The Emmys are like the Oscars for television. That’s how great everyone considers them to be. That’s the weight that they are treated with. It’s the same voters, too – the almighty, very prestigious Academy. But the thing with the Oscars is that if Robert De Niro plays a character brilliantly in a movie and doesn’t get a Best Actor nomination, it’s a great shame, because that movie has then been and gone and he’ll never get his chance again. But television is very different, just by its nature. TV shows go on for many years if they’re good and if they’re successful, so the people involved in those shows get a chance to win their TV Oscar every year of the run. Jon Hamm finally got his award for playing the deeply flawed and immensely watchable Don Draper on AMC’s period drama Mad Men in the final season – his very last chance at the gold. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for so many other terrific shows and the people involved in them, who have been snubbed and ignored by the TV Academy voters over the years. These are the 10 worst cases of snubbing in the history of the Emmy Awards.
10. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
After twelve hilarious, critically acclaimed, wildly popular seasons, the fact that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia still hasn’t gotten any Emmy Awards is getting a little ridiculous. They even made fun of it in the meta episode “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award.” It would’ve been awesome if that episode had won an Emmy – but it didn’t. It’s hard to explain the Academy’s prejudice against It’s Always Sunny. It could be that it’s a cool show that appeals to young people, while the Academy voters are very, very old and might not get it. The show has been described as “Seinfeld on crack.” Now, the original Seinfeld was showered with Emmys over the course of its nine seasons in the ‘90s, but maybe what turns the Academy off is the fact that it’s “on crack.” It is an absurd, savage, very dark piece of work. The humor of It’s Always Sunny works for a lot of people, but it is either an acquired taste or off-putting altogether. Still, it’s a great show with some terrific performances from the cast, and it deserves some love from the Academy. Could we at least get an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series award for Danny DeVito? His performance as Frank Reynolds is always so hysterically funny!
9. Hugh Laurie as Dr. House
House is a show that infuriates real life doctors and scientists and medical professionals, because there is absolutely no way that a doctor like Dr. Gregory House would ever exist. No doctor could ever possibly know everything about every disease and every medical problem – it’s just not feasible. They have specialist areas. But that’s beside the point. Never mind the blatant inaccuracies. Suspend your disbelief and you’ll see that Hugh Laurie’s performance in the role is fantastic. He’s snide and snarky and funny and engaging and endlessly watchable. He really brought a character who has been described as “a medical Sherlock Holmes” to life on the screen. And still, he didn’t win any Emmy Awards for it! He was nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series trophy a grand total of six times – in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 – and he didn’t win a single one. This is a character who was described by the Washington Post as “the most electrifying character to hit television in years,” and that was 90% courtesy of Hugh Laurie’s feisty performance in the role, and still, no Emmy for the guy. Come on, TV Academy, pull your finger out!
8. Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson
Elisabeth Moss finally got her due when she took home the gold for her turn in the timely and terrifying The Handmaid’s Tale. But she should’ve won for her performance as Peggy Olson on Mad Men. Her co-star Jon Hamm finally won his Emmy for the very last string of episodes, right before the Academy’s time ran out. One longstanding fan theory has it that the only reason why Matthew Weiner split the final season of the show into two parts spread across two years was so Hamm would have two more chances at Emmy glory – which, if it’s true, clearly paid off in the end. But even for playing the topical role of a woman being oppressed in the workplace in the 1960s and fighting her way up the male-dominated corporate ladder, Moss was never awarded an Emmy. She certainly should’ve been – a lot of fans would argue that Peggy is the second strongest character on the show, after the incomparable Don Draper. In fact, many of the best episodes of the show – including “The Suitcase,” which is widely regarded to be the finest episode of the whole series – focus on the relationship between Don and Peggy. She definitely should’ve been given an Emmy for it.
7. Star Trek: The Original Series
“Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Would you believe that Star Trek: The Original Series never won an Emmy? It was kind of like an intergalactic version of The Twilight Zone back in the ‘60s – it has certainly had that much influence on the science fiction genre. Where The Twilight Zone presented us with mind-blowing ideas and sci-fi concepts that reflected the fears and paranoia of the society of the 1960s, Star Trek: The Original Series did just that, but in outer space! The show’s episodes had themes ranging from anti-war, anti-establishment, and anti-religion to sexism, racism and nationalism. At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the show highlighted the principle of mutually assured destruction. Star Trek: The Original Series was the first TV show in America to feature an interracial kiss (between Kirk and Uhura). It was a very important series for society, and usually the TV Academy’s voters like to get political in the shows that they give awards to, so they should’ve rewarded the open-mindedness and the social boundaries broken by Star Trek.
6. Katey Sagal for literally anything she’s ever done
Katey Sagal has been involved in a lot of great TV shows over the years – literally for decades and decades, she’s been on our screens in some of the greatest and longest running shows on the air. And she’s been in a wide and varied range of stuff, too. She’s never been typecast. She’s been in comedy and drama and animation and mixtures of all three, and she’s played good guys and bad guys and morally ambiguous guys. She’s a terrifically talented lady, and the Academy voters have had ample opportunities to reward her for her work, and yet she has never nominated for anything ever. Not Sons of Anarchy, not Married…with Children, not Futurama, nothing! It’s like some sort of crime! She was the hilarious, relatable, lovable wife on Married…with Children for eleven seasons. She was funny in the kind of role that usually gets shoved in the corner, devoid of all laughs. And she also voiced Leela, who was one of the original badass women on television. She’s a master fighter with one eye and a heart of gold. And she played Gemma Teller Morrow, the formidable matriarchal character in her husband Kurt Sutter’s gritty, leather-clad biker gang version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And she was not nominated for one single Emmy in all that time. For shame!
5. The Leftovers
Despite having a title that makes it sound like a spin-off of the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs franchise, The Leftovers is actually one of the most beautiful, gut-wrenching, powerful, contemplative, and genuinely moving dramas in the history of television – and that is no overstatement. Its premise is enough to put people off, unfortunately, because it doesn’t sound like the stakes are very high. A rapture-like supernatural event has wiped out 2% of the Earth’s population. Okay, it’s only 2%. There’s no zombies, it’s not The Walking Dead – these characters are not the last people on Earth. But that’s what’s so great about it! Cities haven’t been decimated and supplies aren’t dwindling, but an event has occurred that can’t be explained by science and can’t be justified by religion. So, in the show, we get to see the psychological effects of an apocalyptic event without the physical effects. It’s very interesting. Seriously, as an original drama series on HBO, The Leftovers is a worthy successor to the likes of The Sopranos and The Wire – but it never got the love it deserved from the Emmys. The only nomination it ever got was a guest actress nod for Ann Dowd. It deserved so much more than that. And not only that – it deserved a hell of a lot more viewers, too. Listen to the critics, everybody! They know what they’re talking about! The Leftovers was a masterpiece from start to finish, but thanks to the poor ratings, there were only ever three seasons (and the third one was shortened and rushed, because HBO only begrudgingly greenlit it at the behest of protesting fans).
4. Steve Carell as Michael Scott
Steve Carell’s performance as Michael Scott was so strong, so popular, and so beloved that it made the whole show. After he left The Office during its seventh season, NBC should’ve cancelled the show right there and then, because there was no use going on without him. His “That’s what she said” jokes and his erring between being an audacious jerk and being lovably pathetic and his pitch perfect delivery of every single line of dialogue were what made the show so great. Without him, it would just be another workplace comedy (and it was, in the eighth and ninth seasons). Steve Carell’s performance is what made The Office a truly special show. His casting was described by critics as “a masterstroke,” since he took the role and just ran with it, giving the world some of the finest comedy to ever hit the scripted television medium. Michael began the show as a more or less direct copy of the David Brent character who led the British show that The Office was based on, but over the second and third seasons, Carell developed the character into a much funnier and more likable person. For that, he absolutely should’ve been awarded with some Emmys.
3. Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope
Any woman this decade who has been nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series pretty much doesn’t stand a chance, since it’s been won by Julia Louis Dreyfus literally every year since Veep began airing on HBO. But Amy Poehler seriously deserved to take at least one of those trophies home. She was nominated every year that Parks and Recreation was on the air for her bubbly, feisty, energetic, hilarious, lovable performance as the local government worker Leslie Knope, whose philosophy that the government should serve the people is an inspiration to us all. Critics always believed that Poehler’s performance as Leslie was worthy of recognition, as she was called “one of the most relatable and admirable women on television,” and she was featured on AfterEllen.com’s list of the Top 50 Favorite Female TV Characters. Poehler has been rewarded by the TV Academy for her comedic talents, but it was for her work on Saturday Night Live, not for her best stuff, which is without a doubt her turn as Leslie Knope in NBC’s satirical political mockumentary comedy Parks and Recreation. Ah, well. The Academy voters might not have loved Leslie, but at least everyone else in the world did.
2. Jason Alexander as George Costanza
Jason Alexander’s performance as George Costanza on Seinfeld didn’t slow down for one second across the entire decade that the show was on the air. He never lost it or let it falter. He always perfectly encapsulated the short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man that he was playing, every single week. Drawing on his background in theater, Alexander would deliver epic monologues about worlds colliding and finding a golf ball in a whale’s blowhole that elevated Seinfeld from network sitcom to Shakespearean heights. This is no exaggeration – Jason Alexander’s portrayal of George Costanza is genuinely some of the greatest acting of all time. He appeared alongside Julia Louis Dreyfus as early feminist icon Elaine Benes and comic genius Jerry Seinfeld playing himself and, for God’s sake, Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer! And he still managed to hold his own and shine and steal scenes. That’s an almost impossible feat. Ricky Gervais called George Costanza “arguably the greatest sitcom character of all time.” Alexander was awarded the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Male Performer in a TV Series. They couldn’t have thrown one or two Emmy his way? He deserved to win every single year that he was nominated, and they didn’t even give him one!
1. The Wire
The Wire is generally considered to be the best TV show of all time, and yet, for all the great work done by actors like Idris Elba and Michael K. Williams and Dominic West and Lance Reddick and Andre Royo and Wendell Pierce and writers like David Simon and Ed Burns and George Pelecanos, the show went home after five terrific seasons with nothing more than two measly writing nominations. Not one single Outstanding Drama Series nomination, no acting nominations, no directing nominations – let alone not a single win! A writer for Slate summed it up perfectly: “It’s like them never giving a Nobel Prize to Tolstoy. It doesn’t make Tolstoy look bad, it makes the Nobel Prize look bad.” Since The Wire has a predominantly African American cast and it focuses on an inner city urban environment, many critics have suggested that perhaps the Academy voters’ prejudice against the show was a racist one. This was satirized in the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award,” in which the characters’ bid to win the Best Bar Award mirrors their struggles to win an Emmy. Dennis makes a reference to the fact that shows with mostly black casts tend to be overlooked by the Academy voters when he says, “Black bars don’t win awards. I don’t know why, but they don’t.” Still, The Wire is regarded by many to be the greatest TV show ever made. That’s better than any precious Emmy the Academy could hand out.