Emmys 2020: Who will win (and who really should) at this year's awards

Kelly Lawler   | USA TODAY Show Caption Hide Caption Emmys 2020: Leslie Jones surprises Laverne Co

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Kelly Lawler   | USA TODAY
Show Caption

A virtual Emmy Awards doesn't mean that we'll stop predicting who will win. 

Yes, TV's biggest night in 2020 won't look anything like it did in 2019. No red carpet, no big theater, and maybe no designer gowns or tuxedos at all. But one thing will remain unchanged: The best and brightest in the industry will honor what they consider the best TV of the year.

The shows, actors, and makers nominated this year are a mostly solid assortment of truly riveting series and limited series from the 2019-2020 TV season that ended in May, and some categories are bursting with as many as eight nominees for the prize. Of course, there can only be one winner. 

Here's who we think will win on Sunday, when Jimmy Kimmel hosts ABC's virtual event (8 EDT/5 PDT), and who really should: 

Q&A: Jimmy Kimmel on hosting the 2020 Emmys, alone: 'I don't want it to go smoothly'

More: See the full list of nominees

Drama series

"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: "The Crown"

Will win: "Succession"

Although the HBO series premiered in 2018, it wasn't until last summer's dramatic and widely lauded second season that "Succession" became a cult hit and serious Emmy contender. Despite not having aired new episodes since last October, the series is still among the buzziest nominees with the most devoted fan base – it is particularly popular in the entertainment industry and the media, perhaps because it follows a Murdoch-like media dynasty.

However, the drama has always been a bit lacking for me, so I favor the underrated third season of "The Crown," which achieved the daunting task of reintroducing its characters and concepts with an entirely new cast. 

Comedy series

"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"

It takes the TV Academy a few years or more to recognize the brilliance of some series ("Friday Night Lights," "The Americans"). "Schitt's" is another example of better late than never for Emmy recognition. The celebrated final season of the Pop TV sitcom (popularized by Netflix)delightful, hilarious and full of fully-realized characters with electric chemistry, should happily waltz away into the Rosebud motel with this award. 

Limited series

"Little Fires Everywhere" (Hulu)

"Mrs. America" (FX)

"Unbelievable" (Netflix)

"Unorthodox" (Netflix)

"Watchmen" (HBO)

Should win: "Watchmen"

Will win: "Watchmen"

The most exciting and competitive category at the Emmys over the past few years has been limited series, and when you look at the abundance of quality television nominated here, it's easy to see why. Despite how superbly "Unbelievable" told its horrifying true story, or how surprising and affecting religious drama "Unorthodox" was, this race is down to two heavyweight series starring Oscar winners: "Watchmen" and "Mrs. America." "America" is achingly relevant to modern life, with talented actresses retelling important history, but HBO's "Watchmen" has a slight, and deserved, edge in this race. Stunningly wrought, exquisitely written and acted to a perfect T, it is not just the best limited series of the 2019-2020 TV season, but the best TV. 

Lead actress, drama series

Jennifer Aniston, "The Morning Show" (Apple TV+)

Olivia Colman, "The Crown" (Netflix)

Jodie Comer, "Killing Eve" (BBC America)

Laura Linney, "Ozark" (Netflix)

Sandra Oh, "Killing Eve" (BBC America)

Zendaya, "Euphoria" (HBO)

Should win: Jennifer Aniston

Will win: Jennifer Aniston

Apple TV+'s much-ballyhooed "Morning Show" was a major disappointment as a launching pad for the new streaming service last fall. But the dull, badly written series didn't stop the Screen Actors Guild from giving Aniston an award in January. The TV Academy, with plenty of the same voters, should follow suit. And in spite of the poor material, Aniston does her level best to elevate the material. In a mostly even, if slightly boring, category, she is just as deserving a win as any other nominee.  

Lead actor, drama series

Jason Bateman, "Ozark" (Netflix)

Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us" (NBC)

Steve Carell, "The Morning Show" (Apple TV+)

Brian Cox, "Succession" (HBO)

Billy Porter, "Pose" (FX)

Jeremy Strong, "Succession" (HBO)

Should win: Billy Porter

Will win: Jeremy Strong

The question isn't so much whether "Succession" will win any acting awards, but which. Although competing against your co-star risks splitting the vote, Strong owns every scene he's in as Kendall Roy (even those with Cox playing his father, Logan), and could just win over his more experienced TV dad. The battle of the Roys is all very well and good, but last year's winner, Porter, was even better in the second season of FX's "Pose" than in the first. It's not always welcome when the TV Academy honors repeat winners, but in Porter's case, it would be well deserved. 

Lead actress, comedy series

Christina Applegate, "Dead to Me" (Netflix)

Rachel Brosnahan, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)

Linda Cardellini, "Dead to Me" (Netflix)

Catherine O'Hara, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)

Issa Rae, "Insecure" (HBO)

Tracee Ellis Ross, "Black-ish" (ABC)

Should win: Catherine O’Hara

Will win: Catherine O’Hara

The love for "Schitt's Creek" is long overdue, and the magic of the  now-concluded series was in large part due to its impeccable cast, including O'Hara, who turns in some of the best work of her long career. 

Lead actor, comedy series

Anthony Anderson, "Black-ish" (ABC)

Don Cheadle, "Black Monday" (Showtime)

Ted Danson, "The Good Place" (NBC)

Michael Douglas, "The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)

Eugene Levy, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)

Ramy Youssef, "Ramy" (Hulu

Should win: Ramy Youssef

Will win: Ted Danson

It was a delightful surprise when Youssef, the creator and star of the Hulu series that bears his name, won a Golden Globe in January, one of the few times that slightly ridiculous awards show honored a deserving nominee. Despite how funny, poignant and thoughtful the second season of "Ramy" was, the young actor may not have enough juice to beat out elder statesmen like Danson or Levy. I'm banking on Danson taking this award and representing "Good Place" as a whole since it never really made much Emmy noise during its four-season run. 

Supporting actress, drama

Helena Bonham Carter, "The Crown" (Netflix)

Laura Dern, "Big Little Lies" (HBO)

Julia Garner, "Ozark" (Netflix)

Thandie Newton, "Westworld" (HBO)

Fiona Shaw, "Killing Eve" (BBC America)

Sarah Snook, "Succession" (HBO)

Meryl Streep, "Big Little Lies" (HBO)

Samira Wiley, "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)

Should win: Helena Bonham Carter

Will win: Helena Bonham Carter

This is one of this year's most competitive categories, yet there's little doubt Carter will walk away with the trophy. There might be a surprise,  but rarely has a character and actress had such deliciously posh synergy than Carter embodying a flighty, angry Princess Margaret in middle age. 

Supporting actor, drama

Nicholas Braun, "Succession" (HBO)

Billy Crudup, "The Morning Show" (Apple TV+)

Kieran Culkin, "Succession" (HBO)

Mark Duplass, "The Morning Show" (Apple TV+)

Giancarlo Esposito, "Better Call Saul" (AMC)

Matthew Macfadyen, "Succession" (HBO)

Bradley Whitford, "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)

Jeffrey Wright, "Westworld" (HBO)

Should win: Giancarlo Esposito

Will win: Billy Crudup

Three nominees from "Succession" and two from "Morning Show" might split the vote here, but Crudup's role as a smarmy TV network executive in Apple's series was widely praised even by those who hated the series. Crudup was an eccentric, charming light in an otherwise mediocre show, but he's no Esposito, who's put in more exquisite work with each season of "Saul."

Supporting actress, comedy

Alex Borstein, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)

D'Arcy Carden, "The Good Place" (NBC)

Betty Gilpin, "GLOW" (Netflix)

Marin Hinkle, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)

Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)

Annie Murphy, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)

Yvonne Orji, "Insecure" (HBO)

Cecily Strong, "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)

Should win: Yvonne Orji

Will win: Alex Borstein

Last year's comedy categories might have seemed more like a "Fleabag" party than a competition, but even the "Fleabag" ascendancy couldn't stop Emmy darling Borstein from winning yet another prize for her role on "Maisel." Unfortunately, even if "Schitt's" seems poised for a sweep, this is the category it still might not take. "Insecure" fan favorite Orji has a slim chance of upsetting Borstein (but that would be a fun, bold prediction if you have a virtual office pool going). Her role on the HBO comedy is finally getting the recognition it has long deserved, and if anyone can beat a multiple winner, it would be with acting as good as Orji's. 

Supporting actor, comedy

Mahershala Ali, "Ramy" (Hulu)

Alan Arkin, "The Kominsky Method" (Netflix)

Andre Braugher, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (NBC)

Sterling K. Brown, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)

William Jackson Harper, "The Good Place" (NBC)

Dan Levy, "Schitt's Creek" (Pop TV)

Tony Shalhoub, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)

Kenan Thompson, "Saturday Night Live" (NBC)

Should win: William Jackson Harper

Will win: Dan Levy

As the guiding light for the series (co-created with his dad and co-star Eugene) and one of the best actors among the ensemble, Levy will inch above his competition from this large field of contenders. As wonderful as a Levy win would be, it's a shame Harper likely won't get recognition for his outstanding work on "Good Place." Parts of the final season didn't work, but Harper's performance never faltered. 

TV Movie

"American Son" (Netflix)

"Bad Education" (HBO) 

"Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones" (Netflix)

"El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" (Netflix)

"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend" (Netflix)

Should win: Bad Education

Will win: Bad Education

Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney led HBO's absolutely delightful true crime film about administrators embezzling millions from their school district, and will probably lead "Education" to an Emmy win, too. Nostalgia for "Breaking Bad" may be strong, and "El Camino" was a great return for Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, but "Education" is the most traditional TV movie among the nominees, and its stars, especially Janney, have the love of the Academy. 

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