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Emmy Nominations Offer a Grownups Guide to Good TV

Try these 11 great shows to binge or watch one at a time

Regina Kings stars in Watchmen and Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Mark Hill/HBO; Philippe Antonello/Amazon Studios

Regina King (left) in "Watchmen" and Rachel Brosnahan in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

The 2020 Emmy nominations announced this week offer an interesting guide to grownup TV watching, regardless of which shows and actors may win on Sept. 20. Among the nominees are intriguing dramas like Watchmen, with the most nominations (26), that seem prescient and particularly relevant to current times. Then there are nostalgic period pieces, such as The Crown and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, that take us back to a seemingly less complicated era through the work of incredible actors.

Of course, all the nominated shows will not be attractive to all viewers. But we see a guide to the best TV for grownups in the shows listed here:

Watchmen (26 nominations)

This masterful sci-fi fantasy, based on a 1986 DC Comics graphic novel, is about a masked superhero cop played by the incomparable Regina King, who battles white-supremacist killers in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Its themes and scenes, including disturbing flashbacks to the actual 1921 Tulsa Race Riots, could not be more resonant as social justice movements following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis continue to make headlines. It may take an episode or two to get into the story, but once in you will likely be hooked.

Watch it here: HBO, Amazon

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (20 nominations)

This is a funny and heartwarming series about a pampered, rebellious 1950s Manhattan housewife — as they used to call married women who did not work outside the home (played by the nominated Rachel Brosnahan) — who achieves her dream of becoming a nightclub comic while also discovering a lot more about what she wants from life. It's in the third season but start with the first. It's better that way, and you will meet Lenny Bruce.

Watch it here: Amazon


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Brian Cox as Logan Roy and Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy raise their hand in the courtroom in the H B O show Succession

Zach Dilgard/HBO

Brian Cox (left) and Jeremy Strong in "Succession."

Succession (18 nominations)

The adventures of the savagely nasty, double-crossing, unthinkably wealthy Roy family is addictive. Its scathing, highly intelligent satire is both hilarious and horrifying. Nominated as lead actor, Brian Cox is at the center of it all as the scary patriarch of a media conglomerate who discovers that his kids can be scary, too. This is one to binge-watch from the beginning.

Watch it here: HBO

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney star in the Netflix show Ozark

Steve Dietl/Netflix

Jason Bateman (left) and Laura Linney in a scene from Season 3 of "Ozark."

Ozark (18 nominations)

Most shows that start out strong tend to diminish with time, but Ozark got better the second year — and downright brilliant this third season. Genius actors Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, both nominated, play a couple who launder cash for a drug lord in their riverboat casino and are menaced by a cartel attorney and the FBI. It's as binge-worthy as Breaking Bad, but worth going back to Season 1 to find out how they ended up where they are today,

Watch it here: Netflix

Schitt's Creek (15 nominations)

At a time when many Americans may fear economic ruin, Emmy voters related to this delightful show about an ultrarich family who go broke and have to move into a dilapidated hotel in a teensy town they had bought on a whim. It's the only show besides Westworld to get nominations in all four acting categories (lead and supporting actor and actress): Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy — who almost quit the profession before she got the part. “I had a big snotty cry in the Pacific Ocean that I was 100 percent sure that acting wasn't for me, and the next day I got the audition for Schitt's Creek," Murphy said, “and it changed my life."

Watch it here: Pop TV

The Crown (13 nominations)

An exquisite period drama that has now featured two different superb actresses — Claire Foy and Olivia Colman — as Britain's treasured Queen Elizabeth, The Crown is as much a history lesson as it is gossipy royal drama. Colman, 46, nominated for an Emmy (Foy won in 2018), already won a Golden Globe for the part she took on in the third season — and she is formidable — but begin viewing from the first season because Foy's young Elizabeth is not to be missed.

Watch it here: Netflix

Hollywood (12 nominations)

The show mixes plenty of fantasy in its rich, fact-inspired atmospheric evocation of the seamy underside of Tinseltown's 1940s Golden Age. But it's a fascinating fable about underdogs beating the system, and you've got to see Holland Taylor as a tough studio exec, Jim Parsons as Rock Hudson's incredibly mean and closeted agent, and Dylan McDermott as a secret sexual servant to the stars.

Watch it here: Netflix

The Morning Show (8 nominations)

Apple TV earned its first Emmy kudos for its all-star $150 million flagship show about a TV news anchor (Jennifer Aniston) and her cohost (Steve Carell), who's mired by sexual misconduct allegations (a character not exclusively based on Matt Lauer). Though it startlingly failed to get a best-drama nomination, both Aniston and Carell earned kudos.

Watch it here: Apple TV

Linda Cardellini stars as Judy Hale and Christina Applegate as Jen Harding in the Netflix show Dead to Me

Netflix

Linda Cardellini (left) and Christina Applegate star in Netflix's "Dead to Me."

Dead to Me (5 nominations)

It's a dark comedy about two women neurotically bonding over highly improbable events — Judy (Linda Cardellini) helps Jen (Christina Applegate) dispose of Judy's abusive ex's body — but it's grounded in one of the most real-feeling depictions of female friendship in TV history. Both stars were nominated for Emmys for best actress, which hasn't happened for a show since Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie (2017), and the multiple acting nods for Desperate Housewives (2005) and The Golden Girls (1989).

Watch it here: Netflix

This Is Us (5 nominations)

In a year when Black actors took a record 34.3 percent of the Emmy nominations, one of the standout nominees is the much-honored Sterling K. Brown, for lead actor, in the breakthrough network hit about the lives and loves through four decades of an American family. He also was nominated for supporting actor in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Catch up on all four seasons of this must-see series.

Watch it here: NBC

The cast of Black ish

Craig Sjodin/ABC

The cast of "Black-ish."

Black-ish (4 nominations)

The show about an upper-middle-class Black family has earned 19 Emmy nominations to date, including the 2020 nods for the leads, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, as his wife, Rainbow. It's a superb family comedy-drama that tackles social issues in a way that's entertaining, often profound and so popular that it spawned two spin-offs: Mixed-ish, about Rainbow's childhood, and Grown-ish, about her daughter's college life.

Watch it here: NBC

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