15 Emmy-Nominated Dramas To Watch Before The Awards Show

by Ani Bundel

The Primetime Emmys annual awards presentation is sure to be one for the history books. Unlike the Golden Globes and Oscars, which run on a January-December schedule, the Emmys run June-May, following the old schedule of a television season. This meant the Television Academy moving its awards show to accommodate the current coronavirus pandemic was not as feasible as it might be for other awards-slinging organizations. Instead, the Emmys will be virtual this year. But the shows they celebrate aren't any less fantastic. These 2020 Emmy-nominated drama series are some of television's best offerings from the last year and so worth checking out.

Unfortunately, the Emmy drama category does not have the limited series nominations turnover, which is comprised of one-and-done shows. But it does have some more play than the comedy nominations, which remain mostly stagnant year-to-year unless an Emmy darling goes off the air. That makes the drama group a category that's a mix of brand new shows and returning favorites, and one of the few places where the Emmys can genuinely surprise industry watchers with their choices.

This year is no exception. Some nominations are for shows that have been garnering nods since 2011; others have earned spots for the first time. All are worth binging ahead of the Primetime Emmys ceremony on Sept. 20.

'Better Call Saul'

Better Call Saul's fifth season landed four nods total. It is nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, and it has a nod for Outstanding Supporting Actor for Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring.

The show also landed two nods for Outstanding Writing. Gordon Smith landed a nomination for Episode 8, "Bagman," and Thomas Schnauz for Episode 9, "Bad Choice Road."

'Big Little Lies'

Big Little Lies' second season didn't get nearly the Emmy love of Season 1. But, Laura Dern still earned an Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role as Renata, and Meryl Streep was nominated in the same category for her turn as Mary Louise.

'The Crown'

Season 3 of The Crown has a completely new cast, so landing an Outstanding Drama Series nod is especially sweet. The show has six nominations altogether. Olivia Colman landed Outstanding Lead Actress for her performance as Elizabeth II, which Claire Foy won last year. Helena Bonham Carter also landed an Outstanding Supporting Actress nod for her take on Princess Margaret, following in Vanessa Kirby's footsteps.

The Crown also landed nods for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for Episode 3 "Aberfan," and another directing nod for the season finale, "Cri de Coeur."


Despite being HBO's youngest-skewing hit in history, the Television Academy mostly snubbed newcomer Europhia in its inaugural season. One performance they couldn't ignore though: Zendaya, who was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress for her turn as Rue Bennett.

'The Handmaid's Tale'

Since its arrival on Hulu, The Handmaid's Tale has been an Emmy darling. Though Elisabeth Moss was overlooked for a third outstanding Lead Actress nomination, the show still landed in the top of the heap Outstanding Drama Series category.

Plus, there are a pair of Supporting Actor and Actress nominations. The former goes to Bradley Whitford as Commander Joseph Lawrence and the latter to Samira Wiley as Moira, both for their performances in the season's penultimate episode, "Sacrifice."


The American spy-thriller Homeland took 2019 off, but it's back for 2020 with Season 8 and an Emmy nomination. Though its days of Outstanding Drama Series nominations seem to be over, the series still garnered an Outstanding Directing nod for Lesli Linka Glatter for her work on the season finale, "Prisoners of War."

'Killing Eve'

Killing Eve has been an Emmy favorite since Season 1, and this year the show has four nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series.

There are also two Outstanding Lead Actress nominations for Oh and her co-star Jodie Comer, who plays Villanelle. Killing Eve also landed an Outstanding Supporting Actress nod for Fiona Shaw, as Eve's boss Carolyn Martens.

'The Mandalorian'

Perhaps the biggest shocker of the Drama category, Disney+'s The Mandalorian marks the first time a Star Wars series has gotten major love at the Emmys. The show's inaugural season landed a stunning 15 nominations, though, to be fair, 14 are nominations relegated to the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony held the week before the Primetime show.

Still, The Mandalorian did get an Outstanding Drama Series nod, which, as one of the night's main awards, is a remarkable feat.

'The Morning Show'

That The Mandalorian got an Outstanding Drama nod and The Morning Show didn't is a tale of two streaming services — the stuff that, well, Outstanding Dramas are made of. But Apple's campaigning was not for naught, since The Morning Show landed five major nods. Jennifer Aniston received an Outstanding Lead Actress nom for her turn as Alex Levy and Steve Carell got an Outstanding Lead Actor nom for his portrayal of Mitch Kessler.

The Morning Show also got two Best Supporting Actor nods for Mark Duplass as Chip and Billy Crudup as Cory. Plus, the series scored an Outstanding Directing nod for Mimi Leder for The Morning Show's finale episode "The Interview."


Ozark has been a sleeper awards show hit for Netflix, quietly building up cred in the Television Academy as it has gone on. Season 1 only got a couple of nods, and Season 2 a few more. But Season 3 has wound up with a slew of nominations, nine altogether, starting with Outstanding Drama Series.

Ozark's third season also landed an Outstanding Actor nod for Jason Bateman as Marty Byrde, an Outstanding Actress nod for Laura Linney as Wendy, and an Outstanding Supporting Actress nomination for Julia Garner as Ruth.

Ozark also has two Outstanding Directing nominations for Ben Semanoff for Episode 6, "Su Casa Es Mi Casa," and another for Alik Sakharov for Episode 9, "Fire Pink." "Fire Pink" also has a writing nod for Miki Johnson, plus two more, John Shiban for Episode 4, "Boss Fight," and Chris Mundy for the Season 3 finale, "All In."


Pose Season 1 made waves when Billy Porter took home Outstanding Lead Actor for his role as Pray-Tell. Season 2 looks for a repeat, with Porter getting his second consecutive nomination in the category, for his performance in Episode 6, "Love’s in Need of Love Today."

'Stranger Things'

Stranger Things has been a consistent Emmy nominee darling since it arrived back in 2016. Season 3 continues the streak, with the show getting nominated for Outstanding Drama Series for a third time.


Succession Season 2 has 10 nominations, starting with an Outstanding Drama Series nod and two Outstanding Lead Actor nominations for Brian Cox as Logan Roy and Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy.

There are four Outstanding Supporting nominations, one for Outstanding Supporting Actress for Sarah Snook as Shiv, and three Outstanding Supporting Actor noms, for Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy, Matthew Macfadyen as Tom, and Nicholas Braun as Greg.

On top of that, Succession has two Outstanding Directing, one for Andrij Parekh for Episode 3, "Hunting," and the other for Mark Mylod, for the season finale, "This Is Not for Tears." "This Is Not for Tears" landed an Outstanding Writing nod for Jesse Armstrong as well.

'This Is Us'

The only broadcast network show to gain entry into the Drama derby, This Is Us Season 4 marks the first time the show isn't in the Outstanding Drama Series hunt. But Sterling K. Brown landed his usual Outstanding Lead Actor nod for Randall, for the episode "After the Fire."


Finally, HBO's Westworld rounds out the world of Emmy dramas, with a pair of acting nominations. Thandie Newton has an Outstanding Supporting Actress nod for her work as Maeve in Episode 2, "The Winter Line," and Jeffrey Wright got a Supporting Actor nod for his performance as Bernard Lowe for the season finale, "Crisis Theory."

The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be held on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.