The Emmy nominations are out and the television awards season is now underway. With the golden age of TV upon us, not every show worthy of a nomination will get recognized. This year, new series like Mr. Robot have taken the awards show by storm with big time nods, while other long-time contenders like Orange Is the New Black failed to live up to its previous years. Still, other shows like FX’s The Americans surprised many viewers by finally cracking a few key categories, including recognition for best lead actor, best lead actress and best drama series. It can be hard keeping track of all the new shows that need some recognition, but just because a show wasn’t acknowledged doesn’t mean it’s bad.
Throughout the years, plenty of high quality shows have gone unnoticed. We’ve often contemplated creating an awards show of our very own just to make up for all the injustices done to the shows that didn’t get their due. In honor of all those characters that viewers are missing out on, we’ve collected the best of the best that the Emmys felt weren’t up to par. It’s time these shows get the attention they deserve. So without further ado, as good as the rest and capable of standing the test of time, these are the 20 Best TV Shows That Were Snubbed by the Emmys.
Pop culture references are typically a good way of pulling in fans with a deep knowledge of movies and television, but something sadly went astray with Dan Harmon’s Community because the audience it always intended remained out of reach. We could talk all day about the brilliant ensemble cast with characters like the egotistical Jeff Winger, the studious Annie Edison or the asocial Abed Nadir and their time spent at the open-admissions community college of Greendale, but the genius of the show is truly with the writers who spend their time crafting episodes around seemingly absurd ideas like paintball wars or animated episodes inspired by G.I. Joe.
Each episode of Community is riddled with an appreciation of every possible source of inspiration that came before it. Abed serves as the character in which every pop culture reference gets its nod. Given creator Dan Harmon’s love for all things film and television, his show is the penultimate geek’s guide to Hollywood. It’s these reasons which makes us wish the show had picked up more traction with audiences, rather than having to switch networks twice just to stay afloat. Still, the series did get one nomination in the writing category back in 2012 along with a win for animation in 2011, if that’s any comfort to the fans.
19. Bates Motel
As far as horror television goes, Bates Motel is at the top of shows you’d expect to have a big day at the Emmys. A faithful re-examination of the highly dysfunctional mother-son relationship of Norman Bates and his mother Norma, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho, sounds like the kind of bait that would lure in classic movie lovers. Instead, the series has only managed to attract one nomination for Vera Farmiga’s performance, a role which we’re sure would have earned her an Emmy during any other era of television.
Considering all the nominations American Horror Story has had over the past few years in the miniseries categories, we know that the horror genre is making a push into new territories in television. Where the genre has failed for movies, it’s managed to make a place on the small screen, so it’s a real head-scratcher why Bates Motel hasn’t skyrocketed to success by now. Freddie Highmore has certainly delved deep into the psyche of the teenage Norman in ways that weren’t explored in the movies, so the fact he hasn’t seen a nomination can only be explained by the crowded list of actors filling up the category every year. We’re not saying everybody who’s been nominated doesn’t deserve it, but wouldn’t it be nice to change it up a bit? Bates Motel is the kind of crowd-pleaser that would put a wicked smile on viewers’ faces if it managed to sneak into a few well deserved spots.
Another year gone by means another year without anyone noticing this historical time-traveling drama. Developed by Ronald D. Moore, Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a combat nurse who finds herself facing some peculiar circumstances when she’s swept back through time. Now stuck in Scotland in the year 1743, Claire is forced to marry a highland warrior by the name of Jamie Fraser and finds herself in the middle of the Jacobite rebellions.
The critical response for Outlander has been overwhelming despite the show’s lack of consideration from the Emmys. The stirring romances, soft lighting and compelling drama surrounding the war period through the first two seasons separate the series from anything else on television, making the show uniquely its own. Balfe nails the role of a woman torn between two lives separated by more than two centuries. Her heart lies with two different men and she’s caught up in a choice between them. Outlander may not sound like the kind of series to land big nods at the Emmys, but that’s exactly why it should have gotten nominated for its writing and Balfe’s compelling performance.
Premiering on SundanceTV probably didn’t help this little known series gain any traction with the Academy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to get one of the most criminally under-watched shows on television some much needed publicity. Rectify is essentially a family drama about one man’s attempt at returning to a life of normalcy after serving 19 years in prison for a crime in which he’s later exonerated. The series shows the turmoils of a small, close-knit Georgia family and the domino effect one wrong decision can have on the lives around you.
This close examination on the U.S. criminal justice system and its implications is a character study propelled by the performance of Aden Young as Daniel Holden, an outsider in a town that believes he raped and murdered a teenage girl. While we don’t see Rectify becoming a commercial hit, especially after the announcement that the show will end after its fourth season, we would settle for a few nominations just to peak the interests of potential viewers. Holden has delivered one of the most nuanced performances on television in recent memory with his quiet take on a man trying to piece his life together. A nod in the lead acting category would be rightly deserved, while maybe also considering an appreciation for the writers behind this hidden gem.
When the next season of this Showtime series rolls around, it will be entering its seventh year. For a long-running series with this high caliber a cast, you’d imagine that the show would somehow manage to luck into a few nominations, but every year this dysfunctional family comedy is left on the outside looking in. It could be that the show just isn’t high brow enough for the voters, but multiple nominations in a row for William H. Macy as the bum alcoholic father Frank Gallagher pretty much disproves that theory. So why no love for a show about a lower class group of brothers and sisters trying to make it through life in their small Chicago home?
Of all the snubs that Shameless has seen over the years, the biggest upset has to be the exclusion of Emmy Rossum for lead actress in a comedy. Rossum pretty much runs the show as the caregiver of the household, providing for her siblings and getting into one disappointing relationship after another as she tries to build a life for herself outside of taking care of everyone else. While so many other shows that have been honored with a nomination for best comedy series have teetered off over the years, Shameless has remained consistent in its quality, making it a great candidate to surprise viewers at a future Emmy show if the Academy decides to shake things up a bit.
Set inside Oswald State Correctional Facility, a level four maximum-security prison where the inmates and correctional officers struggle to get by, Oz was one of HBO’s first forays into crime dramas. The show gets its name from The Wizard of Oz and the majority of the series takes place in the experimental level four cell block, nicknamed Emerald City. Under the watch of the level four unit manager Tim McManus and the warden Leo Glynn, the inmates fight to maintain control over the drug trade and gain power through different factions.
As any prison drama of the past has shown, the inside of a cell can have an impact on the human psyche. Oz proves to be a challenging watch for viewers, often using its setting to instill feelings of claustrophobia and nihilism. Still, the show is a rewarding experience and an oddly profound depiction of life within the walls of a prison overrun with criminal activity. The cast puts up superb performances while the writing shines through as the real highlight for the series. Oz was overlooked by many HBO viewers as The Sopranos would follow soon afterward, but this drama stands on its own as an exemplar of just how dominate the premium cable network has been for more than two decades. With that in mind, we believe the show could have used a little more recognition than just a couple of nominations for the second season.
14. Orphan Black
If we’re talking about the magnitude of a performance and the toll it takes on a actor, no one has done more on this list to get an acting nomination than Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black. Maslany makes up half the cast as Sarah Manning and her many different doppelgangers. Playing clones, each with their own distinct appearance and personality, can’t be an easy feat for an actress. Take into consideration all the wardrobe changes, hair styles and small mannerism adjustments that come with each character and you’re talking about a performance that should count as multiple, so when Maslany finally landed a nomination at last year’s Emmys it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The problem was that the actress had been snubbed so many times before and with Orphan Black lacking nominations in every other category, it’s quite possible the show will continue to suffer from neglect.
When Maslany finally received her nomination, she was credited with playing six characters on the show-Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, Rachel and Krystal. It takes a lot to balance the screen time between six distinct personalities while simultaneously attributing enough differences to each individual to give them each their own unique perspective. It goes without saying that there really isn’t another show like Orphan Black on the air. Such an original concept should probably be drawing much more attention than it is, but since we can’t force people to vote for a show, we’re just going to throw our recommendation out there in hopes someone will agree with us. Fortunately, Maslany has been nominated again this year, but the writing crew who wrote each character she has managed to encapsulate continue to be ignored. With such a unique show on the air, it’s a travesty the series can’t land anything beyond an acting nod.
Admittedly, Netflix’s Daredevil would be higher on our list if it weren’t for one small thing. The show is a superhero series from Marvel, which makes it unlikely to get the bigger nominations it rightfully deserves. Still, we’re trying to right the wrongs that have happened to great shows like Daredevil, so it can’t hurt to get this heavily praised series some more attention. Even if it does get snubbed again, at least we can say we gave it our best shot.
The story of the blind crusader Matt Murdoch and his quest to cleanse the streets of Hell’s Kitchen isn’t just a tale about one man’s love for his city, it’s a tale about that man exorcising his demons and coming to grips with his own past. The highlight of the first season was truly Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Wilson Fisk, perhaps the most relatable villain in the MCU cannon to date. He is a man with a rough upbringing who turns to crime because it seemed the most befitting, but his daunting appearance doesn’t match his vulnerability and need for some semblance of normalcy in life. If anything, D’Onofrio needed a nomination, the same way Jon Bernthal could use some recognition for his turn as The Punisher in season two, but neither got any love and that’s why Daredevil makes our list.
12. Sons of Anarchy
FX has quietly been dominating television for the past few years, turning out some of cable’s highest quality dramas, but one show about a man looking to atone for the sins of his father remained a mere bleep on the radar. Kurt Sutter’s story about a man trying to correct the path of his motorcycle club in the fictional town of Charming, California began as a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but quickly became about one character haunted by a past that was never his own. Jax Teller became one of television’s most infuriating characters, jumping from one bad decision to the next as he watched his club slip from his hands.
Sons of Anarchy is full of capable cast members who know how to portray the rough and tumble finesse that comes with having been put through the ringer. It was Sutter’s wife and longtime actress Katey Sagal, however, that stole the show as the cunning, backstabbing Gemma Teller, Jax’s mother who would do anything to protect her family and the club. For seven years, Sutter maintained the show’s quality with the choices of each character becoming tougher to handle. Along the way, many Sons were lost and forgotten by the Emmys. Each episode was surprisingly poetic, but in the end there was nothing to show for it.
Since 1992 when The Silence of the Lambs took home five Academy Awards, including one for the coveted Best Picture, anything involving the cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lecter hasn’t really been on the top of awards voters’ lists. The fact that Hannibal received exactly zero nominations for its first two seasons is proof of that. Some questions have been raised about the goriness of the show and its effect on viewers, which many believe may have led to its lack of consideration in many categories, but the overall snubs for the entire cast is too much to bear even with the series’ more controversial elements.
The story of FBI profiler Will Graham, called to investigate a serial killer case in Minnesota, and the relationship he builds with his psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter is a twisted look at psychopathic murderers and the toll they can have on the fragile minded. Mads Mikkelsen does a fine job at portraying the killer without pity, playing mind games and pushing his co-star Hugh Dancy to his limit. A man of few words, Mikkelsen’s take on the iconic character is every bit as impressive as Anthony Hopkins’ version, making the performance worthy of a nomination. The entire cast goes beyond what is required to establish their twisted relationships, giving the show its gripping addictiveness which is more than enough for us to put it on our list.
A show about a U.S. Marshal relocating to his childhood home in rural Kentucky may not sound like the beginning of one of television’s best programs in recent memory, but FX came up with yet another hit with Raylan Givens and his lifelong nemesis and backwoods criminal Boyd Crowder. From the first episode, the show depicted the darker side of Harlan, a small rural town that has been overrun with drugs, guns and crooked police activity since its former glory days when the area was still a heavy hitter in the coal mining industry.
Unlike other entries on our list, we can’t say Justified was completely neglected over the years. For the series’ second season, the ensemble cast did manage to rake in some acting nominations for Timothy Olyphant’s performance as well as Walton Goggins’ turn as Boyd and even a much deserved win for Margo Martindale as the hillbilly heroin kingpin Mags Bennett. Still, the writing went unnoticed for five seasons as well as getting no love for best drama. We can’t say we’re surprised given the growing amount of high quality programming, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting to see such a well deserved show getting the cold shoulder.
9. Veronica Mars
The CW gets a bad wrap for selling shows that are admittedly for teens to its viewers, but behind all the young casting decisions are programs that can stand their own with the best of them if audiences are willing to give them a shot. A case in point would be Veronica Mars, a show about a teenage girl going to high school in the sunny California town of Neptune, where she’s forced to come into contact with the spoiled rich kids who grew up with all the privileges their money could buy. Following the death of her best friend, Veronica begins a double life as a full time student and private investigator, solving cases for the members of the community.
If you’re not convinced that Veronica Mars was a severely underrated program during its short three season run, it could help to mention that Joss Whedon – creator of Buffy and director of The Avengers – was a huge fan of the teenage sleuth show, so much so that he made a cameo on an episode to prove his devotion. Cool guest appearances aside, Kristen Bell delivered a charismatic performance as the wise-cracking Nancy Drew character solving mysteries every week. The series managed to overcome its label as a teen drama by successfully pulling off a new and intriguing whodunit every episode, keeping viewers guessing and leaving them wanting more. If you ask us, that sounds like a show that could use a nomination for both its star and the people behind the stories.
8. The Leftovers
A critics’ darling in every sense of the word, The Leftovers has painted a thought-provoking portrait of a world left devastated after the disappearance of two percent of Earth’s population. This existentialist take on a large-scale epidemic may not be in the same vein as a show like The Walking Dead which takes a much more direct approach to how the world could end, but it leaves lingering questions for the show’s characters on how to move on with their lives knowing they too could disappear at a moment’s notice with no known reason. Everyone in the series is left questioning whether the rapture is truly upon them and their lives are essentially turned upside down by the answers left hanging in the air.
As far as underrated performances go, perhaps none have been bigger than Justin Theroux’s take on Kevin Garney, the Chief of Police and father looking to keep his family together after the Departure. But even more criminally underappreciated is Carrie Coon, who is a revelation as Nora Durst, a mother and wife who lost her two children and husband to the disappearances, an occurrence which is considered unprecedented and leaves everyone feeling pity for a woman who is just looking to move on. There deserves to be some consideration for the entire crew behind The Leftovers and with the final season already fast approaching, time is running out to give this HBO series its due.
7. Battlestar Galactica
Set in the future in a distant star system after a war with a cybernetic race of robots has ravaged humanity’s home system, Battlestar Galactica isn’t exactly the kind of show that screams Emmy bait. Over its four season run, it fared pretty well during the popular awards show, bringing in nominations for it writing and directing, not to mention multiple considerations for technical awards, but one coveted nomination always eluded the series.
Critics haven’t hid the fact they believe Battlestar to be one of the greatest shows, not just of recent memory, but of all time. So with so much acclaim, where was the nomination for best drama series? While we’ll never downplay the spectacle of the show, Battlestar unfortunately fell to the same fate as so many other genre series, never quite being noticed for more than anything but it’s special effects. Apart from missing out on the top honor of the awards season, Katee Sackhoff was also robbed of any attention for her portrayal of Starbuck, the iconic heroine of the show who proves to be the heart of the series despite her tendency to drink, smoke and gamble. It can be a hard road to glory for sci-fi television, especially if that road is wrought with Cyclons. In the long run, this will be one snub the Academy will regret making.
6. The Shield
If the voters behind the Emmys could see the future, The Shield would have undoubtedly spent multiple years on top as the series to beat. Detective Vic Mackey was a prime example of corruption and brutality within the U.S. criminal justice system, a topic of conversation which has become particularly heated as of late. While Michael Chiklis was acknowledged for the first season, even going so far as to win the award for lead actor, the show’s appeal would eventually die down for the Academy.
The story of an experimental Los Angeles police division headed by a four-man strike team brought up issues concerning distrust in the officers who are meant to protect us. Vic Mackey is an anti-gang bad guy, dishing out his own form of justice if it serves his interests. His twisted sense of morality serves as the backbone of the series, giving Shawn Ryan’s crime drama a layered subtext that few other programs have been able to depict accurately. As such, The Shield should have received multiple nods for Chiklis and the rest of the outstanding supporting cast members that accompanied him. In addition, the writers and directors who did a fine job capturing the grit of the city’s unlawful protectors could’ve used a shout-out. Unfortunately, the show ended without much recognition.
5. Freaks and Geeks
High school can be tough. The time spent in those four years feel like a social experiment where teens are divided into cliques based on popularity and are asked to fit in. No series has grasped this concept better than Freaks and Geeks, the show that would go on to launch the successful careers of actors like James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel. Although the series would be canceled after a single season on the air, it managed to leave a lasting impression years later and has grown in popularity ever since.
Following a young misfit teen and his older, cooler sister, Freaks and Geeks depicted teenage life in the 80s from opposite sides of the spectrum. The show was at its finest when it freed itself up to be nostalgic, showing Apatow’s own appreciation for the nerdier things in life like Dungeons and Dragons, but other moments of revelation also accompanied the series. Anytime the nerdy outcasts managed to come together and mesh with the bad boy group, the cast exhibited the most heart. The only significant Emmy nods the show received were for its writing, but when a show proves to be as long-lasting as Freaks and Geeks, we can’t help but question if it should’ve been nominated for best comedy. If only people would have noticed the genius of the show early on, perhaps we would be talking about the show in a whole different light today.
We know audiences were only treated to one season of Joss Whedon’s space western before Fox pulled the plug, but only one nomination still feels like the Emmys had it out for the show from the beginning. We don’t know what it is, but for whatever reason Whedon continues to create some of the best series on television and they continue to be shot down for any serious awards consideration. Maybe the story of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of the Serenity protecting a young woman with telepathic abilities isn’t the kind of thing the Emmys tend to go for, but the show’s offbeat approach to the sci-fi genre should have been enough to at least warrant a little more consideration for the writers. Just imagine if the show had picked up a few more nominations, then all the fans would have had yet another reason to call for another season. Then maybe, just maybe, we could have gotten more than just a movie.
Nathan Fillion’s performance as Mal has been severely underrated. The Browncoat loyalist and rebel against the Alliance is a natural born leader and a flawed hero, making a career as a thief with the rest of his crew. While Firefly fans have come to expect disappointment when it comes to all hopes of a revival, that doesn’t mean they don’t have reason to complain about the show’s lack of success with awards shows. Despite its short time on the air, Firefly‘s 14 episode run managed to be one of the most imaginative examples of sci-fi television. Having only one nomination to its name only adds to the sting of never getting to see a new episode of television’s best cult series.
3. The Walking Dead
AMC and Robert Kirkman may have stumbled upon a gold mine when the two paired up to bring the comic book writer’s apocalyptic series to the small screen, but the past six years have not been kind to The Walking Dead in the awards department. If there’s one complaint critics of the Emmy awards have had, it’s been that some of audiences’ favorite programs have been underrepresented, especially when an episode like the cliffhanging season six finale of everybody’s favorite zombie show managed to rake in an impressive 18.4 million viewers. The show is more than just southern draws, abrupt character deaths and super cool prosthetics. It’s time to finally see more sci-fi shows making their way into the Academy’s good graces.
Notable nominations that The Walking Dead has received to date include mentions for achievement in makeup, visual effects and the use of sound, but how about a nomination for Melissa McBride as the headstrong Carol or maybe a little something for the sympathetic redneck Darryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus? Apart from the acting, there could be a serious improvement in nominating the show’s writers who have time and again proven their ability to write high intensity episodes with gripping twists while also occasionally delivering an impactful character study episode where things can get a little more personal. Either way, the show will need at least one big breakthrough nomination before we can even begin talking about a possible run at a best drama series slot.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
A single writing nomination for the season four episode “Hush” was the highlight of Joss Whedon’s hit series as far as the Emmys are concerned. The famed episode was the only one in the seven season run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to get any sort of acknowledgement for Whedon’s genius. Buffy’s spinoff Angel wouldn’t fare any better, proving TV series about vampires just don’t cut it when you’re gunning for awards. But as time will tell, the Emmys aren’t everything and the shows fans will revisit years down the road aren’t always going to be the ones that had a long career of taking home the top prizes.
The Scooby Gang are quite possibly the best written group of teenage friends in television history. Although Whedon did well to build an entertaining series around dusting vamps, his best work was when he built upon the coming of age story around Buffy and the rest of her Sunnydale crew. Along the way, there were many famous on-screen moments, including one popular lesbian kiss and Spike’s final sacrifice. The whole series was a collection of well written moments which should have gotten recognized, all led by Sarah Michelle Gellar’s performance. In the end, it was the makeup and prosthetics that got all the attention, leaving everything else feeling left out.
1. The Wire
How did this come to be? In the history of television, has a show ever garnered so much acclaim yet gone so unrecognized in almost every category imaginable? If there was ever evidence to prove awards shows are meaningless, the exclusion of The Wire from the Emmys over its five season run would be the perfect example of the Television Academy just flat out getting things wrong. From the show’s various points of view to the accuracy of the slang used by the characters in each episode, David Simon’s depiction of the drug scene in Baltimore is the best television has to offer.
We could spend our time counting all the nominations the Emmys missed out on with The Wire, but that could take up an article all its own. Instead, we’ll mention the obvious exclusions in the acting categories. Where is the nomination for Dominic West as the insubordinate detective Jimmy McNulty? How about a nomination for Idris Elba for playing Avon Barksdale’s second-in-command, Stringer Bell? And the Academy should be ashamed for never nominating the shot-gun carrying, street-level thief Omar Little. All those years and all David Simon has to show for it is two writing nominations for seasons three and five. If you ask us, The Wire was deserving of so much more. It should have gone down as one of television’s most successful award show winners. Instead, we’re left putting it at the top of our list and wondering what could have been.