The biggest snubs and surprises of the 2020 Emmys: The Force is with Baby Yoda, but not Reese Witherspoon

(Photo: HBO/NBC via Getty Images)
The Mandalorian, SNL and Watchmen. (Photo: HBO/NBC via Getty Images)

The 72nd Emmy Award nominations have been announced and it looks like Baby Yoda is in and Reese Witherspoon is... out. The Disney+ series The Mandalorian blasted off with 15 nominations, including a surprise nod for Outstanding Drama Series. Witherspoon, meanwhile, completed the kind of hat trick you don’t generally boast about: the Oscar-winning actress had three major series in contention this year — Big Little Lies, Little Fires Everywhere and The Morning Show — and failed to pick up an acting nomination for any of them.

That’s the kind of topsy-turvy morning it was as the Emmys attempted to keep the show going on in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Leslie Jones effectively summarized the strangeness of the proceedings when she described her quarantine-era travel arrangements to emcee the announcements. “Y’all tricked me,” the former Saturday Night Live star joked. “They brought me here on an empty plane... and then they brought me to an empty dressing room, and then they brought me to this room where there’s no one but a cameraman.”

Jones was eventually joined remotely by Laverne Cox, Josh Gad and Tatiana Maslany, who read off the nominees from their homes. Besides The Mandalorian, Netflix, HBO and even Quibi all had good reasons to cheer. Meanwhile, Modern Family, Patrick Stewart and HBO Max can hopefully find some (socially distant) solace with Witherspoon. Here’s our round-up of the biggest snubs and surprises. — Ethan Alter and Kevin Polowy

SURPRISE: Honored The Mandalorian was

Mando senses a connection with Baby Yoda in the first episode of 'The Mandalorian' (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd./Disney+)
Mando senses a connection with Baby Yoda in the first episode of The Mandalorian. (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd./Disney+)

The Force is with Jon Favreau’s Star Wars series. Not only did The Mandalorian drive 10 million subscribers to sign up for Disney+ on launch day and turn Baby Yoda into a household name, but the show scored 15 nominations including an out-of-this-world nod for Outstanding Drama Series. That’s the first major award for any Star Wars property since George Lucas’s original space adventure scored a Best Picture nomination back in 1977.

SNUB: Big Little Lies’s victory lap didn’t make it across the finish line

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 29, 2019 (L-R) Actresses Reese Witherspoon, ZOe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep attend HBO's "Big Little Lies" Season 2 premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 29, 2019 in New York City. - From Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep to Reese Witherspoon and Michael Douglas, Hollywood movie stars are being lured to television by higher production values, wider opportunities... and massive paydays. Once the vastly poorer cousin of film, the small screen has enjoyed a stunning renaissance as members of the binge-watching generation swap trips to the multiplex for nights on the couch streaming the latest "premium" hit show. Hollywood's top A-listers are increasingly making the same switch. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep attend the Season 2 premiere on May 29, 2019. (Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Season 1 of Big Little Lies cleaned up at the 2017 Emmys, so it’s no surprise that Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley (all of whom were nominated, with Kidman winning) would want to take a victory lap — this time with Meryl Streep in tow. But BLL’s sophomore year was problem-plagued from the start, with rumors of behind-the-scenes drama and underwhelming response from critics and fans. Voters were equally unenthused: The series only picked up five nominations, and none of them were for the three stars. On the other hand, Streep couldn’t be denied: Both she and Laura Dern were the only cast members to score acting nods.

SURPRISE: Netflix is back on top thanks to Ozark, Hollywood and Tiger King

Carol Baskin in 'Tiger King' (Photo: Netflix)
Carol Baskin in Tiger King. (Photo: Netflix)

One year after HBO set a new Emmy record with 137 nominations, Netflix blew past its pay cable rival with a whopping 160 nods. The streaming service’s marquee drama, Ozark, was its strongest performer with 18 nominations, while The Crown and Ryan Murphy’s critically panned Hollywood followed close behind with 13 and 12, respectively. Meanwhile, quarantine streaming sensation, Tiger King, earned six nods including Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.

SNUB: Some Good News not good enough for Emmys

And now for some bad news. Some Good News, John Krasinksi’s YouTube sensation that delivered a weekly dose of heartwarming home videos, tearjerking tributes to first responders and at least a couple Office reunions to the quarantined masses, did not have the support it needed to crack Outstanding Variety Talk Series, where traditional late-night staples Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert ruled. The lo-fi series was admittedly a curious Emmys submission, considering it ran only eight episodes on YouTube. But a guy could dream, right?

SURPRISE: Will Brad Pitt bring Dr. Fauci as his Emmy date?

Once upon a time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt fulfilled Dr. Anthony Fauci’s wishes by portraying him on Saturday Night Live and now both men are Emmy-bound. Pitt’s three-minute SNL spot earned him a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, and we can only hope that he and Dr. Fauci get to walk the virtual red carpet together. Another one of SNL’s 15 total nominations went to Eddie Murphy, who made a triumphant return to Studio 8H and brought Buckwheat with him.

SNUB: Sir Patrick couldn’t make it so

Patrick Stewart in the Season 1 finale of 'Star Trek: Picard," which airs March 26 on CBS All Access (Photo: Trae Patton/CBS)
Patrick Stewart in the Season 1 finale of Star Trek: Picard. (Photo: Trae Patton/CBS)

Over the course of his storied career, Patrick Stewart has earned four Emmy nominations… but none of them has been for his most famous TV role as the U.S.S. Enterprise’s best captain (sorry, Kirk): Jean-Luc Picard. That streak continues as voters declined to honor the thespian for his long-awaited return to the Star Trek franchise in the CBS All-Access series, Picard. Apparently, Star Trek still isn’t the Emmys’ cup of tea... Earl Grey or otherwise.

SURPRISE: Watchmen is the new Game of Thrones

Regina King as Sister Night in 'Watchmen' (Photo: HBO)
Regina King as Sister Night in Watchmen. (Photo: HBO)

The controversial final season of Game of Thrones put HBO over the top when last year’s Emmys were announced, with its 32 nods pushing the pay cable giant to 137 nominations. (The series ultimately took home 12 statues, including Outstanding Drama Series.) This year, Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen was the network’s big star, receiving a whopping 26 nominations — the most of any series — including a Best Outstanding Lead Actress nod for Regina King and Outstanding Limited Series. It’s worth noting that Watchmen sucked up all the superhero oxygen: buzzy shows like The Boys, Umbrella Academy and Doom Patrol couldn’t match the power of Sister Night.

SURPRISE: Zendaya scores first Emmy nom for Euphoria

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Sam Levinson and Zendaya attend the HBO "Euphoria" FYC at the Landmark Theaters on November 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FilmMagic/FilmMagic for HBO )
Sam Levinson and Zendaya attend the HBO Euphoria FYC at the Landmark Theaters on Nov. 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for HBO )

Zendaya continues her accelerated climb up Hollywood’s ranks at an astronomical rate. The 23-year-old, already a veteran pop star and regular in tentpole movie fare (Spider-Man, The Greatest Showman), showed she has serious dramatic chops to boot in HBO’s dark, dark (did we mention dark?) teen drama Euphoria, playing a recovering drug addict, and the Emmys have rewarded her accordingly. The popular performer earned a spot in the Best Actress Drama race where she’ll compete against such heavy hitters as Olivia Colman (The Crown), Laura Linney (Ozark) and Jennifer Aniston (The Morning Show). Something tells us it won’t be Z’s last rodeo.

SNUB: Modern Family’s final season didn’t get a hug

According to Ty Burrell himself, ABC’s long-running family comedy ended with a serious case of the waterworks. And the show’s cast and crew are probably tearing up again at the lack of any Emmy love for its farewell season. The once dominant series only picked up three nominations, including a posthumous Guest Actor nod for Fred Willard.

SURPRISE: What We Do in the Shadows emerges in Best Comedy

'What We Do in the Shadows' was a surprise Emmy nominee (Photo: Russ Martin/FX)
What We Do in the Shadows was a surprise Emmy nominee. (Photo: Russ Martin/FX)

The Emmys aren’t exactly known for rewarding cult or fringe comedies, which makes the emergence of What We Do in the Shadows in the Best Comedy race one of the morning’s biggest shockers. Based on Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s hilarious 2014 mockumentary of the same name, the series — which moves its dry and absurd take on modern-day vampires from New Zealand to Staten Island, natch — has gotten great reviews across the board, but it hasn’t quite sank its teeth into the zeitgeist like category competitors Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Good Place, Insecure, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Schitt’s Creek. Here’s where the Emmys decision to expand its two main races to eight nominees pays some sweet and immediate dividends.

SURPRISE: Ramy continues awards hot streak, becomes first Muslim-American sitcom to score Emmy noms

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: Writer Ramy Youssef attends the Hulu's "High Fidelity" New York premiere at Metrograph on February 13, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Ramy Youssef attends the Hulu's High Fidelity New York premiere at Metrograph on Feb. 13, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Every once in a while, the Golden Globes play trendsetters. In one of the biggest shocks of January’s telecast, Ramy star Ramy Youssef upset Michael Douglas, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd and Ben Platt to take home Best Actor, Musical or Comedy, with the winner himself acknowledging many viewers likely had no idea who he was. The Emmys have followed suit, nominating the emerging star of the critically acclaimed dramatic comedy — about a first-generation Egyptian-American balancing his Muslim faith with the temptations of a New Jersey secular lifestyle — in Best Actor, Comedy. Season 2 newcomer Mahershala Ali also scored a nod in the supporting race as Ramy makes history by becoming the first Muslim-American comedy to land Emmy love.

SNUB: Awkwafina won’t be an Emmy winner from Queens

Earlier this year, Awkwafina made history as the first Asian-American actress to win a Golden Globe Award for best actress. Unfortunately, she won’t be accomplishing a similar feat at the Emmys. The Ocean’s 8 scene-stealer-turned-comedy superstar missed out on a nomination for her Comedy Central show, Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens. To date, no Asian-American actress has been nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. In fact, only two performers of Asian descent have taken home acting Emmys: The Good Wife’s Archie Panjabi won Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2010, and Riz Ahmed scored an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie statue for The Night Of in 2017.

SNUB: HBO Max got maxed out

As New Coke was to Coca-Cola Classic, the recently launched HBO Max struggled to emerge from HBO Classic’s shadow. Even with some serious star power in its arsenal — including Anna Kendrick in Love Life and Jameela Jamil holding court on Legendary — the new streaming service couldn’t attract the attention of voters. It was the only major streaming service to be left out in the cold: Disney+, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Apple TV+ were all recognized as was — wait for it — Quibi.

SURPRISE: Quibi scored some Emmy love

That’s right, the much-lampooned mobile streaming service can officially bill itself as the “Emmy-nominated Quibi.” Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s brainchild earned 10 nominations in various short-form categories, with both Most Dangerous Game and Reno 911! nabbing spots on the Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series list. And while Love Life was overlooked, Kendrick’s Quibi show, Dummy, earned her an Outstanding Actress nomination.

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards airs on Sunday, Sept. 20 on ABC.

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