The Emmy Award nominations are notoriously hard to predict. With so many categories and so many opportunities for completely off-the-wall choices to sneak in, there’s almost always a contender (or several) we can point to and say, "Where did that come from?"
But even by those standards, the 2016 Emmy Awards are particularly whacked out, filled with happy surprises, weirdo shockers, and sad snubs. Yes, longtime Emmy favorite Modern Family still made it into the Best Comedy category — but so did Netflix’s Master of None. The Emmys, loath as TV fans might be to admit it, are getting ever so slightly better at recognizing the best programming TV has to offer, not just the shows they’ve always liked.
Here are 19 snubs, shockers, and surprises from the 2016 Emmy nominations.
1) The Americans finally breaks into the main categories
Since its first season, FX’s The Americans ("the best show on television" — Vox) has languished without the Emmy recognition it deserves. Yes, Margo Martindale was routinely nominated for Guest Actress for her role as Soviet spy handler Claudia, and the show managed a writing nomination for its third season. But the odds of the show breaking into the big categories in its fourth season seemed like a long shot.
It’s rare for Emmy voters to finally notice a drama series after season two — it hasn’t happened since 2011, when Friday Night Lights finally received a nomination for its fifth and final season, and before that it hadn’t happened in decades.
2) Orange Is the New Black is mostly snubbed
Yes, Orange Is the New Black received a (richly deserved) nomination for Outstanding Casting in a Drama Series. But it missed every other category, which was especially surprising in the case of Supporting Actress in a Drama, which the show’s Uzo Aduba actually won in 2015. (Winners usually repeat as nominees in the year after they win.)
The show is currently being judged for its third and messiest season — its terrific fourth season isn’t eligible until 2017 — and it has always struggled with the "Is it a comedy or a drama?" question. But Emmy voters seem to have focused on House of Cards as their Netflix drama of choice, and, uh, that’s the wrong call.
3) Mr. Robot leaps into several top categories
A USA show had never received a nomination for Best Drama until this morning, when Mr. Robot managed that feat, pulling along its lead actor, Rami Malek, and its creator, Sam Esmail, who earned a nomination for his script for the series’ pilot. The show received six nominations total — though, curiously, it didn’t receive a nomination for its direction, which is among the most unusual and distinctive on TV.
Breaking into a crowded drama field is always tough; that both Mr. Robot and The Americans managed it this year is particularly impressive.
4) Horace and Pete almost totally misses out
Horace and Pete, Louis C.K.’s brilliant series about two men and the bar that bears their name, wasn’t exactly an Emmy favorite. After all, it was sold, episode by episode, on C.K.’s website, and it was unlike just about anything else on TV.
Yet the show’s cast was so loaded with Emmy favorites — C.K.! Steve Buscemi! Alan Alda! Edie Falco! Jessica Lange! — that it seemed likely voters might check it out. They did not. It received just two nominations, for its editing and Laurie Metcalf’s guest performance.
5) Black-ish slides into comedy series
For its first season in 2015, the ABC family sitcom landed a Lead Actor nomination for star Anthony Anderson, but nothing else. This year, though, the show was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, while Anderson earned a repeat nomination and his onscreen wife, Tracee Ellis Ross, joined the Lead Actress in a Comedy fray. (Notably, Ross is also the first black comedy actress nominee since Phylicia Rashad for The Cosby Show in 1986.)
The honors are well-deserved, as the show hit a stride in its truly stellar second season that few other comedies could match. Black-ish making a play for Outstanding Comedy also breaks the recent pattern of cable and streaming shows dominating the major categories, so you can safely call this one a victory for broadcast networks, too.
6) UnReal sneaks into two major categories
With UnReal — a pitch-black scripted drama about the ruthless behind-the-scenes machinations of a Bachelor-style dating show — Lifetime knew it had created the kind of magnetic show that could get real attention, and quickly doubled down on promoting its stars and creative team for Emmy consideration.
The network’s efforts paid off. UnReal landed two major nominations — one for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, for co-creators Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and Marti Noxon, and one for Outstanding Supporting Actress for star Constance Zimmer. Lifetime, a network that has never had much luck with awards, should be thrilled.
7) Julianna Margulies misses out for The Good Wife
Yeah, Margulies missed out last year, too, but since she’s already won two Emmys for The Good Wife, missing the chance to win a third in the series’ final season is at least a little sad — even if that final season was a mess. (The Good Wife even managed a nomination for its writing, so Emmy voters were still paying at least some attention to it.)
8) Louie Anderson’s nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy came out of nowhere — but it’s awesome
Anderson’s performance as Zach Galifianakis’s mother on FX’s proudly strange comedy Baskets turns what could have been a boring cliché — male comedian plays a neurotic lady in a dress; hilarity ensues — into something far more pointed, funny, and even sweet. He deserves the nod, but in no way did we think Baskets made enough of an impression on Emmy voters for him to get it.
Sometimes it’s pretty cool to be wrong.
9) Silicon Valley and Veep overperform
Both of these HBO comedies are Emmy favorites, having each received major nominations every year they’ve been on the air. But both actually increased their nomination totals this year, with Veep landing 17, the most for a comedy since Modern Family managed the exact same total in its second season. Silicon Valley, meanwhile, bumped up to 11 nominations and finally got its star, Thomas Middleditch, into the acting race. Both shows also nabbed multiple writing and directing nominations, which is tough to do.
For the most part, shows peak at the Emmys in their second or third seasons, so Silicon Valley’s success this year is not totally surprising. But for Veep to continue increasing its noms into season five is pretty remarkable.
10) Master of None quietly pulls off some major nominations
Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Netflix series is a lovely, heartfelt treat, and it seems Emmy voters felt the same, because Master of None managed to make an appearance in most of the prominent comedy categories: Outstanding Comedy, Lead Actor (Ansari), Directing (Ansari), and Writing (Ansari and Yang). The only real guarantee here was the writing category, so the fact that the show broke into other races reveals just how much the voters responded to the series in general.
11) Ellie Kemper finally breaks in
Awards shows have greeted Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt warmly, with Golden Globe and Emmy nominations going to the show as a whole as well as to Kemper’s co-star Tituss Burgess; last year’s Emmys even recognized Tina Fey as a Guest Actress for briefly dropping in as a Marcia Clark doppelgänger.
But Kemper’s performance as the show’s title character has only previously been recognized by the Screen Actors Guild, which is a damn shame, because she’s the undeniable anchor of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The way she keeps Kimmy from becoming a flat caricature is what holds the show together. It’s about time the Emmys recognized her, even if it only happened once repeat nominees like Edie Falco and Amy Poehler were out of the picture.
12) Laurie Metcalf is nominated thrice
The Emmys love Laurie Metcalf. She has three past wins in her trophy case (for her work on Roseanne) and 10 total nominations that span her career. But three of those 10 nominations came this morning, when she was nominated in both the Comedy and Drama Guest Actor categories (for The Big Bang Theory and Horace and Pete, respectively) and the Lead Actress in a Comedy category for Getting On. You do you, Laurie Metcalf.
13) Game of Thrones continues to add acting nominations
At this point, Game of Thrones doing well at the Emmys isn’t a surprise. But by their sixth season, most shows are subtracting acting nominees, not adding them. And yet Maisie Williams and Kit Harington joined former nominees Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, and Emilia Clarke, for a total of five Game of Thrones acting nominations in just two categories — Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.
14) The People vs. O.J. Simpson dominates
This isn’t really a huge surprise. Everybody knew FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was going to do well. But this well? With its 22 nominations, it’s the most-nominated first-season show since ER pulled in 23 nominations for its inaugural season back in 1995. The People vs. O.J. was nominated three times each in four separate categories: Supporting Actor, Directing, Writing, and Editing. It totally dominated the Limited Series field.
(And, yes, "first season" is a bit of a misnomer for a show that will tell a completely new story every season. But the Limited Series categories were incredibly competitive this year — witness FX’s fellow Fargo grabbing 18 nominations of its own — so O.J.’s success was an honest one.)
15) Rachel Bloom is ignored, or What’s it gonna take to get The CW nominated?
As The CW keeps ramping up its efforts to get noticed, it remains an unfortunate reality that the Emmys don’t seem to realize the network exists. Despite big Emmy campaigns for Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom — in addition to widely read trade magazines like the Hollywood Reporter highlighting them both — the Emmys still ignored their wonderful work completely.
Not even Bloom’s many musical numbers on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend — usually catnip for Emmy voters — could get her into the Lead Actress category, despite her winning this year’s Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. It’d be understandable if The CW threw up its hands at this year’s nomination announcement, because it’s hard to know what the hell else the network could do to get its stars noticed.
16) Crackle rises
Crackle, the Sony-owned streaming site you probably don’t check out that often, isn’t an Emmy player on the level of Netflix or Amazon. But it did manage three nominations, including one in the Variety Talk Series category for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Does that nomination belong almost entirely to host Jerry Seinfeld? Undoubtedly. But Crackle probably doesn’t care.
17) BoJack Horseman and You’re the Worst receive no nominations
No matter how many pleasant surprises a given year’s Emmy nominations might hold — and 2016 has so many! — there’s always going to be a heartbreaker. So while we didn’t exactly expect the awards to recognize the fantastic work of Netflix’s dark comedy BoJack Horseman or FXX’s acidic rom-com You’re the Worst, we’re still sad that two of TV’s very best shows have once again gone unnoticed.
BoJack absolutely deserved a nod in the Outstanding Animated Series category — where it submitted a script, as well as one for the overall Best Comedy category — while You’re the Worst star Aya Cash tackled some incredibly tricky material that should have earned her a Lead Actress nomination. Including either would have been an incredible surprise, but a worthy one.
18) Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are apparently one person now
Fey and Poehler have shared many stages and screens over the years, but this is the first time they’re sharing one Emmy nomination, as the Saturday Night Live co-hosts landed a single nod in the Guest Actress in a Comedy category. Technically this is allowed — and there’s even another prominent co-host pair nominated in the Outstanding Reality Show Host category, with Project Runway’s Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn — but the idea that Fey and Poehler will compete as essentially one person is startling, hilarious, and weirdly fitting, given how often they’re referred to in the same breath.
19) Lemonade takes on Carpool Karaoke
Once you get past the "big" categories, part of the fun of the Emmys is scrolling through its many, many others. This year’s batch of nominations has made Variety Special one of the weirdest categories, thanks to Beyoncé’s gorgeous visual album Lemonade — which made its world premiere on HBO — taking on the comedy special Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo, a televised Adele concert, and "The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Prime Time Special."
None of these programs have anything in common with the others, except that they didn’t fit anywhere else. The Emmys!