The Emmy Awards represent the pinnacle of TV greatness, but sometimes awesome shows go under the radar. The voters get infatuated with a specific show or actor, and when they keep voting for the same series over and over again, a different deserving program gets shut out from the ceremony.
The best shows without an Emmy win range from dense cop dramas to lighthearted romantic comedies. Check out this overview, and prepare to rage.
1. Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul took side characters from Breaking Bad and expanded the series’ universe into something no fan would have ever imagined. The show combined crime, romance, humor, and novelistic cinematography, but it never won an Emmy despite garnering 53 nominations. Shows such as Game of Thrones and Succession had a grip on the dramatic categories during Better Call Saul’s tenure.
2. The Wire
The Wire opened new lanes for all dramatic television series that came after it. This cop series about corruption, betrayal, and political upheaval in Baltimore applied a never-before-seen attention to detail to the small screen. It received no love from awards committees, but HBO fans often put it right next to The Sopranos in the network’s history.
3. The Leftovers
The Leftovers might have engaged with too many niche concepts ever to attract awards voters. Based on what some would consider a thought experiment, The Leftovers follows a family in the wake of a mass disappearance on the planet. Nobody knows where the people left to, and the series instead focuses on the grief and confusion of those left behind.
4. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has captured the pop culture attention span of millions, but it will never receive the same love from the Emmy Awards. With 16 seasons under its belt, the offbeat comedy about immoral friends finds ways to entertain during every episode, yet has never found its way to an Emmy win.
5. New Girl
New Girl updated the friend-group sitcom for a new generation during the 2010s. Charming performances and creative romantic plot lines usually draw awards voters, but Zooey Deschanel and the fantastic cast of this binge-worthy modern classic never got an Emmy win for their work.
6. BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman differed from other animated sitcoms during the 2010s by operating within a more mature, sophisticated framework. The series engaged in topics such as alcoholism, depression, and asexuality, all themes that more-awarded shows such as The Simpsons never explored as much.
Community retains a cult following years after its closing episodes on NBC because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Dan Harmon’s show about a bunch of weird community college attendees got creative with meta-humor, stop-motion animation, and self-referential episodes. The lack of mainstream humor kept it from an Emmy win.
8. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation found a way to crawl out of the shadow of its spiritual predecessor, The Office, to harbor laughter in different ways. Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, and many other big names entered the fray and created great chemistry. It may have been a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, as not a single star brought the show an Emmy win.
9. Halt and Catch Fire
Halt and Catch Fire focused on a period of time that many people should be interested in (the start of the internet and the influx of computer usage worldwide), but the period drama went completely unnoticed by most viewers and award voters. The costume and set design made the series feel exactly like the era it was trying to depict.
Genre shows sometimes get forgotten or overlooked at awards shows in both the television and the film industry. Despite Silence of the Lambs winning Academy Awards, NBC’s Hannibal went unnoticed at the Emmy Awards during its short run. Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelson deliver iconic performances in this engrossing horror romp!
Empire resembles Game of Thrones and Succession in that the show deals with themes of family betrayal and inheritance. Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson excel as former partners vying for control of a major media conglomerate. Henson missed out on winning an Emmy for her performance in 2015 to Viola Davis.
12. Good Times
Good Times revolutionized the Black family comedy during the 1970s, a decade in which diversity was still in short order for most network sitcoms. The series helped kickstart racial representation on television, but it never got credit for its novelty while it aired.
The second series starring Bob Newhart got quirkier and more unconventional than his previous sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show. Despite a critically acclaimed series finale and almost a decade of excellent comedy, Newhart missed on all 25 of its Emmy nominations.
14. The Good Place
The Good Place deals with death, the afterlife, taking advantage of a person’s time on Earth, and mortality. Kristen Bell tries to make up for immoral acts after her demise as Eleanor Shellstrop. Perhaps the alchemy of themes on hand were too much for Emmy voters.
15. Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy presented a world for motorcycle and crime show enthusiasts to get lost in. Using The Sopranos as inspiration for the family drama, Kurt Sutter’s biker drama probably dabbled too much in violence and shock gore to get views, but the storytelling and acting were some of the best on TV for a short stretch.
Oz set a standard for other HBO shows to follow in the late 1990s. Centered on a chaotic prison and its immoral inhabitants, the drama might feel a little primitive in 2024, but it was certainly novelistic and revolutionary when it first began on cable television. Network dramas were still garnering most of the awards during this time.
17. Star Trek
It’s hard to imagine the original Star Trek coming and going without an Emmy win, but considering how often science fiction and fantasy programs get snubbed, it becomes much clearer why the series was left out back in the 1960s. William Shatner would eventually get an Emmy for work on Boston Legal and The Practice, but his legacy on Star Trek lives brighter.
18. The Brady Bunch
The quintessential family sitcom of its time period, The Brady Bunch, helped to cement the corny comedy into the television zeitgeist. Shows like Full House, Family Matters, Home Improvement, and others wouldn’t exist without Sherwood Shwartz’s series.
19. Bates Motel
Bates Motel steps back in time to relive the characters and plot lines from Alfred Hitchcock’s work, with Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga turning in excellent performances. The show’s residence on A&E, a network not associated with scripted television, probably didn’t help its awards cause.
20. Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie use its star's ages to hilarious advantage as Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda form one of the funniest duos of the last decade. The series got plenty of adulation, but the leading ladies missed out on an Emmy win to Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
NCIS doesn’t reinvent the wheel with crime drama television, but the two-plus decades it's aired on network TV proves it has redeeming qualities. If NCIS aired in the 1980s, it probably would have won many Emmys, but the influx of more sophisticated programming in the 21st century locked it out of the awards show.
22. Leave It to Beaver
Leave It to Beaver helped create the feel-good family sitcom that took up so much airspace in the ensuing decades. The Cleaver family always runs into problems that seem bigger than they are, and a cheesy one-liner or good tip from Mom or Dad always solves the first-world issues of the episode in a matter of minutes.