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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

Before there was "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under," there was "Oz." A precursor to HBO's late 1990s/early 2000s dramatic series renaissance, the Tom Fontana-created, maximum-security prison-set series went on for six memorable seasons but never got the Emmy love of the series that followed in its footsteps. Two nominations came in 1999 (for casting and guest actor Charles S. Dutton), but that was all she wrote, despite extraordinary writing, directing and performances from a racially diverse cast including Rita Moreno, Kirk Acevedo, Terry Kinney, Ernie Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Eamonn Walker and Harold Perrineau. Problematically, the HBO shows to follow "Oz" that also offered such diversity ("The Wire," "Treme") were among the few of that network's 2000s-era drama series to also never get a series nomination.

Despite extraordinary ratings and critical acclaim (at least during its first six seasons), "Roseanne" was somehow never nominated for best comedy series at the Emmys. Perhaps the show's envelope-pushing ways were simply too much for the generally conservative Academy of of Television Arts & Sciences, who in the 1990s gave "Frasier" five consecutive wins in the comedy category while entirely ignoring Ms. Barr's pioneering sitcom. Which was even more odd considering it did give the series tons of acting love for John Goodman (7 noms), Laurie Metcalf (4 noms, 3 wins), Sara Gilbert (2 noms) and Roseanne herself (4 noms, 1 win). Which all feel like somewhat backhanded compliments when coming without any recognition for the series itself (and only one nomination for writing, which is just as offensive considering how strong it was at the series' peak).

READ MORE: 2013 Emmy Award Predictions

"Sports Night"
"Sports Night" was the series that launched Aaron Sorkin's career as a television writer, introducing the world to the workplace screwball comedy adventures and earnest (and sometimes preachy) dramas that would become his signature.  It also has certain character types and dynamics he's stuck with into "The West Wing," "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "The West Wing." "Sports Night," which starred Josh Charles, Peter Krause and Felicity Huffman as the hosts and producer of a "SportsCenter"-style program, was a little rough compared to "The West Wing" (it was oddly saddled with an incongruous laugh track when it started, one that was eventually allowed to fade away), but it was winsome, charming, and certainly a better series than "Studio 60." Yet, during its two season run, "Sports Night" got four Emmy nominations and one win, the same as "Studio 60," and not one was for Outstanding Comedy Series.

"Veronica Mars"
Soon to be resurrected in movie form thanks to a landmark Kickstarter campaign, Rob Thomas' girl detective drama "Veronica Mars" was smart, well-acted and had a terrific female protagonist played by Kristen Bell. But it was also a genre series, a teen series and one that got its start in the scraggly final years of UPN -- not aspects that helped the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences take it as seriously as it deserved, as noted with regard to "Buffy." That may be why it had an easier time earning accolades from the Saturn Awards and the Teen Choice Awards than the Emmys. In its three season run, "Veronica Mars" failed to earn a single Emmy nomination. But Thomas, Bell and fans have had the last laugh in breaking Kickstarter records to raise over $5 million on Twitter.

"The Wire"
Yes, David Simon's Baltimore epic, widely regarded as the best television series of all time, never received a nod for Outstanding Drama Series during its five-season run on HBO. It's unfortunate, but in line with the fact that the show's been better appreciated on home video and streaming than it was when it was on air. What stings a little more is that no one from its incredible ensemble cast, one of the most diverse and interesting to grace the small screen, got a nomination either. The noms the series did secure were for writing -- in 2005 for the episode "Middle Ground," by Simon and George Pelecanos, which saw the death of a beloved major character, and another in 2008 for "–30–," the series finale by Simon and Ed Burns. Neither resulted in a win.

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  • 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.