The year-end TV nominations for 2020 will surely be impacted by a number of production delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Fewer programs will be eligible than in the past, which may lead to openings for other series that haven’t been recognized to break through and earn a spot. The window has been extended through the end of February 2021, so it’s always possible a few series that aren’t yet slated to return or premiere could do so by then.
The 26-year history of the SAG Awards offers plenty of clues for what to expect. Like the corresponding drama category, it took a while for cable series to be included. Remember WENN, from AMC, earned a solo bid in 1996 for its first season and part of its second, and Sex and the City, from HBO, earned the first of its five consecutive nominations in 2000. For SAG’s first decade, it was rare for the first slate of episodes of any show to be honored, though Cybill, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Ally McBeal all achieved that distinction. It became much more commonplace beginning in 2004, with broadcast television series Desperate Housewives, My Name is Earl, Ugly Betty, Glee, and Modern Family all pulling it off before 2010.
SAG voters tend to stick with shows longer than Emmy voters, with Desperate Housewives earning five bids here versus just one there and Orange is the New Black nabbing four compared to two at the Emmys (the second of which was on the drama side). Only two broadcast shows have managed to earn a farewell nomination for their final half-year of episodes – Everybody Loves Raymond for eight installments in 2005 and 30 Rock for its final five in 2013.
Consistency is usually key, with a few exceptions. Friends won this prize for a combination of season one and two episodes in 1995 and then returned to the category in 1998 for the first of six consecutive bids. Curb Your Enthusiasm, which frequently takes years-long breaks between seasons, was nominated in 2005, 2009, and 2017, for its fifth, seventh, and ninth iterations, respectively.
Aside from its first few years, onetime nominations are rare. Sports Night, My Name is Earl, Hot in Cleveland, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are the freshman exceptions, while Nurse Jackie, Key and Peele, and Transparent were honored further into their runs. There’s also the case of Atlanta, which contended for its second season in 2018 and still hasn’t returned with new episodes, though it’s likely it will be nominated again when it does. Technically, Boston Legal is also a onetime nominee, but that’s only in this category – it earned three more bids after being reclassified as a drama in 2006.
There are two other shows only nominated once, and one is sure to return, while the other can’t. Schitt’s Creek first made the cut last year for season five, and after its historic Emmy sweep, it would be the surprise of the century if it didn’t return for its sixth and final season. Fleabag, which was ignored for season one, was up for season two last year and won’t return at any point (sadly).
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was snubbed for its first season but won this prize the past two years. Season four isn’t ready, so it will sit this year out, along with both Barry and The Kominsky Method, both of which haven’t yet set a premiere date for season three. That means just one show – Schitt’s Creek – can return from last year’s slate.
Curb Your Enthusiasm was actually nominated the last time it was eligible, and so season ten might be honored this year. Black-ish earned two bids, in 2016 and 2017, and has a good number of episodes from season six and the recently-started season seven that could permit it a return to this category. Two shows that ended this year, Modern Family and Will & Grace, are eligible, but neither is likely. The last time the former, an eight-time nominee and four-time winner, was cited was back in 2016 despite being on the air every year since then. The latter scored five consecutive bids from 2000 to 2004, but didn’t make the cut for either of the two years its revival has been eligible, including in 2018 when star Sean Hayes did get nominated.
Unlike the corresponding drama category, there are a number of contenders that could fill the remaining slots. Consider first the other Emmy nominees for Best Comedy Series. It’s never been nominated, but the final season of The Good Place meets the bare minimum threshold of four episodes to earn a farewell nod. Dead to Me and Insecure both broke through with Emmy voters for their second and fifth seasons, respectively, and aren’t likely to have as much success for their complete casts as their stars. What We Do in the Shadows feels like a safer bet since it’s absolutely an ensemble-driven show. Two shows Emmy didn’t go wild for, Ramy and The Great, feel like very strong possible spoilers, provided SAG voters do like them. The Politician didn’t impress at the Emmys, and while it’s very unlikely that the second season will be favored when the first wasn’t, it’s hard to argue that the show’s ensemble is not talented.
From the second half of 2020, there aren’t many contenders at all. I May Destroy You is likelier to achieve recognition for its creator and star, Michaela Coel. Ted Lasso is very popular, though similarly, praise may be reserved for its lead actor Jason Sudeikis.
In order of confidence, here are my current predictions for this category:
- Schitt’s Creek (Pop)
- The Great (Hulu)
- What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
- Ramy (Hulu)
- Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance and SXSW, and was on a series of road trips across the United States with his wife, Arielle, which he hopes to resume when travel is safe again. You can also find him at YouTube at @movieswithabe and Instagram at @movieswithabe.