Emmy Nomination Predictions in Limited Series & Movies: Superheroes and Feminists Battle for Votes

Top contenders in the categories include “Watchmen,” “Mrs. America,” “Unbelievable,” “Hollywood” and “El Camino”

The Emmys’ limited series and television movie categories are, in many ways, the most refreshing ones — because while voters can pick the same programs again and again in most categories, they’re forced to deal with a completely new batch of miniseries and TV movies every year.

The 2020 crop includes three limited series that rewrite history — “Watchmen,” “The Plot Against America” and “Hollywood” — and ranges from the enormous scope of those shows to the small personal story in “Normal People.” On the TV movie side, meanwhile, voters who liked “Breaking Bad,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Transparent” will have the opportunity to salute their final episodes, which were created and submitted as standalone movies.

As with all of our predictions, we’ve included the number of nominees that each category will have, barring ties. Under new Emmy rules, that number is now proportional to the number of eligible submissions in each category, which we’ve also included.

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
Number of submissions: 41
Number of nominees: 5

There are at least 10 limited series with a serious chance of grabbing one of the five slots in this category, and several others with longer odds. Those would be HBO’s “Watchmen,” “The Plot Against America” and “I Know This Much Is True,” Hulu’s “Mrs. America,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and “Normal People,” Netflix’s “Unbelievable,” “Unorthodox” and “Hollywood” and Showtime’s “The Loudest Voice.” Dark horses include “The Eddy” and “Defending Jacob.”

The comic-inspired “Watchmen,” the women’s liberation chronicle “Mrs. America” and the harrowing rape story “Unbelievable” seem to be the likeliest nominees, but the final two slots are wide open, with the alternate histories in “Hollywood” and “The Plot Against America” going up against a relationship drama (“Normal People”), a timely look at race relations (“Little Fires Everywhere”) and a look at an insular Jewish community (“Unorthodox”). The last of those shows has been picking up heat lately and the scope of “The Plot Against America” is impressive indeed, but we think Hollywood voters will embrace the wish-fulfillment in “Hollywood” and will find “Little Fires Everywhere” hard to resist in our current climate.

Predicted nominees: “Hollywood,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Mrs. America,” “Unbelievable,” “Watchmen”

Watch out for: “The Eddy,” “The Loudest Voice,” “Normal People,” “The Plot Against America,” “Unorthodox”

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE
Number of submissions: 28
Number of nominees: 5

Though it has fewer submissions and less buzz than the limited series category, the television movie category was helped when theater closings helped push films that otherwise would have played theatrically go straight to streaming instead. That means that lots of this year’s contenders initially premiered at film festivals: “American Son” and “Bad Education” at Toronto, “Blow the Man Down” at Tribeca,” “Selah and the Spades” at Sundance. But the “Breaking Bad” movie “El Camino” was destined for Netflix all the way, and so were the Lifetime films like “Patsy & Loretta” and “The Clark Sisters,” as well as the single-episode finales of two series, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend” and “Transparent Musicale Finale.”

Of those contenders, “El Camino” and “Bad Education” feel like locks. Then it’s a question of whether voters want to go with indie cinema (“Blow the Man Down,” “Selah and the Spades”) or with the kind of fare that has been nominated in this category in the past. We think old habits die hard.

One bit of good news for all the contenders: “Black Mirror,” which has entered single episodes as TV movies and won this award for three consecutive years, has been reclassified as a drama series and is no longer eligible to compete here.

Predicted nominees: “American Son,” “Bad Education,” “The Clark Sisters,” “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” “Patsy & Loretta”

Watch out for: “Blow the Man Down,” “Selah and the Spades,” “Stolen by My Mother,” “Togo,” “Transparent Musicale Finale,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend”

LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of submissions: 45
Number of nominees: 5

It’s usually difficult for actors from television movies to compete in acting categories with ones from limited series because they simply don’t have as much time to develop and showcase a character. But Hugh Jackman and Aaron Paul are likely to be exceptions to that rule for their work in “Bad Education” and “El Camino,” respectively. Their challengers from the limited series world include Mark Ruffalo for “I Know This Much Is True,” who plays twins and will certainly be nominated, as well as Russell Crowe for “The Loudest Voice,” Jeremy Irons for “Watchmen,” Andre Holland for “The Eddy,” Paul Mescal for “Normal People,” Jeremy Pope for “Hollywood” and Morgan Spector for “The Plot Against America.”

Irons brings enough gravity and humor to his role to stand out in a huge cast, so he’s a good bet. The smart money might be on Crowe, who plays Roger Ailes in “The Loudest Voice,” but voters might want to cast more uplifting ballots by selecting Pope or even Mescal, whose show is so well-liked that it ought to show up somewhere. This might be the place.

Predicted nominees: Jeremy Irons, “Watchmen”; Hugh Jackman, “Bad Education”; Aaron Paul, “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”; Paul Mescal, “Normal People”; Mark Ruffalo: “I Know This Much Is True”

Watch out for: Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Spy”; Russell Crowe, “The Loudest Voice”; Chris Evans, “Defending Jacob”; Andre Holland, “The Eddy”; Jeremy Pope, “Hollywood”

LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of submissions: 61
Number of nominees: 5

Emmy voters love Regina King, who in the past has won twice for “American Crime” and is the moral center of the sprawling “Watchmen.” They also love Merritt Wever, who scored upset victories for “Nurse Jackie” and “Godless” and is one of two actresses at the center of “Unbelievable.” And all voters love Cate Blanchett, who rules a sterling ensemble in “Mrs. America.”

Beyond those three formidable contenders, the field includes Kaitlyn Dever, the other lead in “Unbelievable”; Kerry Washington for both “Little Fires Everywhere” and “American Son”; Aunjanue Ellis and Niecy Nash for the Lifetime movies “The Clark Sisters” and “Stolen by My Mother,” respectively; Daisy Edgar-Jones for “Normal People”; Zoe Kazan for “The Plot Against America”; and Shira Haas, a strong dark-horse candidate for “Unorthodox.” But Dever sets “Unbelievable” in motion and Washington is a force all across the Emmy ballot, where she’s also in play as a producer and director.

Predicted nominees: Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”; Kaitlyn Dever, “Unbelievable”; Regina King, “Watchmen”; Kerry Washington, “Little Fires Everywhere”; Merritt Wever, “Unbelievable”

Watch out for: Daisy Edgar-Jones, “Normal People”; Aunjanue Ellis, “The Clark Sisters”; Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”; Zoe Kazan, “The Plot Against America”; Niecy Nash, “Stolen by My Mother”

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of submissions: 123
Number of nominees: 6

You could fill the six slots in this category entirely with entries from “Hollywood” or “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” or “American Horror Story: 1984,” all of whom submitted half a dozen contenders. But “Hollywood” is the only one of those shows with a reasonable shot at double-dipping: Its contenders include Jim Parsons, Darren Criss, Joe Mantello and Dylan McDermott, roughly in that order of likelihood.

John Turturro from “The Plot Against America” and Tim Blake Nelson from “Watchmen” will likely join a pair of “Hollywood” actors. Tituss Burgess was always the most reliable nominee among the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” actors, so he’ll likely be singled out for the single-episode finale as well. John Slattery could stand out for the biggest male role in “Mrs. America,” and Jesse Plemons (“El Camino”) and Tahar Rahim (“The Eddy”) could slip in as well. So could Yahya Adbul-Mateen, who would give “Watchmen” a second nomination in the category.

Predicted nominees: Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend”; Darren Criss: “Hollywood”; Tim Blake Nelson, “Watchmen”; Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”; Jesse Plemons, “El Camino”; John Turturro, “The Plot Against America”

Watch out for: Yahya Abdul-Mateen, “Watchmen”; Joe Mantello, “Hollywood”; Dylan McDermott, “Hollywood”; Tahar Rahim, “The Eddy”; John Slattery, “Mrs. America”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Number of submissions: 121
Number of nominees: 6

The big question: How many of the nominees in this category will come from “Mrs. America,” which is jammed full of great supporting roles for women? The conventional wisdom seems to be that it’ll get four of the six, with noms for Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug and Sarah Paulson as (the fictional) Alice Macray. But what about Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan or Elizabeth Banks as Jill Ruckelshaus, among others?

Apart from the women of “Mrs. America,” Toni Collette is a lock for “Unbelievable,” as is Jean Smart for “Watchmen.” Then there’s Allison Janney for “Bad Education,” Patti LuPone and Holland Taylor for “Hollywood,” Winona Ryder for “The Plot Against America,” Rosie O’Donnell or Melissa Leo for “I Know This Much Is True,” Hong Chau for “Watchmen,” Cherry Jones for “Defending Jacob” … Really, you could make a case that this is a more competitive supporting actress category than its drama series equivalent, even though it’ll probably come down to Collette, Smart and a whole lot of “Mrs. America.”

Predicted nominees: Uzo Aduba, “Mrs. America”; Rose Byrne, “Mrs. America”; Toni Collette, “Unbelievable”; Margo Martindale, “Mrs. America”; Sarah Paulson, “Mrs. America”; Jean Smart, “Watchmen”

Watch out for: Elizabeth Banks, “Mrs. America”; Allison Janney, “Bad Education”; Melissa Leo, “I Know This Much Is True” Patti LuPone, “Hollywood”; Tracey Ullman, “Mrs. America”

Read our other predictions in the drama, comedy and variety and reality categories.

Steve Pond

Steve Pond

Awards Editor • steve@thewrap.com • Twitter: @stevepond



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