Emmys 2020: Record Number of Submissions Increase Nominations in Key Categories

Emmys, Emmy Statue
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Even with 71 years of history behind them, the Primetime Emmy Awards managed to find a way to still have a first: The first time the number of nominees in key categories wouldn’t be known until the nominations-round ballots were released.

This year, due to the steady rise of the number of submissions in certain categories, the Television Academy announced that the number of drama and series nominees would be expanded to allow for eight, while others would be determined by the total number of submissions in the category. For those with 1-19 submissions, there would be a “sliding scale” of zero to four nominees, while 20-80 submissions would result in five nominees, 81-160 submissions would net six nominees, 161-240 would create seven nominees and more than 240 would allow for eight nominees.

Drama series punched in at 197 submissions, while comedy series had 111. With incumbent winners “Game of Thrones” and “Fleabag” no longer in the running, there is no shortage of series from which to choose in either major genre category. Drama is on a steady incline, up from 165 submissions last year, while comedy is only up marginally, having seen 108 submitted last year.

With 41 limited series submissions this year (up from last year’s 35), that category is holding firm at five eventual nominees, as is TV movie, which has 28 submissions (up from last year’s 21).

Also in the “netting five nominations” group are variety talk series (with 24 submissions), variety special – live (with 29 submissions), short form comedy or drama series (with 33 submissions), hosted nonfiction series or special (42 submissions), unstructured reality program (44 submissions), structure reality program (47 submissions), competition program (60 submissions), nonfiction or reality program (63 submissions), and short form variety series (just making the cut with 20 submissions).

Variety sketch series only has 14 submissions this year, which make it a special “sliding scale” case, but the influx of remotely-produced projects during the coronavirus pandemic has enhanced the variety special – pre-recorded category to 104 submissions, which should grant six nominees in that category.

The acting races have also seen a majority of increased submissions, cementing the number of nominees on the final-voting round ballots coming in a few weeks:

Only the lead limited series/TV movie categories fall into the “five nominees” pool, as there were 45 actor submissions (actually down one from last year) and 61 actress ones (up from 50 in 2019).

Those that fall into the “six nominees” category this year include lead comedy actress (86 submissions, up marginally from 80 last year), lead comedy actor (88 submissions, barely up from 86 year-over-year), supporting limited series/TV movie actress (121 submissions, up from 94), supporting limited series/TV movie actor (123 submissions, up from 105), lead drama actress (135 submissions, up from 88 last year) and lead drama actor (142 submissions, up from 108 last year).

Oddly, Frank Whaley was submitted into the supporting drama actor category despite his CBS All Access anthology series “Interrogation” entering into the limited series category.

The other four supporting categories will all result in eight nominees, as there were 241 supporting comedy actress submissions (up from 208), 251 supporting comedy actor submissions (up from 235), 355 supporting drama actor submissions (surprisingly down from 372) and a whopping 394 supporting drama actress submissions (up from 303).

Undoubtedly the return of ensemble series such as Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and freshman “The L Word; Generation Q” lent themselves to the increase in supporting drama actress submissions.

Voting members of the Television Academy have until 10 p.m. on July 13 to comb through all of these names and titles and make their selections. The nominees for the 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced on July 28.

Michael Schneider contributed to this report.