The 2014 Emmy nominations are in, and while we saw plenty of familiar names in the mix — your Breaking Bads, your Veeps — we also saw a few surprises pop up in the major categories. Plus, some great shows and actors got sadly overlooked as well. Here's our rundown of this year's biggest snubs and surprises.
The Walking Dead
Aside from some People's Choice and Critics' Choice awards love and a Golden Globe nod early in its run, AMC's wildly popular zombie drama has been virtually ignored by the awards shows. And once again, it got shut out of the major Emmy categories. The Governor's saga, Carol's heartbreaking decision in the grove, the powerful backstories, that showdown in the finale... the snub is particularly egregious this year, arguably the series' richest collection of episodes yet. The only consolation: TWD is in good company, as top-notch series Sons of Anarchy, Justified, and Rectify also continue to be denied the Emmy nominations they deserve.
Modern Family cast
After four consecutive Best Comedy wins (one more and the show will tie Frasier for most wins overall), can we all agree that Modern Family, as a series, is not only past its prime, but probably the least exciting contender on the Best Comedy Series list? And while the cast members continue to be quirkily funny and endearing, the Supporting Comedy Actor and Actress categories are too overflowing with deserving nominees for Modern Family to take up five or six out of 12 nods. That it took three, instead, this year? (With no nods for Sofia Vergara or Eric Stonestreet?) Better... though we still could, and would, argue against it.
The Good Wife
The CBS legal drama had two Best Drama Series Emmy nods in its past, way back in its first and second seasons. And Season 5 — RIP, Will — seemed to be too good to ignore, but it still couldn't find a way to break into the Drama Series category. A small consolation: a Best Supporting Actor nod for Josh Charles — RIP, Will — surprisingly only the second one ever for the Sports Night and In Treatment alum, and a Lead Actress nod for Julianna Margulies, who, like the show itself, was ignored by Emmy voters the last two years. The nomination is Margulies's tenth Emmy nomination overall, and her eighth as Lead Actress.
Lena Dunham and her HBO comedy rank among the most polarizing topics in TV land, and while Dunham landed another nod for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy, the series was left out this time. With so many new, worthy contenders in the Comedy Series categories (Silicon Valley and Orange Is the New Black, for example), Emmy voters apparently felt that the uneven third season of Girls was one that could go by mostly unrecognized this year.
She has won back-to-back Critics' Choice Awards and a Television Critics Association Award, and has scored Golden Globes and People's Choice Award nominations. How many different characters does the Orphan Black star have to play to win herself some Emmy recognition?
It was a game-changing season with a fine finale, but overall, viewers became quite impatient with the Showtime drama in its third season. And again, since our Drama Series cup runneth over with nod-worthy nominees, Homeland was overlooked as a Best Drama Series contender. Ditto Damian Lewis in the Best Actor category.
Sure, the Fox cop show earned a surprise win as Best Comedy Series at the Golden Globes earlier this year, but it wasn't able to book an Emmy nomination in the same category for its freshman season. At least Andre Braugher, whose performance as deadpan Captain Holt is the highlight of his already impressive career, earned a nomination as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
In a perfect Emmy world, The Americans would get a Best Drama Series nod, and Russell and co-star Matthew Rhys would easily slide into spots in the acting categories. The bad news is that Russell was overlooked for a strong group of Best Actress nominees. The good news — well, not for her, but for TV fans — is that it is yet another piece of proof that the TV landscape is filled with fantastic roles for actresses and fantastic performances by them.
It’s a big year for The Simpsons: On Dec. 17, the Fox series will celebrate its 25th anniversary. But Emmy voters aren’t celebrating Homer, Bart, Marge, et al, as, for the first time since 1994, the seminal cartoon failed to receive a nomination for Outstanding Animated Program. D’oh, indeed, Homer... d’oh, indeed.
She and The Mindy Project were ignored by the Emmy folk last year for the show's freshman season, but as the show and Kaling continue to be a funny and unique presence in the TV comedy landscape, we hoped they would get recognized for their winning sophomore season. No such luck. (And she was even there to announce the nominees!)
Fine acting, fine writing, fine directing, fine set design, fine costuming... there's never really been a question about the quality of this HBO drama. But, as it has for much of its four-season run, Boardwalk Empire continues to fly under the radar, with some viewers seemingly unaware that the show's even still on. Though it won't be much longer; Boardwalk begins airing its final season this fall.
Revenge of the nerds! HBO's tech-world comedy shocked us by nabbing an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series for its first season. It's well-deserved, though; Valley is already one of the funniest half-hours on TV. We only wish some of the show's great performers like T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, and the late Christopher Evan Welch had shared in the Emmy love.
Behold, the power of Netflix: Not only did House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black rack up nominations this year, but the former Office star slipped into the race for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy for Derek. In case you haven't binge-watched that one yet, Gervais plays a kind, simple caretaker at a nursing home, a drastic change from The Office's David Brent. But maybe it's not such a surprise; after all, Gervais is an Emmy favorite, totaling 20 previous nominations.
Emmy voters have been slow to recognize the superb performances on HBO's Game of Thrones, so we're happy to see Headey land a much-deserved nod this year for her work as the ice queen of Westeros, Cersei Lannister. Season 4 gave her plenty of material to work with (the Purple Wedding, anyone?), finally letting her join her onscreen brother, Peter Dinklage, in the Emmys race.
William H. Macy
We can almost guarantee Shameless star William H. Macy is one of the more surprised contenders on this Emmy nomination morning. Not that he doesn’t deserve his Lead Actor in a Comedy Series nod, of course. He’s deserved it for several seasons, but the veteran actor is getting his first Shameless nomination — his first lead actor in a series nod ever — for the Showtime comedy’s fourth season. Looks like shifting the show from the drama category to comedy paid off.
We knew Matthew McConaughey would be nominated this year for True Detective; it's a McConaughey kinda world in Hollywood this year. But it's nice to see his on-screen sidekick get a Lead Actor in a Drama nod, too, for his more low-key but still stellar work as philandering detective Martin Hart. Of course, Emmy voters are used to writing down Woody's name; he won an Emmy way back in 1989 for playing dim bartender Woody Boyd on Cheers.
Orange Is the New Black
We all hoped the Netflix series we obsess over would get Emmy recognition, but just because Emmy voters embraced House of Cards and its A-list movie cast didn't mean that the prison dramedy would fare as well. It did, with a Best Comedy Series nomination, a Lead Actress nomination for star Taylor Schilling, and a bunch of Guest Actress nods that could lead to some very fun and colorful moments, should OITNB emerge victorious on Emmy night.
Saturday Night Live cast members always seem to find a way to pop up in the supporting categories, and this year, it's the insanely talented Kate McKinnon's turn, scoring her first Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy. We're not arguing: Along with Taran Killam, McKinnon is one of SNL's saving graces these days, and this nod cements her status as the show's new Kristen Wiig.
While Masters of Sex star Caplan had a spot on many an Emmy nomination wish list, the Lead Actress in a Drama Series category is, as always, a category rife with stellar contenders. Her performance as sex researcher Virginia Johnson in the show’s debut season couldn’t be ignored, however, and she has earned her first Emmy nomination ever.
She was nominated for a Golden Globe (in 1980), and until her powerhouse turn as Red on OITNB, that was the highlight of Mulgrew's major awards recognition. But last month, she tied (with Allison Janney for Mom) for Best Supporting Comedy Actress at the Critics' Choice Awards, and Emmy voters have followed suit with a Supporting Actress nod for a performance that's a standout in a show full of big performances.
Billy Bob Thornton was a lock for a Best Actor nomination for the first season of FX's fabulous miniseries (as was the miniseries itself for a Best Miniseries nod, and, we assume, win). That the equally deserving Martin Freeman will be competing against his co-star, having earned a nomination for his less flashy but just as affecting performance? Yeah, good call there, Emmy voters.
He won a Golden Globe earlier this year for his Ray Donovan stint as wily, twerkin', scene-stealing ladies man Mickey Donovan, but in a perennially crowded category like Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, an Emmy nomination was no sure thing. We find his performance to be just plain fun to watch, though, and academy voters agreed.
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards air live on Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.