HBO's Watchmen leads the 2020 Emmy Awards nominees list with a total of 26 nominations, the most of any program. While it's not at all surprising to hear that HBO is leading the way in nominations for prestigious awards, it is a novel thing to see a comic book TV show honored with such prestigious favor. However, Watchmen has inadvertently become a timely harbinger of the tumultuous year that is 2020. The series to a hard look at how racial hostilities and corruption in policing and the government sees America nearly overrun by a white supremacist uprising. In that context, Watchmen understandably deserves recognition for having its finger so squarely on the pulse.
Watchmen scored three big Emmy Awards category noms: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (for Jeremy Irons); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie (for Jean Smart); and Outstanding Limited Series.
Frank Scherma, chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, made it clear during the Emmy Nominations announcements that the events of 2020 have definitely influenced the nominees list: "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,"
As stated, Watchmen was ahead of its time in terms of putting a microscope up to modern-day America, and the darkness lurking in its cultural underbelly. At the time Watchmen premiered (in that ancient world of fall 2019), fans' biggest concern was how the show would (or would not) honor the legacy of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' landmark comic series. However, Watchmen quickly jumped out of the comic book page and into some very real socio-political commentary, offering a vision of America where police relations have gotten so bad that cops operate as masked, anonymous enforcers; the world lives in fear of an alien psychic plague; and white supremacists (in policing and politics) hatch a plot to achieve supreme power, in their would-be reclamation of America. On top of all that, we got a beautiful evolution of the classic Watchmen story, which opened powerful new doors of modern storytelling.
Of course, Watchmen's influence went far beyond just predicting the bubbling powder kegs in America's veins, which were about to explode: From its very first frames, the series also helped inspire a real-life social revolution. Watchmen's opening sequence depicted the horrific events of the Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Massacre - a real-life historical event that many Americans never even heard about, before watching Watchmen. Tulsa has since become a major focal point of the renewed conversation around American race relations and the pursuit of social justice. In other words: Watchmen achieved the kind of real-life change the Emmys is looking for this year.
Watchmen is available on HBO streaming platforms.