EW's TV critics survey the crowded Emmy field and choose the stars and shows they most want to see nominated on July 28.

By Kristen Baldwin and Darren Franich
June 22, 2020 at 04:30 PM EDT
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Mark Hill/HBO; Pamela Littky/FX; Greg Endries/SHOWTIME;

All the movie theaters closed. Albums were delayed. Amazon slowed book deliveries. Broadway went dark. Ticketmaster created fun new ways not to refund concerts. COVID-19 canceled public art, so our springtime of sorrow crucialized television. Thrilling new seasons launched through summer, their post-productions finalized in quarantine. Viewers had time enough, at last, to get around to a series (or seven) they missed. Fortunately, last decade’s scripted boom cultivated a surplus of singular visions. An idiosyncratic perfection like Fleabag would claim six Emmys, and at least one relative would text you: “But what is Fleabag?”

Is the bust coming? Can Peak TV survive Hollywood’s shutdown? In assembling our 2020 Emmys wish list, we cast aside caution (and predictive wisdom), honoring the shows we love that may represent a final statement from the years of plenty. Television will never be the same. Neither will we, but we’ll keep watching. (The 2020 Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 28.)

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

OUTSTANDING DRAMA

The Good Fight (CBS All Access)

My Brilliant Friend (HBO)

Perpetual Grace LTD (Epix)

Pose (FX)

Succession (HBO)

Some of these picks will likely wind up on the ballot: The superb Better Call Saul is nominated every season; HBO won’t need a blood sacrifice to get votes for Succession; and Billy Porter’s win last year may propel Pose into another nomination. But there’s no room for returning dramas whose quality is in decline (see: The Handmaid’s TaleKilling Eve). Not when The Good Fight is still turning harrowing reality into shrewd satire. My Brilliant Friend season 2 was an oasis of sumptuous emotion, and con-job caper Perpetual is the funniest meditation on redemption that you’ve never seen.

LARA SOLANKI/NETFLIX

OUTSTANDING COMEDY

Lodge 49 (AMC)

Los Espookys (HBO)

Never Have I Ever (Netflix)

Ramy (Hulu)

Veep’s gone. Barry and Russian Doll took the year off. Maybe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel should’ve, too? We’re imagining a master class of first-time nominees, like the sprightly teen friend-com Never Have I Ever and the horror-charged farce Los Espookys. The sophomore years of Lodge 49 (R.I.P.!) and Ramy balanced thoughtful spirituality with laugh-out-loud whimsy. Better Things got best-er with age in a season about growing older. And with all due respect to The Good Place, it’s time for network mate Brooklyn Nine-Nine to take its place in the best-comedy lineup.

Michele K. Short/HBO

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES

Watchmen (HBO)

Castle Rock (Hulu)

The Plot Against America (HBO)

Unbelievable (Netflix)

It almost doesn’t matter what gets nominated here, because Watchmen — Damon Lindelof’s revelatory “remix” of the comic series — looks as unbeatable as Dr. Manhattan. Unbelievable and Little Fires, gripping tales of women defying destiny, are also deserving front-runners. Voters should leave a slot for The Plot Against America, a chilling and never-more-timely period piece about a country destroying itself from within. And those dirty birds better recognize the horror-mashup greatness of Castle Rock season 2, which pitted Misery’s Annie Wilkes against an undead army from Salem’s Lot.

Greg Endries/SHOWTIME

OUTSTANDING VARIETY TALK

Desus & Mero (Showtime)

Desus & Mero (Showtime)

Desus & Mero (Showtime)

Desus & Mero (Showtime)

Desus & Mero (Showtime)

The usual Jimmys have already agreed (allegedly allegedly allegedly) to once again lose to Last Week Tonight. Open your third eye, Emmy voters, and celebrate the ecstatic achievements of Desus & Mero instead! In their first full year on Showtime, Daniel “Desus Nice” Baker and Joel “The Kid Mero” Martinez kept the brand strong with raucous banter while they collected presidential-candidate interviews like Pokémon. And the duo transitioned to home-casting better than any other late-night series, officiating a socially distant Rona wedding over Zoom that left us in tears.

The 72nd Emmy Awards will air Sunday, September 20 on ABC

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