What's the most egregious snub in Emmys history?

·7 min read
Clockwise, from left: Sandra Oh in Killing Eve, Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, BoJack Horseman, and Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant in Justified
Clockwise, from left: Sandra Oh in Killing Eve, Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, BoJack Horseman, and Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant in Justified

The 74th Primetime Emmy Awards are next Monday, September 12 at 8 p.m. ET. In honor of the ceremony, we’re taking a look back at some of the worst snubs in Emmys history with this week’s AVQ&A:

What’s the most egregious snub in Emmys history?

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Michael K. Williams for The Wire

There’s a very good chance that the late Michael K. Williams will posthumously win the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama on September 19. He imbued his Lovecraft Country character, Montrose Freeman, with great complexity, and the TV Academy is familiar with his work, having nominated Williams on four previous occasions—for Bessie, Boardwalk Empire, The Night Of, and When They See Us. But somehow, his most prominent role, that of Omar Little on The Wire, escaped the notice of Emmy voters. Given that The Wire was itself only nominated for two Emmys during its entire run, I guess it’s not all that surprising. But as Omar Little, Williams gave us one of the greatest TV characters of all time—opaque at times, but for the most part, thrillingly transparent about what he wanted out of life and how he planned to get it. The Wire’s lack of Emmy wins is considered one of the greatest snubs of all time, but I’d put the oversight of Williams’ work a notch above. [Danette Chavez]

Keri Russell for The Americans

It is a personal affront to me that Keri Russell (and her pulsing forehead vein) did not win an Emmy for The Americans despite being nominated three times. Her performance as a Russian spy living in Washington D.C. during the Cold War was incredibly poignant and fierce. She pulled off numerous wigs, outfits, and undercover identities during the course of six seasons without letting up on her character Elizabeth Jennings’ burning intensity and gut-wrenching emotion. The Emmys not awarding Russell her well-deserved Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama trophy, especially for the flawless final season, is an egregious misstep. At least it’s a consolation that her co-star and IRL partner Matthew Rhys was recognized for season six—and even that was long overdue. [Saloni Gajjar]

Sarah Michelle Gellar for Buffy The Vampire Slayer

The fact that Sarah Michelle Gellar did not receive a single Emmy nomination for her role as Buffy The Vampire Slayer over the course of seven seasons is mind boggling. Gellar served as the emotional heart of the series, and offered an empathetic portrayal of a young, bright-eyed girl who can also be a tough, Big Bad-fighting slayer. In the series, when she cries, you find yourself crying right along with her (Buffy’s speech at the end of “Amends” gets me every time). Through Gellar’s acting the essence of what a slayer is comes to life: Sacrificial, resilient, and full of heart. She bodies Buffy’s complexities as a young hero and woman with grace, even with all the one-liners. No credit to Joss Whedon is given here, as the reason I come back to watch BTVS over and over again stems from Gellar’s empowering performance as the Chosen One. [Gabrielle Sanchez]

BoJack Horseman

Admittedly: The run of 2014 to 2020—i.e., the BoJack Horseman years—were pretty strong for American animated TV. But it still hitches in my brain that “Free Churro,” one of the best episodes of my favorite TV show of the last 10 years, got snubbed in favor of a slightly-above-average late-season Simpsons entry back in 2019. (To say nothing of Springfield’s simultaneous triumph over the Adventure Time finale, which would have at least felt fair as an eventual winner.) BoJack only got three nominations throughout its entire run—including one, for the also criminally-under-Emmy’d Kristen Schaal, for the devastating “That’s Too Much, Man!”—which is just ludicrous in light of what a harrowing tightrope it walked for so many years between harrowing emotional honesty and soaring comedy silliness. [William Hughes]

Justified

As none of you know, I’m finally getting around to watching Justified. And as embarrassed as I am for not getting here sooner, the Television Academy should be doubly so for ignoring Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant across the show’s six seasons. We know they were watching: both Goggins and Olyphant were nominated in 2011—their first and final nominations for Justified. It’s a shame because their soft-spoken (and occasionally loud-spoken) Kentucky twang made the Elmore Leonard dialogue of Harlan County sing with heart, humor, and humanity. I’m going to double-up on this and say Goggins should’ve nabbed a nod and a win for Vice Principals, too, but it’s clear the Academy’s anti-Goggins stance has rendered the whole enterprise suspect. [Matt Schimkowitz]

Steve Carell for The Office

Steve Carell’s stint as underqualified, overconfident regional manager Michael Scott on The Office had the misfortune of running alongside the Emmy dominance of three other perpetual nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. When the NBC mockumentary first emerged from the shadow of its U.K. predecessor, Carell’s finest Dunder Mifflin work couldn’t inch past Tony Shalhoub’s endearing embodiment of Adrian Monk; by the time The Office was a hit with critics and audiences alike, Carell got muscled out by the stars of an acclaimed network-mate (Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock) and the most popular show on TV (Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory). He should’ve won in 2006, for the season Michael cooked his foot and ruined the Christmas party with Yankee Swap. He could’ve won in 2011, as valediction for gradually getting viewers on the side of the guy who cooked his foot and ruined the Christmas party with Yankee Swap. Still, it’s somewhat in-character that Carell never got the top prize for playing Michael, with the closest he ever came being the year his old Daily Show colleagues Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert handed him the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy of absent Office co-creator Ricky Gervais—thus marking Gervais’ last involvement with something funny happening at an awards show. [Erik Adams]

Lauren Graham for Gilmore Girls

At this point, Lauren Graham’s missing Emmy for her performance on Gilmore Girls is more the kind of embarrassing “Oops, did we really miss that?” error in judgment than anything else, but it’s the lack of any nominations whatsoever for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy (Drama? In which category do you think The WB—and later, The CW—put her up for consideration?) during the show’s seven-season run that really feels a little galling, and more than a little indicative of the biases against teen- and women-centric programming so endemic to the voting body. Whether you’re a fan of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s brand of rapid-fire patter or not, it’s hard to deny Graham was a damned force of nature on that series. [Alex McLevy]

Sandra Oh

I suppose my gripe is less about a specific snub than it is about general snubbery, but: How the hell does Sandra Oh not have an Emmy? Oh’s Dr. Cristina Yang was the soul of Grey’s Anatomy during the entire first decade of its run—an experience that brought her a level of fame she remembers as nothing less than traumatic. Nevertheless, she turned in stellar work and was recognized for five consecutive years in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category, but never took home the trophy. More recently, her work as the titular Eve of Killing Eve (which she also executive produces) has brought her back in the Emmys limelight. In 2019, she received four nominations—two for Eve, one for co-hosting the Golden Globes with Andy Samberg, and one for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy for hosting SNL—and yet she went home empty-handed. That many nods in a year and the Television Academy couldn’t even give her one Emmy? Her vamping check-stress in the “Cheques” sketch alone should’ve had them tossing awards at her. [Cameron Scheetz]