The Emmys are hardly perfect. In fact, they’re frequently dumb, stupid, horribly infuriating, and hard to take.
Sure, they’ve gotten better in recent years, especially as they’ve increased the number of nominations in some categories and shaken up their voting processes. And TV has gotten better, too — it’s hard to imagine a world in which some categories see the exact same slate of nominees re-nominated year after year after year, as sometimes happened in the ’80s and ’90s.
Sometimes, they even pleasantly surprise us.
But they still stink when it comes to variety, and they make a lot of bad choices. So now that the nominations have been announced for the 2017 ceremony, we’re going to highlight the victims of those bad choices: the shows and performers that should have made the list but didn’t.
Here are the 13 worst omissions of the 2017 Emmy nominations, in no particular order.
(Except The Leftovers is first because that’s the most egregious omission of them all.)
The Leftovers, one of the best TV shows in the history of the medium, is almost completely shut out of the Emmys for good
It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with The Leftovers, HBO’s strange and beautiful drama that wrapped its final season this June. But there’s a good reason for that: The series truly is one of the best that TV has ever produced. Between its precise and surreal scripts written by Damon Lindelof and his team, its stunning direction from the visionary Mimi Leder, and its unforgettable performances from Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon in particular, The Leftovers was brimming over with gorgeous craftsmanship that deserved to be acknowledged by the Emmys. Instead, The Leftovers will be yet another in a long line of shows the awards failed to recognize, with Ann Dowd snagging the only nomination (in the Outstanding Guest Actress category) that the show will ever receive. That’s a shame and, more frankly, an embarrassment.
The Good Place’s singular creativity went completely unnoticed
It’s rare for a comedy to hit the top of its game straight out of the gate; it’s even rarer for a comedy to do so while telling a serialized story about literal life-and-death stakes. But NBC’s The Good Place managed all that and more, sending an unrepentant jerk (Kristen Bell) to heaven and serving up genuinely surprising cliffhangers in every one of its 13 episodes.
We didn’t have much hope for the show sweeping the Emmys’ comedy categories or anything, but there were so many great performances to choose from between Bell, William Jackson Harper’s neurotic Chidi, D’Arcy Carden’s personification of a help desk, and the incomparable Ted Danson as the gatekeeper in charge. And if Emmy voters couldn’t find it in their heart to recognize Ted Danson — a longstanding and undisputed king of television — in one of his most fun roles ever, we suppose there’s not much else The Good Place could’ve done to get the Academy’s attention.
Justina Machado went unrecognized for her brilliant performance on One Day at a Time
It’s frustrating that Netflix’s One Day At A Time — a warm and funny reboot of Norman Lear’s 1970s sitcom — was completely overlooked, and downright shocking that star Rita Moreno was left without a nomination. But for our money, the most egregious oversight is a lack of recognition for Justina Machado, who anchors the series with the kind of skillful, openhearted performance that by all rights should earn her endless praise.
Speechless quietly became one of TV’s best family sitcoms — too quietly for the Emmys, apparently
The Outstanding Comedy Series race doesn’t look all that different this year than it has in past years, with Atlanta being the only new comedy to break into the field (and taking what was Transparent’s slot last year). But there were many great challengers that deserved to enter the fold, and we’d like to highlight Speechless in particular as a worthy contender. ABC’s new family sitcom tackles disability like no other show on TV, and with hilarious performances from Minnie Driver, John Ross Bowie, and newcomer Micah Fowler to boot. If the show keeps improving like it did throughout its first season, it could — and should! — be a real contender in 2018.
Insecure was one of last year’s most confident debuts but received no appreciation for its efforts
With the first season of Insecure, creator and star Issa Rae (and her showrunner Prentice Penny) locked into a groove that was so at ease it often felt effortless — which is maybe why the Emmys overlooked its stunning achievements. But it’s still disappointing to look at the list of nominees and realize that Rae’s writing and performance — not to mention Melina Matsoukas’s typically stellar direction — are nowhere to be found.
Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek is out of the Lead Actor in a Drama race after winning it last year
Rami Malek’s performance on Mr. Robot can feel a little like a magic trick; you know he’s holding something back from you, but you don’t quite know what or how or why. That was enough to win him the Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series trophy in 2016, but not enough to keep him from being pushed out of the race entirely this year. Opinions on season two of Mr. Robot are ... mixed, but Malek remains one of TV’s best performers. Here’s hoping the show’s upcoming third season gets him back in the race.
Fargo’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead remains one of our most underappreciated actresses
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a knack for playing characters who think, endlessly, on their feet. If one of your characters is backed into a corner, unsure of what to do next, toss the role into Winstead’s hands and she’ll make a meal of it. That’s exactly what she did with Fargo’s Nikki Swango, to the degree that the character all but took over the show for the back half of season three. It was great to see some of Winstead’s co-stars — especially Carrie Coon and David Thewlis — pick up nominations, but Winstead deserved to be right there alongside them. When will Hollywood realize that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a national treasure? Not soon enough.
Michael McKean’s performance on Better Call Saul was a staggering work of heartbreaking genius
There’s simply no way to watch the third season of Better Call Saul and not think that Michael McKean deserved a supporting actor nomination for his work as Jimmy McGill’s deeply damaged, deeply cruel brother Chuck.
In season three, McKean took us right down through his character’s spiral of poor mental health, somehow making Chuck both endlessly sympathetic and impossible to like. Saul saw a slight uptick in its nominations total this year (it received seven in 2016 and nine in 2017) — which makes it all the more baffling that McKean’s name wasn’t on the list.
BoJack Horseman is TV’s best animated show. You’d think the Emmys would realize that.
The Emmys’ animation categories are stuck in the past, in the way the awards as a whole have a (sometimes unfair) reputation for being. But honestly, BoJack Horseman isn’t just TV’s best animated show — it’s one of TV’s best shows period. Yet it remains un-nominated, in favor of Emmy stalwarts like The Simpsons and South Park. Both of those long-running series are still pretty good, and all-time TV classics. But c’mon, Academy. BoJack is out there, making it happen every season! You love Netflix in all the other categories! Why can’t you love it here?
JUSTICE FOR THIS IS US’S MANDY MOORE!
Look, is Mandy Moore giving one of the seven best performances by a lead actress in a drama series right now on This Is Us? Nah. But the Television Academy really liked the acting on This Is Us. And is Mandy Moore giving a better performance on This Is Us than her onscreen husband, Milo Ventimiglia? She is giving a performance that is several miles better than his. So, look, why nominate This Is Us for Drama Series, Ventimiglia for Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and then leave Moore out in the cold? This is an outrage.
Shhhh, The Americans has seen better days, but it was still better than at least five of this year’s drama series nominees
Few fans of The Americans would name its fifth season as their favorite, and the normally acclaimed series had to deal with the mildest backlash ever this year, when critics started to say, “This show that was the greatest drama on TV now might be second or third.” But even if you thought season five was a disaster, it was still better than the fifth season of House of Cards. And the first season of This Is Us. And, honestly, the first seasons of The Crown and Stranger Things and Westworld. But all of those shows are nominated, and The Americans isn’t. Sigh. (Bonus omission shout-out: Transparent deserved a nomination over Modern Family — easily.)
Late Night With Seth Meyers boasts some of TV’s sharpest political comedy, but just one Emmy nom
The Variety Series categories tend to cycle through the same revolving door of shows year in and year out, give or take a Full Frontal With Samantha Bee. But Late Night With Seth Meyers — which has steadily gotten better and funnier since it debuted in 2014 — has only been nominated once, with the series only getting its first writing nod this year.
This relative lack of acknowledgment particularly stings this year. Before, during, and after the 2016 election, Meyers delivered night after night of insightful political commentary and smart interviews, always with keen insight and a wry grin. If the Emmys ever decide to finally shake up their variety series nominations, they’d be smart to throw Meyers and his team an Outstanding Variety Series nod for their consistently good work rather than, say, throwing their weight behind Real Time With Bill Maher once again.
And now, a short lament for the once again un-nominated Halt and Catch Fire and Rectify
Nobody watches Halt and Catch Fire or Rectify. We know that. We’re well aware that even by the standards of the Emmys — which will gladly nominate a low-rated show, but not a no-rated show — both series are too far off the radar. But dadgummit, they shouldn’t be!
Rectify, which ended in December, was brilliant and atmospheric and poignant, a tribute to small-town life, in all its pains and eccentricities, like TV had never seen. And Halt and Catch Fire is the brilliant, soulful Mad Men follow-up you never knew you needed, with ’80s tech industry types navigating the perils of circuitry, but also the heart. These two shows were definitely some of TV’s best offerings last year, yet neither received a single nomination. Halt and Catch Fire has one more shot, as it’s about to return for a fourth and final season, but Rectify, sadly, is gone forever.
Corrected to reflect that Late Night With Seth Meyers was nominated for writing in the Variety Series category.