'Watchmen,' HBO's dystopian epic, leads pack of Emmy nominees

The acclaimed adaptation of a 1980s graphic novel leads the pack of contenders with a total of 26 nominations.

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By Daniel Arkin

HBO's "Watchmen," a kaleidoscopic portrait of American racial trauma and white supremacy, dominated the list of Emmy nominations announced Tuesday, the first major entertainment industry honors to unfold amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The nine-episode series, an ambitious adaptation of the landmark 1980s graphic novel about masked vigilantes, led the pack of contenders with 26 nominations, including for the actors Regina King and Jeremy Irons.

Amazon's fizzy period comedy "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is the second-most nominated series, with 20, followed by Netflix's downcast crime thriller "Ozark" and HBO's caustic media satire "Succession," with 18 apiece.

Netflix, for its part, broke the record for the most single-year nominations of any network or platform with a staggering 160, followed by perennial favorite HBO with 107.

The nominees across the major acting categories were notably diverse, a potential sign that the Television Academy — the organization that puts on the Emmys — was embracing calls for more inclusion and representation in media amid nationwide protests over systemic racism.

The performers recognized in the major acting categories include previous winners Sterling K. Brown (NBC's "This Is Us") and Billy Porter (FX's "Pose"), as well as Emmy first-timers like Ramy Youssef, the co-creator and star of the millennial coming-of-age show "Ramy" on Hulu, and Zendaya, who appears on HBO's "Euphoria."

"This year, we are also bearing witness to one of the greatest fights for social justice in history. And it is our duty to use this medium for change," Frank Scherma, the Television Academy chairman and CEO, said in a video message introducing the nominees.

Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus, two relative newcomers to the streaming wars, picked up their first Emmy nods.

Disney's "The Mandalorian," a "Star Wars" spin-off, received a respectable 15 nominations, including best drama series, while Apple's "The Morning Show" landed nods for stars Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell.

Who's nominated for an Emmy? See the list here

The nominations were announced via livestream by comedian Leslie Jones, who was joined by presenters Laverne Cox ("Orange Is the New Black"), Josh Gad ("Frozen") and Tatiana Maslany ("Perry Mason," "Orphan Black"). Cox, Gad and Maslany appeared in video chat screens.

The nominees for best drama series are AMC's "Better Call Saul," Netflix's "The Crown," BBC America's "Killing Eve," Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale," "The Mandalorian," "Ozark," Netflix's "Stranger Things" and "Succession." ("NBC's "This Is Us" and the final season of Showtime's "Homeland" were among the drama series locked out this year.)

The nominees for best comedy series are HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Netflix's "Dead to Me," NBC's "The Good Place," HBO's "Insecure," Netflix's "The Kominsky Method," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Pop TV's "Schitt's Creek" and FX's "What We Do in the Shadows." (The farewell season of ABC's hit sitcom "Modern Family" was left out.)

The biggest snubs and surprises from the 2020 Emmy nominations

The nominees for best limited series are Hulu's “Little Fires Everywhere," Hulu's “Mrs. America," Netflix's “Unbelievable," Netflix's ”Unorthodox" and "Watchmen."

HBO is favored to triumph in the limited series category, but "Mrs. America" — a chronicle of the debate over the Equal Rights Amendment and the rise of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly — could stage an upset.

The late comedian Fred Willard received a nomination for his guest appearance on "Modern Family," while celebrated director Lynn Shelton received a posthumous nod for "Little Fires Everywhere."

The virtual Emmy Awards, hosted by the late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, will be Sept. 20 on ABC.