, “Normal People” (lead actress, limited series/TV movie)

We understand if a grand, melancholy Irish romance — particularly between young people, whom Emmy voters seem to hate and resent — isn’t everyone’s ideal. Some people don’t like black pudding and baked beans for breakfast, either. But there shouldn’t be much debate about the worthiness of Edgar-Jones’ achingly vulnerable work in the exquisite “Normal People.” Right after we finish writing this, we’re going to eat an entire pack of rashers in her honor.