Sunday, September 6, 2020

'Watchmen' and 'Unbelievable' lead nominees about politics and government at the 2020 Television Critics Association Awards

At the end of It's Saturday night, so here are the 15 Emmy nominations for 'Saturday Night Live', I told my readers, "I'm shifting focus to the Television Critics Association Awards for tomorrow's Sunday Entertainment feature. Stay tuned." It's tomorrow, so here is the summary paragraph from the 2020 TCA Award Nominations.
“Watchmen” and “Unbelievable” lead all programs with four nominations apiece and find themselves in direct competition in three out of four categories. “Watchmen” seeks to secure wins for Outstanding New Program, as well as for series star Regina King who will face off against “Unbelievable” standouts Kaitlyn Dever and Merrit Wever in the Individual Achievement In Drama category. The two series will meet again as they vie for accolades in Outstanding Achievement In Movie Or Miniseries and the prestigious Program Of The Year award.
Both "Watchmen" and "Unbelievable" examine politics and government through the lens of law enforcement. "Watchmen" views crime and punishment using a fantastic and futuristic perspective (even though it takes place in 2019, it's not our 2019), while "Unbelievable" based its story on real events. They're not alone, as all of the nominees for Program of the Year have politics and government as important, if not central components, of their plots and settings.
"Better Call Saul" – AMC
“Mrs. America” – FX on Hulu
“Schitt’s Creek” – Pop TV
“Succession” – HBO
“Unbelievable” – Netflix
“Watchmen” – HBO
The protagonists of "Better Call Saul" are lawyers, not government employees, but they work in courtrooms and deal with law enforcement, so a government function plays an important part in the show. "Mrs. America" explicitly portrays actual politicians and activists, so it is expressly about politics and government. Finally, both "Schitt's Creek" and "Succession" concentrate on family dynamics, "Schitt's Creek" as comedy and "Succession" as drama, but politics and government contibute important, if secondary, plot elements. The Mayor of "Schitt's Creek" is an important supporting character and the female lead, Catherine O'Hara as Moira Rose, runs for town council and wins the seat. Rupert Murdoch and his children helped inspire the family in "Succession" and the Murdochs are as much about politics as they are about media. As I wrote above, all the nominees for Program of the Year portray politics and government in some way. As for which will win, I'm hoping it's "Watchmen," the one speculative fiction nominee, but it could just as easily be "Unbelievable."

"Watchmen" is also nominated in the next category.
"The Great" – Hulu
"The Mandalorian" – Disney+
"The Morning Show" – AppleTV+
"Never Have I Ever" – Netflix
"Watchmen" – HBO
"Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist" – NBC
"The Great" is the other series primarily about politics and government among the nominees for Outstanding New Program besides "Watchmen." It portrays the story of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia as a comedy. Both the Galactic Republic and the remnants of the Galactic Empire, which will eventually become the First Order, appear in "The Mandalorian" with the agents of the government of the Dark Side promising to play an important part in the second season. "The Morning Show" and "Never Have I Ever" examine social issues, the former through the news and the latter in an immigrant family, but both have political issues making cameo appearances. "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" is probably the least political of all the nominees in this category, but it has a strong fantasy element, making it the third speculative fiction contender for this award alongside "The Mandalorian" and "Watchmen." The Star Wars fan in me would like to see "The Mandalorian" win, but I think "Watchmen" will win instead. I won't be disappointed if it does. As for "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist," it has already won an Emmy for Outstanding Choreography for Scripted Programming," the one category in which the show was nominated. Congratulations!

Two nominees for Program of the Year earned nominations in the next category.
"Better Call Saul" – AMC (2019 Winner in Category)
“The Crown” – Netflix
“Euphoria” – HBO
"The Good Fight" - CBS All Access
"Pose" – FX
"Succession" – HBO
How helpful of the Television Critics Association to remind everyone that "Better Call Saul" was last year's winner! It saved me the trouble. Its main competition will likely be the other Program of the Year nominee "Succession." The rest of the nominees all deal with politics and government in some way, some more directly than others. "The Crown" continues its dramatization of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II with a new cast. "The Good Fight" resumed this season with less of a focus on resisting Trump and more on other political issues. While it made for a refreshing change of subject, I thought the season was the weakest so far. It didn't help that the final episode ended on a dick joke about Jeffrey Epstein. Yes, really. "Pose" explores the politics around the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. "Euphoria" is the least overtly political of the nominees, but the setting is East Highland High School, a public institution, so a government facility is the setting. Remember, public education, like law enforcement and the military, is part of government.

One of the nominees in the next category is also a nominee for Program of the Year and it's competing against a returning winner.
"Better Things" – FX
"Dead to Me" – Netflix
"The Good Place" - NBC (2018 Winner in Category)
"Insecure" – HBO
"Schitt's Creek" – Pop TV
"What We Do in the Shadows" – FX
As the Television Critics Association notes, "The Good Place" won last year, but it's contending with Program of the Year nominee "Schitt's Creek" for this award. As I mentioned yesterday, both completed their final seasons, so that makes them even in that regard. As much as I want "The Good Place" to win, I suspect "Schitt's Creek" will unseat it in this category. As for the rest of the nominees, "Insecure" deals with race and other social issues, so it's the most political, while the protagonists of "Dead to Me" are dealing with the police among their many misadventures. "What We Do in the Shadows" is not political, but it is the other speculative fiction nominee besides "The Good Place" with its comedy vampires. As for "Better Things," it's a show about show business. If the actors and other Hollywood professionals were voting for these awards, it would stand a better chance. Instead, the critics are, so it doesn't have that built-in advantage.

The two most nominated shows face off in the next category, along with another Program of the Year nominee.
“Little Fires Everywhere” – Hulu
"Mrs. America" – FX on Hulu
"Normal People" – Hulu
"The Plot Against America" – HBO
"Unbelievable" – Netflix
"Watchmen" – HBO
I've already described how "Mrs. America," "Unbelievable," and "Watchmen" portray politics and government, so I'll move on to the other nominees. The most political is "The Plot Against America" about "an alternative history in which Franklin D. Roosevelt was defeated in the U.S. presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindbergh." Like "Watchmen," that qualifies it as political speculative fiction. "Little Fires Everywhere" explores social issues and includes a trial at the climax of the series, so a government function becomes a critical plot point. "Normal People," about an Irish couple, is probably the least political of the field. As for the winner, I'll repeat what I wrote for Program of the Year, "I'm hoping it's 'Watchmen'...but it could just as easily be 'Unbelievable.'" It could even be "Mrs. America" as a spoiler.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the nominees.

Six performers from shows nominated for Program of the Year appear in the next category.
Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America” – FX on Hulu
Kaitlyn Dever, “Unbelievable” – Netflix
Regina King, “Watchmen” – HBO
Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much Is True” – HBO
Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul” – AMC
Jeremy Strong, “Succession” – HBO
Merrit Wever, “Unbelievable” – Netflix
Based on previous awards experience, I would say that two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett is the favorite, followed by Oscar and two-time Emmy winner Regina King and two-time Emmy winner Merritt Wever. That written, I would not count out three-time Oscar nominee and Emmy winner as a producer Mark Ruffalo, the one actor from a show not nominated for Program of the Year, who played a set of very different identical twins in "I Know This Much Is True." As for the others, Jeremy Strong has an Emmy nomination for this role, while Rhea Seehorn's most notable wins were at the Satellite Awards. Sorry, the Saturn Awards aren't as prestigious.

All but one nominee in the next category are from shows nominated for Program of the Year, Outstanding New Program, and/or Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.
Pamela Adlon, "Better Things" – FX
Christina Applegate, "Dead to Me" – Netflix
Elle Fanning, "The Great" – Hulu
Catherine O'Hara, "Schitt's Creek" – Pop TV
Issa Rae, “Insecure” – HBO
Ramy Youssef, "Ramy" – Hulu
My pick would be Catherine O'Hara, who has multiple Emmy nominations and one win, albeit as a writer. Her main competition consists of Ramy Youssef, who won a Golden Globe and earned an Emmy nomination for this role, followed by Christina Applegate, multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominee with one Emmy win, Issa Rae, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee, and Pamela Adlon who also has a Golden Globe nomination for this role and many Emmy nominations, one of which resulted in a win for voice acting. Elle Fanning deserves the nomination, but her awards record is not as stellar as her competition.

The Television Critics Association again did me the favor of indicating the returning winner in the next category.
“A Black Lady Sketch Show” – HBO
"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" – Comedy Central
"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" –TBS
"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" – HBO (2019 and 2018 Winner in Category)
"Late Night with Seth Meyers" – NBC
"Saturday Night Live" – NBC
I've already analyzed all these nominees in For National Presidential Joke Day, I present the variety talk show nominees at the Emmy Awards and It's Saturday night, so here are the 15 Emmy nominations for 'Saturday Night Live', so I refer my readers to those entries. As for who will win the matchup between talk variety and sketch variety, I'll go with the returning winner and pick "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" to three-peat.
"60 Minutes" – CBS (2012 Winner in Category)
“Frontline” – PBS (Eight-time Winner in Category)
"Hillary" – Hulu
"The Last Dance" – ESPN
“McMillions” – HBO
"The Rachel Maddow Show" – MSNBC
Out of all the documentary nominees I examined in 'Tiger King' vs. 'McMillion$' — big cats and true crime at the Emmy Awards for World Lion Day and 'The Cave' vs. 'American Factory' — Oscar nominees and other documentaries at the Emmy Awards, I would say it's between "McMillion$" and "The Last Dance" for the most likely to win this category. That written, I don't think either will. Instead, I expect "Frontline" will win. It has the right track record and more nominations at this year's News and Documentary Emmy Awards than either "60 Minutes" or "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Now for two categories I usually skip.
"Cheer" – Netflix
“Encore!” – Disney+
“Holey Moley” – ABC
"Making It" – NBC
"Top Chef All-Stars L.A." – Bravo
"We’re Here!" – HBO
The only reason I'm including this category is that "Cheer" "follows the cheerleaders of Navarro College as they prepare for the biggest moment of their lives." Navarro College "is a public community college in Texas," so it takes place at a local government institution. Again, public education is a function of government. Because this show has six Emmy nominations, I know now which genre I'm covering next in my Emmy nominations series — reality TV. On the other hand, I don't know which of the nominees will win.
"Carmen Sandiego" – Netflix
"Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" – PBS Kids (2016 Winner in Category)
"Molly of Denali" – PBS Kids
"Odd Squad" – PBS Kids
“Wild Kratts” – PBS Kids
"Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum" – PBS Kids
Even this category has a nominee about government, sort of, "Odd Squad." It's not my favorite. That would be a tie between "Wild Kratts" and "Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum." I don't think any of them will win. Instead, I think it will be "Carmen Sandiego," which has already won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation.

That's it for the Sunday entertainment feature. Stay tuned for a celebration of Labor Day.

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