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An Emmy Awards statue is seen during the 71st Emmy Awards Governors Ball press preview, in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sept. 12, 2019.

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Watchmen, cloaked in superhero mythology and grounded in real-world racism, received a leading 26 nominations Tuesday for the Primetime Emmy Awards.

The HBO series, which captured the United States’ deep unease as it faces racial and political clashes amid a pandemic, was nominated as best limited series and received bids for cast members including Regina King and Jeremy Irons.

King was part of a vanguard of actors of colour indicating that TV academy voters took heed of the social climate.

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“Zendaya!” exclaimed Emmy announcement host Leslie Jones, her gleeful reaction to the Euphoria star’s nomination as best actress in a drama. “This is a great day,” Jones said.

HBO's dystopian superhero drama Watchmen and the 1960s comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel led nominations on Tuesday for the Emmy Awards, in a list strong on diversity and fresh contenders for the highest awards in television. Reuters

She was part of a socially distanced, virtual release of nominees that was online, not on television as is usual. But nothing is usual during a coronavirus era that has brought Hollywood production to a virtual standstill and is making the Emmys and other awards grasp for alternatives.

The strong showing by Netflix’s Ozark helped the streaming service achieve a record-setting 160 nominations, besting one-time perennial leader HBO, which earned 107 nods.

Streaming newcomer Apple TV+ earned attention in its first season with Jennifer Aniston’s best drama actress bid for The Morning Show. Another streaming newbie, Disney+, saw its Star Wars franchise spinoff The Mandalorian claim a best drama nomination among its hefty 15 total nods.

The Amazon comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the second most-nominated series, with 20, followed by Ozark with 18.

“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, chairman and chief executive of the Television Academy said at the outset of the presentation.

Kerry Washington’s four nominations covered a wide range, including lead actress for Little Fires Everywhere and for her production company’s work on the limited series and other programs.

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Diversity was especially notable in the comedy categories, after being nearly absent last year.

Ramy, which finds nuanced humour in a young Muslim American’s crisis of identity and faith, earned a best actor bid for its star and co-creator, Ramy Youssef, while Issa Rae returned to the best comedy actress category for her series Insecure, which also earned a best comedy bid.

Schitt’s Creek, the quirky little show that went without Emmy recognition until last year, received 15 nominations for its final season, including for best comedy series and lead acting nods for Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara.

The Good Place, also at an end, earned a best comedy bid and, for Ted Danson, a best comedy actor nomination.

The farewell was less fond for other shows that wrapped last season, with no major bids for Modern Family, Homeland or Silicon Valley.

But the late Fred Willard received a nod for his Modern Family guest appearance. A posthumous nomination also went to director Lynn Shelton, for the limited series Little Fires Everywhere.

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“I’m so incredibly grateful that the Television Academy has chosen to honour Lynn with this very deserved nomination,” Washington said. “I know she’s celebrating in the beyond.”

The eight nods for Unorthodox, a limited series about a dissatisfied Orthodox Jewish woman, may reflect the virus-quarantine downtime that drew Emmy voters to shows they might otherwise overlook, said Daniel Feinberg, chief TV critic for The Hollywood Reporter.

A far different pop-culture phenomenon was also a likely beneficiary.

“A show like Tiger King, for example, which got a handful of nominations, it’s not really all that great, but it absolutely was the junk food that people were craving at the beginning of this quarantine period,” Feinberg said.

Joining Jones on Tuesday were presenters Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), Josh Gad (Frozen) and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black). Cox, Gad and Maslany appeared on by video feeds.

Schitt’s Creek finale provides a boatload of happy endings

Schitt’s Creek stars on the emotional end to the beloved Canadian comedy

Among the honorees whose nomination collided with current events: Brad Pitt earned a nod for a guest appearance playing Dr. Anthony Fauci on Saturday Night Live.

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  • The nominees for best comedy series are: Curb Your Enthusiasm; Dead to Me; The Good Place; Insecure; The Kominsky Method; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Schitt’s Creek; What We Do in the Shadows.
  • The nominees for best drama series are: Better Call Saul; The Crown; Killing Eve; The Handmaid’s Tale; The Mandalorian; Ozark; Stranger Things; Succession.
  • In addition to Watchmen, the nominees for best limited series are: Little Fires Everywhere; Mrs. America; Unbelievable; Unorthodox.
  • The nominees for drama series actress are: Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show; Olivia Colman, The Crown; Jodie Comer, Killing Eve; Laura Linney, Ozark; Sandra Oh, Killing Eve; Zendaya, Euphoria.
  • The nominees for drama series actor are: Jason Bateman, Ozark; Sterling K. Brown, This is Us; Billy Porter, Pose; Jeremy Strong, Succession; Brian Cox, Succession; Steve Carell, The Morning Show.
  • The nominees for lead actor in a comedy series are: Anthony Anderson, black-ish; Don Cheadle, Black Monday; Ted Danson, The Good Place; Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method; Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek; Ramy Youssef, Ramy.
  • The nominees for lead actress in a comedy series are: Christina Applegate, Dead to Me; Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me; Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek; Issa Rae, Insecure; Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish.
  • The nominees for best TV movie are: American Son; Bad Education; Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones; El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie; Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend.

A high energy Jones kicked off Tuesday’s announcement by appearing on a virtual set and joking that she was told there would be many others on set to announce the nominees, but instead she was locked in a studio with only a cameraman.

The Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be presented Sept. 20 on ABC.

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