2020 Emmy Nomination Trivia: Women Directors, Netflix Specials, and Squids Make Their Mark

Netflix astounded with its nomination haul this year; the amount it jumped set a new benchmark for improved year-over-year Emmy dominance.
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10 Larry David
Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
John P. Johnson / HBO

Sifting through the Emmy nominees is the closest that TV fans get to playing fantasy sports. It’s a numbers game with achievements for individuals and shows and networks, each with their growing lists of respective histories and benchmarks. Some of the Emmys heavy hitters of years past have gone on to TV retirement. (“Veep,” we miss you. “Game of Thrones,” you had a large cast.) So with those streaks now unable to be continued, there’s a new crop of nominees in some of the headline categories.

But even though that’s where plenty of numerical Emmys history is made, there are other noms of note up and down this year’s final ballot.  We’ll add more as we continue to comb through the endless tallies, but for now, here are some that caught our eye:

Notable Nominations Numbers

Netflix set the pace this year with an astounding 160 nominations, trouncing HBO’s former record of 137. In doing so, it also set the record for the biggest year-over-year increase in nominations, breaking its own record when its count jumped by 37 from 2016 to 2017. To put that in perspective, the 42 additional nominations that Netflix has this year compared to 2019 would put it fourth on the overall list, ahead of the totals for ABC (36), FX (33), and Amazon Prime Video (30).

Another Coronation

Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham-Carter, two of Netflix’s nominations, are part of another notable pattern. Though a number of performers have been nominated for playing the same character on multiple shows (Kelsey Grammer played Frasier Crane across three of them!), this is a standout instance in the major acting categories for multiple performers have been nominated for playing the same characters. (In case you’re wondering, only Dick York was nominated for “Bewitched.”) Though Vanessa Kirby never took home the prize that Helena Bonham-Carter will be competing for this year, Colman will try to follow in the footsteps of “The Crown” predecessor Claire Foy, who won in 2018 for playing Queen Elizabeth II.

The Squids Have It

It’s been seven years since a limited series took home the most nods on nominations morning, when “American Horror Story: Asylum” nabbed 17. “Watchmen” set a new standard for limited series with 26, easily besting the total from last year’s main HBO entry “Chernobyl.”

A New Director High Mark

2020 marks the highest number of women nominated for directing in the Comedy, Drama, and Limited Series categories. This includes nominees from “The Crown” (Jessica Hobbs), “Homeland” (Lesli Linka Glatter), “Little Fires Everywhere” (the late Lynn Shelton), “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amy Sherman-Palladino), “Modern Family” (Gail Mancuso), “The Morning Show” (Mimi Leder), “Unorthodox” (Maria Schrader), and “Watchmen” (Steph Green and Nicole Kassell). Sherman-Palladino, Mancuso, and Leder are all previous winners in their respective categories.

Category Sweep (Get It? Because Leslie Jones Announced the Nominations and She’s Going to Be Hosting “Supermarket Sweep?”)

Part of Netflix’s dominance has been cornering the market on nominations in Writing for a Variety Special. Historically, this category has included nominations for awards shows or one-offs on cable networks (particularly around election cycles). Stand-up has largely dominated in recent years, with the odd HBO hour nested in among the rest. But in 2020, after new specials over the last year from Dave Chappelle, Hannah Gadsby, Patton Oswalt, Seth Meyers, and the inimitable John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch, Netflix has swept the category for the first time.

Other Streaming Records in Sight

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” continues to set the pace for streaming comedies, adding another 20 to its overall total after doing the same in 2019. With 54 overall, it now stands comfortably as the most decorated comedy of the streaming era, even outdistancing other streaming drama mainstays from this year like “Stranger Things” (38), and “The Crown” (39). Next time around, it will vie with “The Handmaid’s Tale” (also at 54) to become the most nominated streaming series ever, topping the mark of 56 that “House of Cards” gained over its run.

A Rare Pair

Speaking of “Maisel,” the show helped Sterling K. Brown pull off a formidable feat of versatility. With nominations for the Amazon Prime Video series and for the NBC stalwart “This is Us,” Brown has acting nods in both Drama and Comedy categories. While guest acting categories have given performers the chance to do this in past years, Brown’s nominations in the Supporting and Lead Actor make it a particularly notable achievement.

Still Curbing After All These Years

After taking a year off from eligibility, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” finds itself back in the Best Comedy Series race. Though Larry David has quite a ways to go to set the record for most years between nominations for the same character (Laurie Metcalf got ones for playing Jackie Harris 26 years apart!), “Curb” now comfortably has the record for most time between first and last/most recent nominations in Best Comedy Series or Best Drama Series.

Still Norming After All These Lears

It wouldn’t be an Emmys trivia roundup without mentioning the great Norman Lear. While the official producer nominees have yet to be determined, Lear stands to break his own record for oldest-ever Emmy nominee. Setting the mark last year, the latest edition of “In Front of a Live Studio Audience” should help him do it again.

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