The Television Academy’s decision to change the formula for the number of nominations in each category may have benefited the artisans and below-the-line talent on programs the most.
While the number of comedy and drama nominees expanded to eight, all other categories had to rely on a submission count to determine how many slots they got. For most of the supporting performer categories, that also meant an expansion to eight. Most categories that were already at six stayed there, however.
In a few cases, the new rule actually meant the loss of a nominee: In variety talk, because there were only 24 submissions, the race went from six to five slots — forcing the ouster of “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” In variety sketch and children’s program, the number of nominees was reduced to just three, due to a paltry number of entrants.
But many of the craft categories, which in the past were capped at five nominations, landed a few more slots thanks to the sheer number of submissions. The single camera picture editing for a drama series category, for example, jumped to eight nods. Categories that expanded to seven nominees included contemporary costumes, main title design and music supervision. Many more were able to add one more nomination, from five to six, including several casting, hairstyling, makeup and sound editing categories.
Not all expanded categories resulted in more nominated shows, however. In the comedy writing race, four shows took the expanded seven slots (including three nods for “What We Do in the Shadows” and two for “Schitt’s Creek). The same thing happened in drama writing, where “Ozark” took three of the seven spots, and “Better Call Saul” got two.
Here are more oddities and trivia behind this year’s Emmy races:
FROM THE MOON TO THE EMMYS: When Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins filmed their Apollo 11 escapades in 1969, did they think they would get a Primetime Emmy nomination for it in 2020? Probably not. But Aldrin and Collins were nominated in the cinematography for a nonfiction program category, for CNN’s “Apollo 11.”
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: For the second year in a row, married “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino will face off in the comedy directing category, where they’re up for different episodes.
VOICE CHANGES: After much handwringing over the lack of representation among animated TV voices, this year’s voiceover category represented a major evolution: Four of the six nominees are performers of color. Maya Rudolph (“Big Mouth”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Central Park”), Wanda Sykes (“Crank Yankers”) and Taika Waititi (“The Mandalorian”) were short-listed with two stars of “The Simpsons,” Nancy Cartwright and Hank Azaria (whose listed credits no longer include Apu, the character he voiced that helped spawn the conversation). Coincidentally, Rudolph and Sykes also face off in the comedy guest actress field. Separately, four of the five narrator nominees are Black: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o. (David Attenborough is the fifth nominee.)
MULTI-LOVE: Multi-camera comedies don’t get much love at the Emmys these days, but there’s two categories where they can rely on it: cinematography for a multi-camera series, where this year “Bob Hearts Abishola,” “Family Reunion,” “The Ranch” and “Will & Grace” face off; and multi-camera picture editing for a comedy series, where “The Conners,” “One Day at a Time” and two episodes of “Will & Grace” are in the mix.
POSITIVE DIRECTION: Four of the six nominees in the directing for a limited series/movie/dramatic special race are women: The late Lynn Shelton (“Little Fires Everywhere”), Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox”), Nicole Kassell (“Watchmen”) and Steph Green (“Watchmen”).
HAIR APPARENT: It feels spot-on that the ambitious “Black-ish” episode “Hair Day,” which took a deep dive into the complex topic of Black hair, earned the show a nomination in the contemporary hairstyling category.
AGE APPROPRIATE: Norman Lear has beaten his own record as the oldest Emmy nominee in TV Academy history. Lear, who just turned 98 on July 27, earned a second-consecutive nod for “Live in Front of a Studio Audience.” (Because the nominations were held earlier in 2019, he was 96 then — making him two years older than when last nominated.)
BRIE-FLY: Sometimes, stars take an unusual route to landing their initial Emmy nod. Take Brie Larson, who hasn’t been nominated as a performer, but did just pick up her first Emmy nomination in the original interactive program category, as a producer on Oculus’ “The Messy Truth VR Experience.”
APPLE, MEET APPLE, MEET APPLE: How many Apples are there? With the launch of Apple TV Plus, there are now three different versions of Apple nominated at this year’s Emmys. Apple TV Plus’ inaugural year netted 18 nominations, giving it the most program and acting nominations for a streaming service ever in its first year — including five acting nominations for “The Morning Show” and six programs overall. Apple Music, meanwhile, received another nod for “Carpool Karaoke: The Series” in the short form variety series category. And then there’s the commercial “Bounce,” for Apple AirPods, which was nominated for outstanding commercial. While that nomination is credited to Pulse Films and TBWA Media Arts Lab, it’s all about an Apple product. (Amazon Prime Video parent Amazon also received a commercial nomination, for “Before Alexa,” from Somesuch x Revolver/Will O’Rourke and ad agency Droga5 London.)
RECORD-ISH: “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson’s sixth consecutive nomination for comedy lead actor makes him the most nominated Black actor in the category playing the same role, a record previously held by “Benson” star Robert Guillaume. (Don Cheadle also earned his sixth lead actor in a comedy nomination this year, for “Black Monday.” His lead comedy nods are split between “Black Monday” and “House of Lies.”)
LITERALLY NAILED IT: Speaking of making history, “Nailed It” star Nicole Byer became the first Black woman to be nominated in the outstanding host for a reality or competition program category.
LANDGRAF’S QUICK BITE: FX Networks CEO John Landgraf was likely cheering on Tuesday when his company landed 33 nominations — a tick up from last year’s 32. But he also had reason to celebrate Quibi’s haul: As an executive producer on the mobile streamer’s “Reno 911” revival (a relic from his days as head of Jersey Television), he earned a nomination in the short form drama or comedy category.
LATE NIGHT, PART 2: The short-form variety category continues to serve as an extension of the variety talk race, as spinoffs “Beeing at Home with Samantha Bee,” “Carpool Karaoke: The Series” (from “The Late Late Show with James Corden”) and “Jimmy Kimmel’s Quarantine Minilogues” all landed noms, along with “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: The Movie, Sorta Uncut Interviews” and “The Randy Rainbow Show.” In short form nonfiction or reality series, “Full Frontal’s” “Pandemic Video Diaries” and “Between the Scenes” from “The Daily Show” also received noms.
UNTOUCHABLE: With 15 new ones, “Saturday Night Live” has now extended its lifetime nominations tally to 285, far ahead of second-place “Game of Thrones” (161). The next two shows, “ER” and “Cheers,” are also long gone, assuring that “SNL” will continue to fly far ahead of the rest. Ditto “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels, whose 90 career noms adds to his lead over second-place Sheila Nevins (77). Nevins, however, remains the most-winning individual in Emmy history, at 31.
COVID CONTENDERS: The coronavirus pandemic came late in this year’s eligibility period, but its impact can also be seen in the nominations. Besides the aforementioned “Beeing At Home,” “Pandemic Video Diaries” and “Quarantine Minilogues,” there’s “Amy Schumer Learns to Cook,” a show that came out of quarantine and now has a nod for unstructured reality; and “When We Stayed Home,” an interactive program nominee chronicling empty cities during the quarantine. Then there’s Brad Pitt, a comedy guest actor nominee for playing Dr. Anthony Fauci on “SNL.”
THE RETURN OF THE FERN: “Between Two Ferns with Zack Galifianakis” was a staple in the short form categories when they were first introduced — landing nominations in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the short format live action entertainment program category, and winning in 2014 for an episode featuring President Barack Obama and in 2015 for one with Brad Pitt. But after that, the rules changed — and only series were eligible, leaving one-off videos like “Ferns” shut out. But in 2020, the uncut interview digital series “Between Two Ferns with Zack Galifianakis: The Movie, Sorta Uncut Interviews,” which ran on the Netflix is a Joke channel on YouTube, as well as on FunnyOrDie.com, was eligible — and “Between Two Ferns” is back in the Emmy race, nominated for short form variety series.
FIRST TIMERS CLUB: Besides the new streamers like Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus and Quibi all getting on the map, newcomers to the Emmy race include Epix, which landed its first four nominations ever: Three for “Laurel Canyon” and one for “Godfather of Harlem.” Also, in the new world order, in its first go-round as the recently formed ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group, the Chris McCarthy-led division landed 41 Emmy noms (led by 15 for Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek”). And in its first full year of eligibility post-merger with 20th Century Fox, the newly robust Walt Disney Co. touted 145 Emmy nominations, including a rare broadcast bump for ABC (36, up from 26 last year). Major stars with their first-ever nods included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (“Black Patriots: Heroes of the Revolution”), Cate Blanchett (“Mrs. America”), Lupita Nyong’o (“Serengeti”), Octavia Spencer (“Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker”), Taika Waititi (“The Mandalorian”) and Cristoph Waltz (“Most Dangerous Game”).
THE OVERACHIEVERS: In addition to Rudolph — who earned two guest actress nods (“The Good Place” and “SNL,” as well as her voice over nom), Daniel Levy of “Schitt’s Creek” is this year’s cross-category triple threat, landing noms for supporting comedy actor, comedy directing and comedy writing. (He also received a fourth nom as part of the “Schitt’s Creek” producing team, nominated for best comedy). Then there’s Kerry Washington, who was nominated as producer in three different categories (limited series, TV movie and variety special—live), plus as lead actress in a limited series/TV movie for “Little Fires Everywhere.” Double nominees in major categories include Jason Bateman, Sterling K. Brown, Ramy Youssef, Giancarlo Esposito, Angela Basset and Sykes.
Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Anthony Anderson was the most nominated Black actor in the comedy lead actor category. Anderson is the most nominated for a single role — a record previously held by “Benson” star Robert Guillaume. Don Cheadle also got his sixth nom in the category, his second for “Black Monday,” on top of his four nods for “House of Lies.”