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The Best TV Shows That Never Won A Single Emmy

Big award shows like the Oscars and the Emmys aren't the end all be all of determining quality entertainment, but they can be a handy metric for judging a project's success and a gratifying way to get more eyes on prestige programming. The Emmy is the official award of the Academy of Television Arts & Science, also known more simply as the Television Academy. The Emmy Awards show has been running since the late 1940s, back when television was a world apart from the way it is today. Essentially the TV equivalent of the film-centered Oscars, the Emmys have remained the top awards show for television programming.

Despite the Emmys being the top-dog awards show in its category, the Television Academy members who vote on the awards are far from infallible. Just like every entertainment award, the Emmy doesn't always go to the most deserving person or series. There are many excellent TV series out there that concluded their entire run without ever winning a single statuette. Let's take a look back at some of the best shows that never got their due from the Emmys. 

The Wire

"The Wire" is frequently hailed as the best cop show and one of the best overall shows of all time. This HBO series stands out brilliantly from the pack by taking a more nuanced and humanistic approach to the subjects of street-level crime and addiction, showcasing police, drug dealers, and everyone caught in the crossfire in equal measure. Rather than tackling a new case every episode as was the norm for cop shows of the time, "The Wire" instead focused on season-long investigations. Each season expanded the scope of the series to explore more and more of its Baltimore setting, introducing elements like local government and journalism as the show went on.

Though the level of quality of the show was through the roof, "The Wire" often didn't get the respect it deserved until years after it went off the air. The series was in constant danger of getting the ax before it was allowed to reach its conclusion, with creator David Simon telling Entertainment Weekly, "'The Wire' was canceled after Season 3, and 'The Wire' was nearly canceled again — I had to grovel and beg and plead — after Season 4." When it came time for the Emmys, "The Wire" was largely overlooked. The show was twice nominated in the writing category for a Season 3 episode and for the series finale, but it was never nominated in any other category and, of course, never won.

Flight of the Conchords

The New Zealand comedy-folk-music duo Flight of the Conchords consists of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. The kiwi duo took their musical standup act on the road and made a name for themselves internationally. After performing their act on an episode of HBO's standup comedy TV series "One Night Stand" in 2005, the network gave them a full series under the same name as their standup act, "Flight of the Conchords."

Clement and McKenzie play dumbed-down versions of themselves on the show. The standup comedy part of their lives was stripped away for the show, but their musical sides remain. The show takes the form of a half-hour sitcom with musical interludes and is notable for not only being hilarious but also for being a major career stepping stone for many talented people such as Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, Rhys Darby, and even Taika Waititi, who wrote and directed multiple episodes. "Flight of the Conchords" ran for two successful seasons before the headlining duo decided to call it quits on their own terms. The two seasons received a healthy total of 10 Emmy nominations, including three nods in the best original song category, but they never got to take one home. Their song category losses went instead to the 2009 Oscars opening number and to "Jimmy Kimmel Live," of all things.

Twin Peaks: The Return

After decades of being off the air, David Lynch resurrected his long-dormant classic television series on Showtime with "Twin Peaks: The Return." The loyal fanbase of the original series was a bit divided with the new direction of the series being considerably darker and even stranger than before, but fans of Lynch's film work were treated to a modern masterpiece. With Lynch in the director's chair for all 18 episodes, it is easy to view the series as an 18-hour-long film, as evidenced by its inclusion on cinema lists like the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound poll of the greatest films ever made, where TV projects are typically ineligible.

The original incarnation of "Twin Peaks" won two Emmys in its two seasons, but only in the technical costuming and editing categories. "Twin Peaks: The Return" was a major contender at the 2018 Emmys, racking up a worthy total of nine nominations. Sadly, the show lost in every category to series like "Genius," "The Handmaid's Tale," and "American Crime Story." Though the show was nominated in the writing and directing categories, it was snubbed altogether in the overall Outstanding Drama Series category and in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series with star Kyle MacLachlan being entirely overlooked for his astounding performance in multiple lead roles throughout the season.

Better Call Saul

For as big of a cultural phenomenon as it is, "Better Call Saul" never managed to take home an Emmy win. As a prequel series to "Breaking Bad," which is often hailed as the best or one of the best TV shows ever made, "Better Call Saul" had massive shoes to fill from the get-go. Against all odds, the series met or surpassed all expectations, and there are valid debates over which series was better.

"Breaking Bad" won an impressive 16 Emmys throughout its five seasons, but "Better Call Saul" didn't land a single win. Always the bridesmaid never the bride is a sentiment that rings true for this series, as it was nominated every season without ever taking one home. The show amassed a staggering 46 Emmy nominations in various categories but always came up just shy. Bob Odenkirk alone has been nominated for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy five times. Odenkirk is an Emmy winner, just not for "Better Call Saul." His two Emmys came for his work as a writer on "The Ben Stiller Show" and "Saturday Night Live."

Oddly, there was an Emmy-winning "Better Call Saul," but it wasn't the main series. The spin-off mini-series "Better Call Saul: Ethics Training With Kim Wexler" won the Emmy for Best Short Form Comedy or Drama Series in 2020.


"Mindhunter" is a Netflix original series about two FBI agents (Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany) who interview serial killers and develop the cutting-edge field of criminal profiling to advance and modern the tactics of the bureau. The series was created by Joe Penhall and was largely defined by the style and aesthetic of David Fincher, who directed seven out of the show's 19 episodes including the pilot. Though it was hailed by many as one of the best modern television shows during its brief two-season run, "Mindhunter" was largely overlooked when it came to accolades.

The series was only nominated for one Emmy each season, and neither nomination was in the major writing, directing, or overall Outstanding Drama categories. Cameron Britton received the show's first nomination for his memorable guest appearance as Ed Kemper, and the second season's nomination went to DP Erik Messerschmidt for single-camera cinematography. For the past couple of years, the fate of "Mindhunter" has been up in the air. The potential for a third season had left the door open for the show to return and possibly make a strong showing at the Emmys. Unfortunately, Fincher recently confirmed that Netflix considered the series too expensive to be worth pursuing further, dashing the show's hopes of ever taking home an Emmy win (via IGN).


"Luther" is a British detective series that has aired new episodes sporadically since 2010. The titular character is played by Idris Elba, and his busy schedule as an international superstar has made it difficult to produce the series consistently, but it is a beloved role that he has always returned to. The last installment of the TV series aired in 2019, but Elba is reprising the role again in the 2023 film "Luther: The Fallen Sun."

Across the five seasons of "Luther," the show has racked up 11 Emmy nominations, but not a single win. These 11 nominations all went to the show's first four seasons, with the fifth season being ignored by the Television Academy. The nature of the show's short seasons and the gaps in between them has led to "Luther" being categorized as a mini-series—or even as a TV movie in the case of the two-part fourth season—rather than being classified as a regular dramatic series. Elba himself was nominated four times for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series Emmy but he lost to Barry Pepper for "The Kennedys," Kevin Costner for "The Hatfields & McCoys," Benedict Cumberbatch for "Sherlock," and Courtney B. Vance for "American Crime Story," respectively.  

The Good Place

The brilliant NBC sitcom "The Good Place" stood out from the pack of cable TV comedies. The series began the high-concept premise of a unique presentation of heaven/hell and only continued to push its ideas and complicated plot lines further and further with every season. The exploration of the afterlife and ethical dilemmas lent the show a high-brow appeal while its goofy sense of humor kept the series hilarious at every turn.

"The Good Place" was recognized at the Emmy Awards with 12 nominations but never managed to seal the deal in any of its categories. The first season was overlooked by the Television Academy, but from the second season on, the show began earning more nominations each year. These 12 nominations included an Outstanding Comedy Series nod in both of its final two seasons, which went to "Fleabag" and "Schitt's Creek" instead. "The Good Place" creator Mike Schur previously won two Emmys for his work on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Office."

Peaky Blinders

"Peaky Blinders" is a gangster series set in England in the early 1900s. The title refers to the name of the gang run by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his brothers. Though it is positioned as a Netflix original in the U.S., "Peaky Blinders" aired as a BBC series in its home country, making it an international venture. The show met a premature end in 2022 with the release of Season 6 after it was previously planned to run for seven seasons, but an upcoming "Peaky Blinders" film will continue the story, and series creator Steven Knight has left the door open for more films or spin-offs to keep the world of the show alive.

For as well-received and highly praised as "Peaky Blinders" was throughout its six seasons, the show was surprisingly 100% ignored by the Television Academy. The Emmys are most directly focused on U.S. television series, but plenty of shows made in other countries have been nominated and won at the Emmys, including other international Netflix shows such as "Squid Game." The total absence of Emmy recognition for "Peaky Blinders" seems like a glaring oversight by the Television Academy and had plenty of fans calling it a major snub.  

The Boys

The Amazon Prime original series "The Boys" is an adaptation of the comic book series by Garth Ennis. The show is a satire of the superhero genre that paints the glorified heroes as evil when outside of the public spotlight. A group of vigilantes known as "The Boys" fight back against their superpowered adversaries. Though the show only started relatively recently, it has already cracked the top 100 highest-rated TV shows of all time on IMDb.

The first season of "The Boys" earned just one Emmy nomination in the technical category of Outstanding Sound Editing. It wasn't until the second season that the series began getting a lot of love at the Emmys. Season 2 of "The Boys" earned five Emmy nominations, including in the writing and Outstanding Drama Series categories. The Season 2 finale "What I Know" was the specific episode highlighted at the Emmys in the writing and sound mixing categories. The six nominations so far haven't turned out in their favor, but since "The Boys" remains ongoing, it is possible that the show could turn its losing streak around and eventually take home an Emmy or two.

Nathan for You

Before Nathan Fielder took the world by storm and blew millions of minds with the HBO series "The Rehearsal," he first amassed a loyal fanbase through his Comedy Central series "Nathan for You." Using a similar unscripted comedy style, "Nathan for You" followed Fielder as he implemented wild ideas and strategies for small businesses. As the series progressed into its later seasons, the scope of the show began expanding. Episodes like "Dumb Starbucks" made national news before they even aired, with Fielder frequently blurring the lines of reality and artifice in mind-boggling ways.

For as cutting edge and genius as the series was, "Nathan for You" never received a single Emmy nomination. Fielder released a video on his personal YouTube channel titled "Can the Emmys Be Hacked?" around the time of the show's final season. He begins by saying, "This year, I have a pretty good chance of getting a nomination and likely a win," before going on to cast doubt on the integrity of the Emmys' voting process. With the help of an election security expert, Fielder breaks down exactly how somebody could hack the Emmys and determine the outcome of the awards. In doing this, Fielder cleverly implies a way his fans could theoretically help him win while also insinuating that if he doesn't win, then it was rigged against him. When the Television Academy saw his video, they released a statement saying, "We are quite confident in the security of our site," but declined to be interviewed on the subject, per The Washington Post.


"Narcos" landed on Netflix in 2015 and quickly became one of the streamer's most acclaimed pieces of original programming. The series follows two DEA agents (Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook) as they work to take down Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) and the Medellin Cartel, and later on the Cali Cartel. The show ranks highly on IMDb's user-generated list of the highest-rated shows of all time and received heaps of critical praise across its three seasons, but hardly received any love at all with the Emmys.

The series earned three Emmy nominations, but two of those were for the opening credits sequence only, with the third going to the editing of the episode "Descenso." All three nominations were for the first season of "Narcos," with the second and third seasons of the show being ignored entirely by the Television Academy. The spin-off follow-up series "Narcos: Mexico" met a similar fate. Again, the series was extremely well-received and again never took home an Emmy. "Narcos: Mexico" was 100% ignored by the Emmys throughout its three seasons and never even earned a single nomination.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

FX's long-running comedy series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" attracted a strong fanbase and earned a reputation as one of the most consistently hilarious shows on television. With 15 seasons in the bag and more on the way, "It's Always Sunny" has enjoyed a volume-to-quality ratio that most shows can only dream of. The core premise of a group of terrible friends and relatives running an Irish pub is extremely simple, but that simplicity allows the talented cast to go wild on a wide variety of plots and touch on all manner of controversial subject matter.

Despite all its praise and longevity, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" has only received three Emmy nominations in the entirety of its 15 seasons. Even those three nominations are not in any of the categories you might expect. Rather than being recognized in the Outstanding Comedy or writing categories, or for any of the hilarious cast members, all three of the show's nominations have been in the Outstanding Stunt Coordination category for coordinator Marc Scizak in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Scizak also works on many blockbusters, including film and television content for Marvel. It seems that the Television Academy voters might just not share the dark sense of humor of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."