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The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2020 Emmy Nominations

From a strong showing from HBO's Succession to the absence of Better Call Saul's best actors

Kaitlin Thomas

The 2020 Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and there was plenty rubber-stamping from the voters resulting in some fairly predictable nominees -- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sterling K. Brown, and Olivia Colman, for instance -- but there were also a few pleasant surprises tucked in the mix, including a lot of love for Succession after not getting the love it deserved last year. 

Of course, you can't have awesome surprises without the inevitable infuriating snubs, and there were a number of those too, especially for Better Call Saul. Basically, it was just another Emmy nomination day in a long line of Emmy nomination days. Check out the biggest snubs and surprises of the 2020 Emmy nominations below.

Emmys 2020 Nominations: See the Full List

Kieran Culkin, Succession

Kieran Culkin, Succession



All the love for Succession. It took a season for Emmy voters to really find and fall in love with Succession, but once they did, they fell hard. The acclaimed HBO series garnered 19 nominations overall, including a drama series nomination and acting nods for Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Nicholas Braun, Matthew Macfadyen, Sarah Snook, James Cromwell, Harriet Walter, and Cherry Jones. The series was also nominated for production design, casting, writing, directing (two nominations), single-camera editing (two nominations), and music composition.

Annie Murphy sneaks in. Schitt's Creek finally broke into the Emmys race last year, with four nominations, including one for Outstanding Comedy Series. This year, the series earned a whopping 15 nods: comedy series, lead actor for Eugene Levy, lead actress for Catherine O'Hara, supporting actor for Dan Levy, supporting actress for Murphy, casting, costuming, directing, writing (two nominations), single-camera editing (two nominations), hairstyling, makeup, and sound mixing. While we're over the moon the heartfelt Canadian comedy, which came to a close earlier this year, is going out on top, Murphy's nod might be the most deserved of the entire Schitt's Creek cast. Everyone went on a journey over the course of the show's six seasons, but Alexis' transformation was truly one of the bright spots. Now, it's just too bad there's no Emmy for Outstanding Wrist Acting as well.

TV's silliest show received multiple nominations. What We Do in the Shadows' spectacularly silly second season earned the FX series its breakthrough nod for Outstanding Comedy Series. The vampire mockumentary -- which stars Matt BerryNatasia DemetriouKayvan NovakHarvey Guillén, and Mark Proksch -- earned an additional seven nominations, including three comedy writing nods for the episodes "Ghosts," "On the Run," and "Collaboration." The show, created by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, also received nominations for casting, single-camera picture editing, sound editing, and production design. What We Do in the Shadows' strong turnout this year was a happy surprise, given the comedy's first season only received two nods, one for cinematography and one for sound editing. –Sadie Gennis

Insecure gets the recognition it deserves. Insecure scored a handful of Emmy nominations over the course of its first three seasons, including lead actress in a comedy Series for Issa Rae in 2018. But after a stellar fourth season, the Television Academy embraced the HBO favorite in a big way, rewarding it with eight nominations this year. On top of Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Rae, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Yvonne Orji, the show also earned nods for casting, editing, and music supervision, and two episodes scored nominations for outstanding cinematography. After a buzzy season dedicated to the fractured friendship between Rae's Issa and Orji's Molly, we're thrilled to see them getting the recognition they deserve. –Kelly Connolly

HBO Just Got Dethroned By Netflix for Top Emmy Nominations

The Mandalorian breaks into the drama series race. The first ever live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian was released late last year to great fanfare for obvious reasons, and that has now translated into a nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, putting it alongside shows like SuccessionBetter Call SaulThe Crown, and The Handmaid's Tale. To be honest, no one saw this nomination coming. In fact, the show greatly overperformed across the board, earning 15 nominations in total.

The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian

Disney +

The love for Good Placeactors not named Ted Danson. Before this year, Danson was The Good Place's only regular cast member to be nominated for his performance in the beloved NBC sitcom. But for its fourth and final season, two more The Good Place stars scored well-deserved noms: D'Arcy Carden and William Jackson Harper. We've had our fingers crossed for both of them for a while, but Harper might just be the bigger surprise, especially considering that he pulled off a huge change in Chidi in Season 4 and made it look easy. His hilarious reaction to the nomination only adds to the sweetness of this recognition. Time to celebrate with a soft pretzel. –Kelly Connolly

William Jackson Harper Paused His Meeting With a Dog Psychic To Give Us This Emmy Nomination Reaction 

Giancarlo Esposito is a double nominee. It's not terribly surprising that Esposito was nominated -- he was nominated last year for his portrayal of Gus Fring on Better Call Saul, and was nominated once before for playing the same role on Breaking Bad -- but it's a bit surprising the actor was nominated twice this year. He was once again nominated in the supporting actor in a drama race for his performance as Fring, who arguably didn't have much to do this season, as well as in the guest actor in a drama series category for his performance as Moff Gideon in the Disney+ The Mandalorian.

Paul Mescal scores a nod for his first ever TV role. OK, so many Emmys experts were actually predicting Mescal to be nominated for lead actor in a limited series for his performance as Connell in Hulu's Normal People, but when Emmy voters regularly let you down, it's still a bit surprising whenever they do something right and nominate someone who's deserving. Mescal broke viewers' hearts countless times throughout the series, which is an adaptation of Sally Rooney's best-selling novel of the same name, and his nod is even sweeter because the series was Mescal's first ever TV role. Not everyone is lucky enough to say they earned a nomination their first time out.

Brad Pitt is nominated for about five minutes of work. The Television Academy must really want Brad Pitt to show up to whatever it pulls off with the telecast this year. The first-time Saturday Night Live host earned a guest actor nod for his at-home cold open in which he wore a wig and glasses to become Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doc, and then peeled them off to thank Fauci for being a human truth-o-meter amid the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci approved of the portrayal, and it was perfectly fine, but the virtual "SNL at Home" format of his episode meant Pitt didn't have much of a lift outside of the opening video, unlike fellow nominated hosts Adam DriverEddie Murphy, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. –Amanda Bell

Quibi received multiple nominations. For a streaming service that is A) only available on phones, B) only eligible in the shortform categories, and C) arguably a commercial failure, Quibi surprised everyone on Tuesday when it earned 10 nominations. 

Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television


Rhea Seehorn is ignored again. Emmy voters have never quite taken to Better Call Saul the way they did its parent series Breaking Bad, and we still can't explain it -- the series is considered by many critics to actually be a superior series. Unfortunately, voters continued to display their ignorance this year by once again overlooking Seehorn, who has been outstanding as Kim Wexler, the best character on television, since the AMC drama's very first season. For what it's worth, I am actually surprised she wasn't nominated this year; without the women of Game of Thrones hogging most of the nominations and with what was Seehorn's strongest season yet, I truly believed this was going to be her year. Alas, Emmy voters remain blind to perfection. But that's on them, not on Seehorn.

Quibi Got More Emmy Nominations Than Better Call Saul's Rhea Seehorn

Bob Odenkirk falls out of the lead actor in a drama race. In even worse news for Better Call Saul, Odenkirk, who was previously nominated every year he was eligible for his performance on the Breaking Bad spin-off, failed to secure a nod for his work in Season 5. It's unfortunate to fall out of the race after such a long and strong run, and especially since this was likely the best season of the AMC drama so far, but it's even more concerning given how hard it will likely be to break back into the race for the show's upcoming final season.

The women of UnbelievableDespite being critically acclaimed and featuring three of the best performances on TV last year, Unbelievable, Netflix's harrowing limited series based on a true story, walked away with just one Emmy nomination in the acting categories: for Toni Collette, in the supporting actress category. Kaitlyn Dever's performance as a rape survivor received universal acclaim, while two-time Emmy winner Merritt Wever was considered a favorite as well. Unfortunately, the series aired last year and was overshadowed by Mrs. America, which debuted in April -- aka much closer to Emmy voting -- and also featured a number of incredible performances.

Tom Pelphrey misses the Ozark wave. Emmy voters love Ozark -- just look at the last several Emmys cycles and it's obviously a clear favorite -- and yet Pelphrey, who was the stand-out performer of the third season, failed to score a nom despite plenty of acclaim for his performance as Wendy's troubled brother.

Tom Pelphrey, Ozark

Tom Pelphrey, Ozark


Normal People doesn't make the limited series cut. Although we're celebrating Paul Mescal's acting nomination, it's unfortunate that Normal People, which was a heartbreaking love story that stuck with you long after you watched it,wasn't able to break into the limited series category, which included Watchmen, Little Fires Everywhere, Unorthodox, Mrs. America, and Unbelievable.

Nothing for Aaron Paul. Paul was up for three potential acting nominations this year -- for his performances in Netflix's El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, HBO's Westworld, and Apple TV+'s Truth Be Told -- and he didn't receive a single acting nod (he can still win an Emmy as a producer on both El Camino and BoJack Horseman, which is nominated for animated program). While it's not surprising he wasn't recognized for Truth Be Told or even Westworld, Paul took home three Emmys for supporting actor in a drama series for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman over the course of Breaking Bad. At the time of his third win, he was tied for the most wins in the category with Don Knotts and Art Carney (Peter Dinklage has now surpassed all of them, with four wins for Game of Thrones). It's unfortunate Emmy voters ignored him for his work in El Camino, given how much they once loved him. Of course, it's not terribly surprising either; El Camino greatly underperformed, failing to score both Golden Globe and SAG nominations earlier this year.

And nothing for Reese Witherspoon either. Of all the years for Witherspoon to be locked out of an Emmy nomination, this one was a real shocker. She was both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras for HBO's Big Little Lies, Apple TV+'s The Morning Show, and Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere. It's times like these that we need a prize just for sheer prolificacy because wow. (As a producer on LFE, she can still win an Emmy if it wins in limited series.) –Amanda Bell

Sarah Paulson also comes up empty. At this point, we just assume Paulson will be nominated for whatever limited series she's starring in this week, so to see her not make the list of nominees for her work in Mrs. America is a bit of a shock. Still, it's also hard to be too mad when her co-stars Cate Blanchett, Uzo Adubo, Margo Martindale, and Tracey Ullman all made it in.

This story has been updated to reflect Aaron Paul's and Reese Witherspoon's producing credits.