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by Peter Knegt and Alison Willmore
July 17, 2013 1:24 PM
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The 10 Greatest Shows Never Nominated for a Best Series Emmy

Tomorrow morning, 12 narrative series will receive a nomination for this year's Primetime Emmy Awards, joining 64 years of previous nominees that include greats like "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Hill Street Blues" and "The Sopranos." But even more shows will join a club that's arguably even more prestigious: Not being nominated for a best series Emmy. Television's questionable highest honor has actually snubbed just as many great series as they have rewarded them, as this list of the 10 greatest shows never nominated for a best series Emmy Award makes clear:

"Buffy The Vampire Slayer"
It seems like the two easiest ways to avoid ever getting an Emmy nomination for best series -- even if said series is among the very best ever -- is a) having a teenager as your lead character and b) being a genre series. And "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" was both. During its 1997-2003 run, the Joss Whedon-created series about everyone's favorite vampire slayer never made it to the big race (though honestly no one really expected it to given its aforementioned qualities).  It did manage a handful of nominations for makeup, hairstyling and music, and in 2000 its only nomination to ever reach the televised awards: Best writing for a drama series, oddly for an episode  which is almost entire devoid of dialogue ("Hush," which revolves around a curse on Buffy's town in which everyone's voices are stolen).

"Freaks and Geeks"
These days it's easy to look at "Freaks and Geeks" and marvel at how it wasn't a giant hit -- almost every cast member has gone on to immense comedy fame and celebrity. But the 1999-2000 television season was another era, and the Paul Feig-created, Judd Apatow-produced NBC series was ahead of its time -- both in terms of attracting an audience beyond its dedicated cult following and in terms of the darkness of its humor and approach to high school life, with its characters' triumphs rarely being the sort of a teen movie. The show went similarly underappreciated by the Emmys in its single season. While Feig did get two nominations for the writing of the series' pilot and its finale, the show's only win was in 2000 for casting.

READ MORE: 2013 Emmy Award Predictions

"Gilmore Girls"
Part of the Emmy Awards' apparent ban on giving a series nomination to anything that aired on the WB or UPN (and later, the CW), the great Amy Sherman-Palladino (notably the writer of the only episode of "Roseanne" ever nominated for an Emmy, as discussed below) never saw her critically lauded "Gilmore Girls" meet Emmy's questionable standards.  Starring Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel as a mother and daughter living in a small town (alongside Melissa McCarthy, in a role that would begin her slow escalation to super-stardom), the series was known best for its fast-paced, whip smart dialogue (often written by Sherman-Palladino). But the series, its actors and its writing were never even nominated. In fact, it only ever received a single nomination  in 2004 (for makeup, which it won).

Louis C.K.'s surreal, brilliant autobiographical FX comedy has been one of the most acclaimed shows on television ever since its 2010 premiere (it's currently taking the year off while C.K. recharges and goes on tour). Despite the universal love from critics, the series has never been nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series -- instead, it has received nominations for acting, writing and directing, all for C.K., with the lone win in 2012 going to the stand-up for the writing on season two premiere "Pregnant." Celebrating all of the part of a series without lauding the whole is a little odd, especially given that C.K. writes, directs, stars in and produces everything, but perhaps this will be the year the Emmys finally make things right. After all -- C.K.'s starring in a Woody Allen movie. What better stamp of approval do you need for the sometimes Allen-inspired series?

"My So-Called Life"
Alright, so it only aired for one, low-rated 19-episode season. But as surely as the many, many people who have become diehard fans of "My So-Called Life" over the years (likely via its popular rerun-run on MTV or its VHS and DVD releases), it was one the best seasons of TV, like, ever. Starring eventual Emmy darling Claire Danes (just 13 years old when the pilot was shot) as the now iconic angsty teenager Angela Chase, "My So-Called Life" featured perhaps the most realistic depiction of teenage life to hit network television, which indeed resulted in deserved Emmy nods for directing, writing, theme music and acting (Danes). But for a show of this caliber to lose out on a series nomination to the fifth season of "Law & Order"? So-called insanity!


  • Monique a Williams | July 20, 2013 9:37 AMReply

    Great list! Most of these are faves!!!

  • Ronnie D. | July 18, 2013 12:38 AMReply

    @Megan - Incorrect, it only was nominated and won for outstanding COMEDY series, never best series.

  • McBride | July 20, 2013 4:47 AM

    There is no "best series" Emmy, they clearly mean in either the comedy or drama category.

  • kelly | July 17, 2013 10:17 PMReply

    You also forgot Battlestar Galactica.

  • Bill | July 17, 2013 9:30 PMReply

    Several shows that didn't get mentioned in this article are HBO's Carnivale, which had some of the best production values and interesting characters in any series (which HBO dropped like a clumsy waiter), and Tales of the Golden Monkey, which was inspired by the then brand new Indiana Jones Lost Ark movie, but had enjoyable and distinct characters, lively and fun plots and good dialog. But hey, maybe that's just me.

  • brace | July 17, 2013 4:09 PMReply

    Parks and Recreation

  • Faith | July 17, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    Shameless? (on Showtime)

  • Joe | July 17, 2013 2:54 PMReply

    The Prisoner? Monty Python? The Honeymooners? Oz? Cathouse?

    You have to remember that "Best Series" goes to a single episode that's been submitted. The same is true for the acting awards. It's not about the season. It's just having that massive and self-contained wow moment.

  • Edward Copeland | July 17, 2013 2:27 PMReply

    You missed a big one: Homicide: Life on the Street. It actually managed to win writing and directing in its first season and Andre Braugher got a grand total of two nominations, his first in the fourth season and a win for the sixth, but the show itself never got a nomination.

  • Matt | July 17, 2013 2:13 PMReply

    My So-Called Life is still my favorite TV show of all time.

  • Ronnie D. | July 17, 2013 1:34 PMReply

    Huge oversight - you forgot Arrested Development.

  • GUY | July 18, 2013 4:07 AM


  • Megan | July 17, 2013 1:41 PM

    Arrested Development was not only nominated, but won Best Series in 2004.