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The 2020 Emmy Awards Race Breeds Excitement from Uncertainty

As voting opens today, it is apparent that things will get a little wild on the path to the 2020 Emmys.

A general view of the atmosphere during night one of the Television Academy's 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater, in Los AngelesTelevision Academy's 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Portraits - Night 1, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Sep 2017

The Emmys

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It is with great anticipation and not a little bit of trepidation that we officially begin the final countdown to the 2020 Emmy Awards with the kickoff of nominations-round voting. It’s been a wholly unprecedented season to date and as a consequence, we might just be looking at the most unpredictable set of nominees in recent history.

Voting for the nominations round begins today, July 2, and is slated to close at 10 p.m. PT on Monday, July 13; it marks the midpoint of the Emmy calendar which has faced several adjustments at the hands of the Television Academy in recent months.

On March 6, when the widespread threat of coronavirus was not yet fully realized, the organization announced changes to its For Your Consideration events, barring autographs and selfies, meet-and-greets and audience questions, advising that attendees who felt ill or had pre-existing conditions to skip the events. Less than a week later, on March 12, the Academy announced that it was suspending live FYC events, opting instead to live-streamed and pre-recorded options for the whole of the Emmy season.

After several weeks of postponements and cancellations throughout Hollywood and after conversations with industry leaders about the fate of FYC season and Emmy calendar as a whole, the Academy shared its altered plan for Emmy season, which featured changes that both lengthened the eligibility window and shortened the time between nominations and voting, while still sticking to its original dates for the Primetime Emmy Awards.

And that leaves us here. Looking down the barrel of an Emmy season that exists outside of FYC events and schmoozing and elbow-rubbing and face time. An Emmy season that exists outside of industry buzz. For the first time in ages, awards pundits have no idea what’s about to happen and have no choice but to admit as much.

So with two and a half months before the ceremony — in whatever form it takes — what are the things we know for certain as the season progresses?

Succession” Will (Probably) Do Well

The HBO drama series seems to be the show best positioned to see a big jump in nominations after “Game of Thrones” has left the conversation, but this isn’t absolutely a sure thing. Is affection for the (brilliant) series as widespread as it seems or is it Netflix’s “Ozark” that’s primed for dominance?

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel Season 3 Alex Borstein Rachel Brosnahan

Alex Borstein and Rachel Brosnahan in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Amazon Prime

So Will “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Most Likely)

Easy to overlook during last year’s whirlwind season for Amazon Prime Video’s “Fleabag” is that it was not, actually, the streamer’s best performing series at the Emmys. Heck, “Fleabag” wasn’t even Amazon’s best performing comedy, with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” taking home eight Emmys as compared to six for the Phoebe Waller-Bridge project. Add that to the eight Emmys “Maisel” took home the year before and the returning comedy seems to be in good shape as the season rolls along. Unless Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek” suddenly breaks through in a big way for its final season. Or NBC’s “The Good Place” finally makes its own power grab for its final season. The Magic 8-Ball says “Ask again later.”

Limited Series Will (Maybe) Come Down to a Two-Horse Race

Despite last year’s Outstanding Limited Series category being spoiled for choice, with FX’s “Fosse/Verdon,” HBO’s “Sharp Objects,” and Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora,” all worthy contenders, the race ultimately boiled down to one between HBO’s “Chernobyl” and Netflix’s “When They See Us.” This year looks to be more of the same, with Netflix’s “Unbelievable,” Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere,” and HBO’s “I Know This Much is True” all jockeying for position in a race that will most likely come down to a showdown between FX’s “Mrs. America” and HBO’s “Watchmen.” Unless, of course, it’s an absolutely free-for-all instead.

And that’s about it.

What that actually means is that right now through at least the end of the month when the Emmy nominations are announced is the most exciting part of the entire race.

Sure, it’s most likely that the shows that do well in nominations will be series that were previously successful at the Emmys and probable that big name stars will get disproportionately more nominations than they actually deserve and a near certainty that some critically-acclaimed program will be wrongfully overlooked causing thousands of words of internet ink to be spilled.

But right now, all of that’s uncertain. Even more uncertain that it is in typical years. Without the inflated spending and FYC buys, Emmy campaigning has been forced to take a more grounded and grassroots format, with talent turning up on podcasts and gamely taking on as many Zoom interviews as they can stand.

While uncertainty plagues many of us in our day-to-day life, uncertainty in the Emmy race makes everything more exciting. It’s great to have no idea what might happen next because too often in the industry awards shows are little more than foregone conclusions.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Because God knows sports aren’t coming back any time soon.

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