Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

14 Biggest Snubs In Emmys History

One thing is always certain whenever the Emmys have their annual event: some people will not be happy. On nomination day, viewers inevitably lament the overlooked extraordinary talent. On awards night, they lament the deserving nominees who fall victim to historic upsets. But of course, the fact that worthy shows and talent don't always score a trophy makes the awards even more coveted. In a way, the oversights are all by design.

Certain omissions, though, are just too significant to overlook. It's one thing if the Emmys simply don't recognize a particular show, since not every show in contention can be acknowledged in a given awards cycle. It's quite another thing when a show that didn't win is regarded much more positively than the shows that did. The reasons for this phenomenon are varied. Even the creator of Bojack Horseman is puzzled about what should count as an upset at the Emmys and what shouldn't.

The truth is that critics of the Television Academy have always been concerned about how the organization functions, from its lack of diversity in the past to its predilection for repeat winners. Let's keep these factors in mind while we look at some of the biggest snubs in recent Emmys history.

Outstanding variety talk series: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Few late-night talk show hosts have a cult following that can match Craig Ferguson. Before Ferguson took over The Late Late Show from Craig Kilborn, it was a well-oiled and entirely formulaic machine. Then Ferguson arrived, and everything changed abruptly. Ferguson didn't have a sidekick; awkward but endearing improvised interviews took the place of stale and heavily pre-orchestrated banter, and Ferguson conveyed a refreshing self-awareness that worked beautifully with the guests and the fans.

The positive reception had a huge cultural influence. "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" continues to be hailed as revolutionary by well-known YouTube channels like Nerdwriter. Ferguson's chaotic style captivated guests and even influenced the next generation, with shows such as "The Eric Andre Show" and "Ziwe" drawing inspiration from Ferguson's loose and deconstructionist style. The show had several noteworthy episodes, but it unquestionably peaked when the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu appeared as a guest.

Unfortunately, none of these factors resulted in an Emmy award. "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" was only nominated once in the now-defunct category of outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program during its height in 2006. For what it's worth, the Desmond Tutu episode was awarded a Peabody – a little consolation for a show that deserved far more recognition throughout its 10-year existence.

Outstanding writing for drama series: Westworld Season 1

Nobody could predict where HBO's "Westworld" would go when it was initially announced. The LA Times was absolutely on the money when they expected a lot of fun with artificial intelligence, but beyond that, even they conceded that it was pretty much unpredictable. When the show finally began, fans were treated to a mind-bending odyssey. Many publications, including GQ, began to speculate on how all the narratives would tie together by the end of Season 1.

Now, it's generally quite challenging to live up to enormous expectations — just look at the final season of "Game of Thrones," for instance. The fact that "Westworld" surpassed expectations with its Season 1 finale, "The Bicameral Mind," was quite a remarkable achievement. James Hibberd described it best in his glowing Entertainment Weekly review of the episode, "The more you think about this episode, the more brilliant it is."

Though Thandiwe Newton took home an outstanding supporting actress in a drama series trophy in 2018 and "Westworld" has garnered a pile of Emmy nominations overall, the show is a little light on Emmy wins that don't involve makeup, hairstyling, or special effects. Two of the nominations "Westworld" secured at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2017 went to Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for directing and writing "The Bicameral Mind," but those noms didn't translate into Emmy triumphs. Regardless, "The Bicameral Mind" remains a masterclass in not only how to conclude a sci-fi season, but how to close any season of any genre. It manages to address all of the previous episodes' questions while simultaneously posing entirely new ones.

Outstanding writing for comedy series: The Soup Nazi

Every "Seinfeld" episode follows the gang as they struggle to adapt their antisocial tendencies into ordinary regular settings. This somewhat predictable yet constantly hilarious approach made "Seinfeld" one of the '90s most popular sitcoms. However, a few episodes are tremendous enough to stand out from the pack, like "The Soup Nazi."

The episode's plot is fairly basic — the gang discovers a new soup eatery, but the owner insists that customers be on their best behavior, or else they will get no soup. The episode is as humorous as any other episode of the show, but its overall impact on both the entertainment and real worlds probably surpasses that of any other individual "Seinfeld" episode. For instance, the Soup Nazi's catchphrase, "No Soup for You," sparked a feud between Larry Thomas, the actor who played the Soup Nazi, and gun manufacturer Serbu when the latter used a modified version of "No Soup for You" on t-shirts without any permission. Thomas also reprised the role for a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl and on a handful of other occasions.   

The show did receive a few nominations for the exceptional episode, but it did not win. Plenty of "Seinfeld" episodes won Emmys over its run as the quintessential sitcom of its era, but arguably no episode deserved a win more than "The Soup Nazi."

Outstanding actor in a drama series: Hugh Laurie for House

"House" is a one-of-a-kind contribution to television's lengthy history of medical dramas. But unlike other takes of the genre, this one examines it with the lead doctor playing a Sherlock Holmes-inspired role; every episode's plot treats the patient's unique illness like a mystery.

According to USA Today, Hugh Laurie impressed the casting directors so much during his audition for the iconic role of Gregory House that one of the show's executive producers told the show's creator that Laurie was precisely what he was looking for — an American guy. Little did he know, Hugh Laurie was actually a British citizen. He was so skilled that he even tricked his own crew. But it wasn't only the accent that wowed audiences — Laurie received widespread praise from reviewers, with Tom Shales noting in The Washington Post that Laurie's performance produced "The most electrifying new main character to hit television in years." This is astounding, considering that the show aired during the primes of James Gandolfini on "The Sopranos," Kiefer Sutherland on "24," and Michael C. Hall in "Dexter."

Laurie received multiple significant accolades as a result, including two Golden Globes and two Screen Actors Guild awards. On the other hand, an Emmy is noticeably absent from his CV. Despite being nominated for best leading actor in a drama series six times, he didn't win once. Sometimes not winning might be due to constantly being in an overly competitive category. Even still, Laurie's lack of an Emmy for "House" remains a regrettable snub.

Outstanding actress in a drama series: Carrie Coon for The Leftovers

Throughout "The Leftovers'" run, the show gets weirder, sadder, more engrossing, and maybe even more hopeful over the course of its three seasons. The central premise of the show is society reacting to an inexplicable event known as The Departure in which 2% of the world's population vanishes. We follow a group of people who were impacted differently by the occurrence. Most shows would focus on unraveling the mystery of what caused The Departure, but "The Leftovers" focuses on how this tragedy affected people who remain behind. (And maybe it also unravels the mystery ... or does it?) 

Critics singled out pretty much every aspect of "The Leftovers" as a highlight, cementing Damon Lindelof as a television powerhouse with his "Lost" follow-up project. Carrie Coon's performance in particular garnered unequivocal praise. IGN called her "pivotal and amazing." Coon was primarily involved in the theatre scene at the time and had only recently made her screen breakthrough with "The Leftovers." Nonetheless, the audience was pulled to her nuanced portrayal of Nora Durst, an exceptionally unlucky person whose husband and children all disappear in The Departure.

Despite critical praise, "The Leftovers" didn't garner the large viewership that it clearly should've had at the time. As a partial consequence, Carrie Coon was never nominated for an Emmy despite giving a standout performance. The Emmys were generally pretty ambivalent on "The Leftovers," giving the show a single nomination during its tenure on HBO.

Outstanding actor in a comedy series: Steve Carell for The Office

When U.K. hit "The Office" was recreated for an American audience, the first few episodes failed to connect with viewers. But everything changed when Season 2 arrived. Between Seasons 1 and 2, Steve Carell starred in a successful movie called "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," catapulting him into superstardom. Michael Schur, a television producer who wrote on "The Office," told Vox that Carell's performance in the film inspired them to tweak Carell's character — the wildly incompetent Michael Scott – and capitalize on what Carell accomplishes in the film. Despite some reservations, Carell embraced the adjustment like a duck to water, and an iconic character was born.

This shift was acknowledged by the Television Academy, which nominated Carell for an Emmy that season. After that, Carell was nominated for an Emmy for every other year he played Michael, though his chances were probably never as good as his first time around. "The Office" snagged an outstanding comedy series Emmy in 2006, but the Emmys never gave Carell his proper flowers for Michael Scott. That said, the circumstance resulted in one of the best-ever Emmy gags.

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series: Kim Cattrall for Sex and the City

As is fairly well-known, Candace Bushnell's "Sex and the City" began as a series of articles in The New York Observer, which were expanded into a book and, later, an HBO television show. The show became an unexpected smash beyond the stars' wildest expectations.

Samantha Jones, performed astutely by Kim Cattrall, was one star who drew everyone's attention. At the height of the show, Cattrall's presence was nearly synonymous with the phrase "scene stealer." She also had the most quotable lines, with her phrase, "I'm trysexual, which means I'll try anything at least once" becoming so often repeated that it became easy to forget that without Cattrall's electric line reading, it might've landed with a thud. 

While it's uncertain if rumored squabbles with star Sarah Jessica Parker damaged Cattrall's prospects of winning an Emmy in the several times she was nominated, they obviously didn't help, because Cattrall never won an Emmy for "Sex in the City." Oddly enough, Parker and co-star Cynthia Nixon both won Emmys for outstanding lead and supporting actress, respectively, in 2004. Regardless, Cattrall's performance was unquestionably Emmy-worthy.

Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series: Giancarlo Esposito for Better Call Saul

"Breaking Bad" is on the all-time best list of just about every diehard TV fan, and Giancarlo Esposito's Gus Fring is Walter White's most chilling nemesis. That means Gus is clearing a pretty high bar, considering Walter's enemies (in addition to himself, of course) are pretty much all scary violent people like professional assassins and Nazi gangs, or agents of the DEA. But it wasn't until Esposito reprised his part for the spinoff "Better Call Saul" that people realized how much Esposito could stretch out Gus and make fans loathe him as a villain, but also understand what motivates him. Esposito has received great critical praise for his multi-series tenure as Gus.

To his credit, Esposito is one of the rare actors who can claim to have portrayed a character so brilliantly that he was nominated for an Emmy for the same role in two different shows. But sadly, the Critics' Choice Awards are the only honors he has ever received for Gus.

Outstanding supporting actress in a drama series: Lena Headey for Game of Thrones

Part of the reason why "Game of Thrones" was so successful was it wasn't afraid to consistently surprise its viewers. No character was ever safe. With the exception of viewers who had read the books, hardly anybody in the audience predicted that episodes like "The Rains of Castamere" would be so brutal on the main characters or that Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) would ever redeem himself. On the other hand, Cersei Lannister — played as mostly delightfully condescending with an occasional burst of power-mad nihilism by Lena Headey — manages to stay relatively consistent throughout the story, if only in the respect that she stays the villain that we all love to hate.

In a show with so many vile characters, Rolling Stone singled out Cersei as the finest villain of the entire show. And even though villains rarely ever get awarded at the Emmys, many magazines, including Vulture, projected she should win during one of the five years she was nominated, calling her performance "a complete portrait." Surprisingly, she went home empty handed every time.

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series: Tracy Morgan for 30 Rock

Tina Fey created "30 Rock" after developing an interest in creating a show based on her experiences as head writer at "Saturday Night Live." According to TIME Magazine, Fey was encouraged by network executives to write what she knew, and what she knew turned out to be bonkers.

One of Fey's first and most significant choices was to cast former "SNL" co-star Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, a heightened version of himself. Morgan told NPR that Fey was the first to grasp that if you want to get the most out of Tracy Morgan, you had to let him be himself. And it was effective. Some folks will tell you Tracy is the most hilarious character in the entire show. Other folks will tell you Jane Krakowski's Jenna Maroney is the most hilarious, but never mind them right now. Morgan was only nominated for one outstanding actor in a comedy series Emmy, which is an utterly insane instance of snubbery. 

Outstanding variety special: Lemonade

Few performers are as beloved and prolific as Beyoncé, and it is not without good reason. She was obviously not the first to combine the worlds of music and television, but she pushed the genre combination to new heights with what she refers to as "visual albums."

In 2016 she released "Lemonade," a visual album that perfectly caught the zeitgeist. Fans got to watch one of the world's most admired women be candid about her marital problems, which caused an uproar on the internet. She also found a way to incorporate political commentary on how Black people are treated in America, along with her political beliefs. From Twitter memes to college professors, everyone had an opinion.

It's a shame that Beyoncé's television event wound up nominated for outstanding variety special and lost to James Corden of all people. We're sure if the Emmys became a single sentient entity, it would apologize for this heinous oversight.  

Outstanding variety sketch series: Drunk History

The accidental nature of the creation of "Drunk History" makes the show much more endearing than its brilliant premise already deserves. According to Complex, one day, Jake Johnson was telling the show's creator Derek Waters about the circumstances surrounding Otis Redding's death. The only problem was that Johnson delivered the story while inebriated, and his sloppy manner of stumbling through his words inspired Waters to create a sketch in which the event is reenacted by a different actor who lip syncs the drunken story. Just like that, a hit was made.

The show features several guest stars, all while maintaining historical accuracy. It also spawned other remakes covering the history of various parts of the world. That being said, the program was never especially popular with critics, which hindered its prospects of winning an Emmy.

It had many nominations, but the terrible reviews and the fact that it was always up against "Saturday Night Live," didn't help the odds of "Drunk History" ever getting an Emmy. Despite this, some folks still say it remains one of the finest sketch shows of the 21st century.

Outstanding comedy series: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

It sounds completely insane to say this today, but the fact remains that "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was never nominated for an Emmy for outstanding comedy series. It never received any major Emmy nomination at all, in fact. It didn't even win its one technical nomination for best lighting direction

The show was one of the most influential series of the 1990s, not only because it helped turn Will Smith into a movie star but also because it demonstrated how comedies can address societal concerns without jeopardizing the laughs. Furthermore, the show successfully portrays the particular perspective of Black Americans while appealing to individuals of all backgrounds. It was more than simply another sitcom; the show's impact was far-reaching. In a New York Times op-ed, Rob Henderson said that "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" taught him everything he knew about society's elite.

The show garnered a number of NAACP awards and two Golden Globe nominations for Smith. Fortunately, the Emmys have pledged to be more inclusive and have taken steps to guarantee that their nominees are more diverse moving forward.

Outstanding drama series: The Wire

"The Wire" is frequently cited as one of the best television shows of all time, and there are several reasons for this. The show's realistic approach to examining how illegal drug trafficking and law enforcement impact the community in Baltimore is spectacular, so much so that it frequently comes up as a subject for academic studies that touch on sociology, film, and literature.

The series also helped launch the careers of numerous actors, including Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, and the late Michael K. Williams. The superlatives for the acting in the series are inexhaustible. It feels like just about every year, a TV critic makes a new observation about the show that cements it at the top of what television has to offer. Almost all of America's major awards, save the Emmys, acknowledged the show. During its run, "The Wire" won zero Emmys.

Variety decided to explore why the show never received the recognition it deserved from the Emmys. Unfortunately, they only uncovered what might seem like pedantic details, such as the fact that the show was not shot in New York or California.