Awards are often pretty arbitrary and meaningless, when you get right down to it. Of course people love winning them, but in so many cases they become popularity contests, or a case where people get swept up and all vote for something they later realize wasn’t all that good when you have time to reflect. Maybe that’s why there have been so many great shows were never recognized by the most prestigious television acting awards show, the Emmys. Here are ten shows you may not believe never won an Emmy for Outstanding Series in either comedy or drama.
During its long and successful run, Roseanne racked up a ton of individual acting awards for the star along with John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf. It was a pretty widely respected show despite the general unpleasantness of its star, primarily because it was one of the most realistic portrayals of Middle American families ever put on television up to that point. Heck, it remains one of the most true to life paintings of life in the lower middle class.
Well, until the final season when the writers apparently went insane and had Roseanne and her family win the lottery, throwing out every ounce of realism and deciding it would be more fun to try for a modern take on the Beverly Hillbillies only with a crude family from the Midwest rather than a redneck from the deep south. Still, before that dismal season came to pass it had still earned its place in the pantheon of groundbreaking sitcoms, and the fact that it never received the Emmy for Best Comedy Series remains a bit of a mystery.
9. Freaks and Geeks
It’s pretty easy to pinpoint why Freaks and Geeks never got any Emmy love: it simply didn’t last long enough. One of the great “canceled before its time” shows in television history, Freaks and Geeks was the creation of Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, and was something of a more dramatic Wonder Years for a new generation, only without the guy from Home Alone providing expositional narration. Still, it was quickly apparent that it was one of the best shows on television, and should have gotten at least some consideration for a Best Drama Series Emmy, or even a Best Comedy Series nod.
Frankly, it could have fit nicely into either category, and maybe that’s part of the reason it couldn’t manage to break into either or in fact find any sort of audience until after it had already been canceled. It dealt with growing up in a more honest way than any other show had before or, arguably, has done since, and walked the fine line between hilarity and seriousness each episode. That’s probably because it didn’t go out of its way to come up with sitcom scenarios, instead leaning on the fact that the funniest things are born out of everyday life. It at once made us cringe as we remembered our time in high school and also made us yearn for those days. It was a truly special show, fully deserving of some awards love and, at the very least, a second season, neither of which it received.
8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
While Buffy the Vampire Slayer proved to be an incredibly influential show with a massive cult following, it can’t be particularly difficult to surmise why it was never really considered for any Emmy Awards. First and foremost, it aired on the WB and UPN, which aren’t exactly the types of channels Emmy voters like to even pretend actually exist. It was therefore viewed as being too teeny-bopper of a show, despite the fact that the humor and themes were far darker and more complex than most shows of the “adult” variety.
The other, very simple reasons it never got recognized? Well, first of all it was a genre show with lots of goofy special effects and makeup, and it was called Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for God’s sake. That’s not exactly a recipe for awards success. Looking back, if the show were to come out now when shows like True Blood and The Walking Dead have proven that genre shows can in fact pull in big numbers, things may have been a little different, particularly given the enormous cachet that Joss Whedon’s name now brings with it. But alas, Buffy and its equally excellent spinoff Angel were just never meant for Emmy.
7. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Okay, so we’re going to jump in and stop you before you say anything. Yes, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is still on the air, and therefore it could absolutely garner an Emmy for Best Comedy Series before it’s all said and done. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, there’s not a chance in hell it’s going to happen, no matter how brilliantly sadistic and hilarious the show actually is. Look at the Best Comedy field over the past couple of years, and for the most part the nominees are safe picks, with edgy outliers very rarely getting into the field.
And even then, those nods will go to a show like Louie, which is a lot more thoughtful than It’s Always Sunny, to say the least. None of that takes away from the fact that, right now, you’d be hard pressed to find a funnier show on television than It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. When it’s all said and done it will likely go down as one of the best and most hilarious sitcoms of all-time, but when it comes to the Emmy Awards, the gang is simply too twisted and depraved to find themselves on stage collecting that golden statue. The real tragedy there is seeing what the hell kind of acceptance speech Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, and the rest of the crew could come up with. Something tells us that alone would make tuning into the otherwise boring Emmy’s worthwhile.
6. Homicide: Life on the Streets
Based on a book by David Simon, whose name we’ll be getting back to after a few more entries, the show Homicide: Life on the Streets was a critically acclaimed series starring Andre Braugher and about cops in Baltimore. It chronicled the day to day lives of Baltimore city detectives, because apparently David Simon takes that whole “write what you know” thing very seriously. Anyway, the show actually won a few Emmy Awards here and there, but those were for acting and directing categories.
In fact, over the seven years in which the show ran, it was never even nominated for Best Drama Series, despite the near universal praise and the numerous acting, writing, and directing nominations. Apparently, according to Emmy voters, just because you have exceptional writing, directing, and acting does not mean you have one of the best shows on television. Despite all of those critical accolades the show just could never quite get its foot in the door with the people who run the Emmys, and at this point the most enduring thing about the show is Richard Belzer’s performance as John Munch. Not because he was the best actor or character on the show or anything, but because, amazingly, his character was transported from this cop series to the Law and Order franchise.
5. The Andy Griffith Show
One of the most popular and successful shows in television history, it seems a little crazy to consider that The Andy Griffith Show never won an Emmy for Best Comedy Series. It’s an absolute classic, and has endured over the years with near constant reruns and has become a bit of a comfort food for people who just want to smile at the end of a long day. Amazingly, not only was the show itself ignored but so, too, was its star.
Believe it or not, over the entire course of the show’s run, Andy Griffith never once won an Emmy for Best Actor for his portrayal of the small town sheriff at the heart of the show. Instead, all of the accolades – and we mean literally all of the accolades – went to the great Don Knotts for his portrayal of bumbling deputy with a heart of gold Barney Fife. That’s certainly fair, since Knotts turned Barney into one of the most iconic characters in TV history. But doesn’t it seem just a little odd that the show for which he won all of those awards never got recognized by Emmy for pretty much anything else?
Back before HBO became the go-to network for critically acclaimed shows that are a virtual lock to be nominated year in and year out, the show Oz took to the airwaves and scared the ever loving crap out of people with its stark portrayal of life in prison. It was brutal, violent, and just all around depressing. Of course that’s kind of expected when you’re dealing with the day to day lives of white supremacists, murderers, rapists, and the other characters you would ever have the misfortune of meeting in a maximum security prison.
And despite being hailed as a new television classic by several magazines and websites, the show never got even a sniff of any Emmy Awards. The show pretty much launched the entire idea of cable networks producing their own shows, and in doing so opened the door for shows like The Sopranos, Deadwood, Dexter, and so forth. It pretty much created an entirely new genre on television and showed just how far the limits could be pushed when you’re dealing with an HBO budget and no real restrictions in terms of content or language. It pushed the envelope, but sadly never got to have its name read from an Emmy Award envelope.
3. The Shield
One of the most celebrated cop shows and featuring one of the most beloved cop characters in television history, The Shield was one of the first forays into self-produced drama for the channel FX. Over the years, FX has continued to create some outstanding television including the aforementioned It’s Always Sunny and Louie, along with shows like Justified and The Americans. But those shows all have one thing in common, other than being on the same network: none of them has ever won a Best Series Emmy. For a lot of people, the fact that The Shield never won is the most egregious.
The series focused on a hardnosed cop named Vic Mackey, played to perfection by Michael Chiklis, and during the course of the series he actually received some individual recognition for his performance. He won a Golden Globe and, yes, an Emmy for his portrayal of Mackey, and the show itself was named the Best Drama Series at the Golden Globes in 2002. However, despite the heaps and heaps of praise that it received each of the seven years it was on the air, it was never once nominated for a Best Drama Series Emmy, with the only nominations it did ever receive coming for Chiklis as well as actresses Glenn Close and CCH Pounder.
2. The Simpsons
Now we’re going to go ahead and mention that, yes, The Simpsons has won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Animated Program. In fact, over the course of its very long run, it has taken home 28 Emmy Awards in four categories, and has been nominated for an astounding 74 awards overall. However, the longest running sitcom in history, and one of the most influential shows to ever come to the small screen, was never even considered for Best Comedy Series. Not “didn’t win” – was never even nominated.
To put that into perspective, even Family Guy has gotten a nomination for Best Comedy Series (which it did not win), while arguably the most beloved sitcom of the modern era could never crack the field. Obviously, a lot of that is bias toward animated programming. After all, that’s a category to itself, and purists will say that a cartoon has no business being mentioned alongside shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, or Modern Family. But what that line of thinking doesn’t take into account is the outstanding writing and performances a show like The Simpsons brings to the table. The Simpsons, while it has faltered over the last several years, remains one of the greatest comedies of all-time and has helped shape an entire generation’s sense of humor.
1. The Wire
It’s hard to believe that a universally acclaimed television series that is hailed by many people as perhaps the greatest show in history never won an Emmy for Best Drama Series, but the amount of unfair travesty accumulated by The Wire from Emmy voters only begins there. The series, hailed by critics as one of the most unflinchingly realistic views of the American war on drugs, a sometimes struggling education system, the slow death of print journalism and increase in sensationalism, and overall corruption at every level was not only never an Emmy winner, but it wasn’t even a nominee.
In fact, over the five seasons in which The Wire ran, it only received two nominations in all. Both of those were for writing, and the series was not rewarded with a statue either time. The Wire is one of those shows that gained a lot of traction with the rise of DVD boxed sets and binge watching, but looking back it seems almost criminal that it was never recognized for its excellence. Not only should it have won multiple Best Drama awards – specifically for the fourth season, viewed by many as perhaps the finest season of TV in history – but also for the acting awards. We can only assume this is some sort of backlash against series creator David Simon, because in fairness, no one wants to reward a white guy wearing a Kangol hat.