Emmy Nominations: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises

Emmys noms 2017 Biggest Snubs and
Illustration Variety; Photos courtesy of NBC/HBO

With more than 400 television shows to choose from and only a handful of ballot slots per category, the 21,000-plus voting members of the TV Academy had no choice but to leave quite a few strong contenders off the 2017 Emmy ballots. However, with such a plethora of worthy candidates, there were also quite a few pleasant surprises along the way. Now that the official nominations have been announced, Variety breaks down the biggest snubs and surprises of this small-screen award season.

SNUB: Oprah Winfrey

You may have thought the Academy could never snub Winfrey — voters just spot her name on the ballot, and even if they haven’t seen her in the role for which she’s nominated, they’ll usually still give her the nod. But this year that proved not to be true, as Winfrey was overlooked for limited series “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

SURPRISE: Westworld” ties with “Saturday Night Live” for the most Emmy nominations this year.

After years of genre programming not getting much attention in the top categories (with the notable exception of “Game of Thrones,” of course), the Academy recognized HBO’s sci-fi western thriller. “Westworld” garnered 22 nominations in categories that ranged from outstanding drama series to outstanding directing for a drama. This could be a turning point for the awards.

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Emmys 2017: Full List of Nominations (Updating Live)

SNUB: Jimmy Fallon

Though Fallon and his “Tonight Show” didn’t win the Emmy for variety talk series last year, this year they didn’t even get nominated. While similar broadcast fun fare like “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden” made the cut, more noms went to those with a political edge, including last year’s winner in the category, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” as well as “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” and “Real Time With Bill Maher.”

SURPRISE: “Genius”

While seeing Geoffrey Rush’s name (and as Albert Einstein to boot!) on an Emmy ballot may inspire some voters to automatically select it, it is more of a surprise that the National Geographic anthology series saw so much love across other categories like directing and overall limited series. There was not a lot of buzz about this when it aired, but the star power seems to have proved too great to ignore.

SNUB: “The Americans

It may have taken the Academy a few years to recognize the FX period spy drama, but once it finally did, there was great hope it would become a ballot staple for drama series. Though series stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys both got noms for their leading roles, the series as a whole was shut out in its penultimate year.

SURPRISE: Pamela Adlon

Adlon was an Academy favorite for her role on “Louie,” for which she received nominations for writing and guest actress, as well as for “King of the Hill,” for which she received a nom for her voice talent. The last time she was on the ballot, though, was in 2015, for the former comedy series. Now she is back to represent “Better Things,” the FX series she co-created and which is loosely based on her own life. While Adlon has received critical praise for this role, the competition in the category was so stiff she seemed like an underdog for the nomination.

SNUB: “Transparent

Series star (and previous Emmy winner) Jeffrey Tambor is once again nominated for his role as Maura Pfefferman in the lead actor category, but the Amazon show was shut out of the top comedy series category after being nominated for the last two years.

SURPRISE: Zach Galifianakis 

This is the first Emmy nomination for a lead acting role for Galifianakis, who previously took trophies for his “Between Two Ferns” short-form series. Galifianakis is doing complicated work in the dual role of twins Chip and Dale Baskets on the aptly-titled FX comedy series “Baskets,” but the attention — from the media and the Academy in the previous year — has been much more focused on Louie Anderson in the role of Chip and Dale’s mother.

SNUB: “The Leftovers”

HBO’s post-rapture series adapted from Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name just lost its last chance at Emmy gold. The series came to an end in June of this year surrounded by a lot of critical acclaim, including high praise for lead actress Carrie Coon. Coon may not have been recognized by the Academy for her work here, but at least she was for the other role she held this TV season … which leads us to …

SURPRISE: Carrie Coon

In the much-heated race for limited series/TV movie lead actress, Coon was recognized for her work on FX’s “Fargo.” The actress is a critical darling from both her work here, as well as the recently-ended “Leftovers” on HBO. While it would have been nice to see her recognized for a series that centered its final episode on her character, at least she got some Emmy love.

SNUB: Rami Malek

It was a surprise last year when the TV Academy awarded Malek the lead actor trophy for his role on USA’s “Mr. Robot” — but a welcome one given the progress it represented for outside the box voting. Then Malek toppled heavy hitters like Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Rhys, Liev Schreiber, and Kevin Spacey, all of whom are back in the category again this year. Unfortunately, Malek did not make the cut this time around.

SURPRISE: “Billy on the Street”

Billy Eichner’s variety sketch series received a nomination after a very creative For Your Consideration campaign in which voters were reminded of some of the other surprise names that got nominations, let alone trophies, so why not him? This nomination also marks the first time truTV has ever been in the Emmy race.

SNUB: Lena Dunham

With the series finale of “Girls” airing in April of this year, Dunham had one last chance at the top comedy acting prize for the show she co-created. After being nominated for the first three seasons, there were expectations she might nab another one at the end. But not even the chance to give Dunham a swan song could sway voters to put her back on the ballot for the first time since 2014.

SURPRISE: Reality/Reality Competition Host Nominees

With “American Idol” gone, there was one open spot expected to be filled with a newcomer to this race, but in actuality only two nominees from last year returned (the duo of Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn for “Project Runway,” as well as 2016’s winner in the category, RuPaul Charles for “RuPaul’s Drag Race”). This category now features familiar face Gordon Ramsay for “MasterChef Junior,” as well as a number of wild cards — duo Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg for “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party”), Alec Baldwin for “Match Game,” and W. Kamau Bell for “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.”

SNUB: “Dancing with the Stars”

Not only did ABC’s reality competition giant fail to receive a nomination in the reality competition category, but host Tom Bergeron failed to receive one for his individual achievement as a host. This is particularly surprising given that the series has been on the ballot every year since 2006, and Bergeron on since 2008, most recently winning in 2015.

SURPRISE: Jane Fonda

Lily Tomlin, Fonda’s other half on “Grace and Frankie,” has been nominated twice for their Netflix comedy, but this year marks the first time for Fonda. Fonda, who was last on the Emmy ballot in 2014 for her guest role on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” has never been nominated in the lead actress comedy or drama categories at all.

SNUB: Jude Law in “The Young Pope”

It seems crazy that someone of Jude Law’s caliber would get left off an Emmy ballot but — that’s what happened. After all, the limited series or movie lead actor race was just too stacked with talent like Ewan McGregor, Geoffrey Rush, Benedict Cumberbatch, Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, and Robert De Niro.

SURPRISE: Milo Ventimiglia

While it was expected that “This Is Us” star Sterling K. Brown would get a lead actor nod after winning a limited acting statue for “The People v. O.J. Simpson” last year, seeing his co-star Ventimiglia opposite him on the ballot was less of a sure thing. These nominations help put broadcast drama back in the race in a big way.

SNUB: “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” and Lauren Graham

The Academy went for topical over nostalgia at almost every turn this year, which meant Netflix’s “Gilmore Girls” revival came up short. Though series star Alexis Bledel’s name does appear on the ballot, it is for her guest work on streaming competitor Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” instead. Not even Lauren Graham, who so many contend was robbed years earlier by never receiving a nomination while the show was in its original run, could break through.

SURPRISE: Shannon Purser

Purser and her “Stranger Things” character, Barb, became an internet sensation after the first season was released on Netflix, but few expected a trending hashtag (#JusticeForBarb) to turn into accolades. Purser is now up for a guest actress Emmy for her turn on the sci-fi series.

SNUB: Christine Baranski 

Baranski was first recognized for her role as Diane Lockhart on CBS’ “The Good Wife” in 2010, when she was nominated in the supporting actress category for drama. She appeared on the ballot subsequently for the next six years, yet she was shut out now that she has spun-off into streaming service CBS All Access original “The Good Fight” and eligible for a lead actress nom.

 SNUB: “Insecure”

Only one freshman comedy — “Atlanta” — broke through to receive Emmy love this season. So it stings when considering the talent at HBO’s “Insecure” who didn’t make it on the ballot. The show as a whole, and series star and co-creator Issa Rae, who was nominated at the Golden Globes, were beloved choices.

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  1. Tracey says:

    Was the New Edition Story not nominated because it aired on BET?! It was the best biopic that has aired! And received such high reviews! So unfair and just plain wrong! The movie was watched by more than 30 million people. And everyone tuned in for parts 2 and 3. WOW! And what’s worst is that the snub isn’t even mentioned in this article. WOW

  2. Len says:

    Aisha Hinds should’ve been nominated for her brilliant portrayal as Harriet Tubman in Underground. The New Edition Story (BET) was snubbed in the limited series category and Mary Elizabeth Winstead should have been nominated for her performance in Fargo, eventhough this season’s storyline was terrible. The American was total crap this season.

  3. PAMELA HEALY says:

    YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THEY WOULD OF RECEIVED AT LEAST ONE EMMY IN THE 8 SEASONS THEY WERE ON !!!

  4. PAMELA HEALY says:

    ALTHOUGH “CASTLE” WAS PLAYING FOR 8 YEARS, YOU WOULD HAVE RECEIVED AN EMMY AT LEAST ONCE !!!

  5. Tulip says:

    Leslie Jones got a nomination? For what? Screaming, bugging her eyes and being supremely untalented? I can do that, where’s my nomination?

    • Ascroft says:

      Everything related to SNL was nominated simply because of the Hollywood hate for Trump. Jones is terrible, Baldwin’s “impersonations” are dreadful, and the show sucks as a whole as everyone knows, but the tolerant leftists of Hollywood reward hatred and intolerance. They also nominated Colbert, which as we both know, is a complete joke.

  6. Robert says:

    I don’t think Mr. Robot has aired in 2017. Season 2 ended on Sept. 21, 2016 & Season 3 begins in October of this year. So no snub for Rami Malek?

  7. William says:

    How is Bates Motel and Vera and Freddie not nominated? I like This is Us, but the performance by Freddie week in and week out are far better than the two who were nominated from that show, and I cannot understand how Vera Farmiga is left off the list. I would say it’s the genre, but look at Stranger Things.

  8. Martin Pal says:

    I used to know, or be familiar with, all of the Emmy nominations. Now there are so many programs out there that I haven’t even heard of a good many of the shows, or performers, nominated. And because there are so many worthy things that don’t even get nominated (see comments to this article), wouldn’t it be a good thing for the EMMY’s to institute a rule that if you win one year you’d be ineligible the next year, then return for eligibility the following year? Two examples: Bryan Cranston did not need to win 4 Emmy’s for his role on Breaking Bad, while Kevin Spacey still sits unrewarded for House of Cards. Does Julia Louis-Dreyfus need to win a 6th Emmy for Veep?

    Here’s my addition for a brilliant overlooked performance again this year: Freddie Highmore in Bates Motel.

    • Either that, or after 5, you should be ineligible. I don’t think one should be denied a nomination, but I wish there was a rule that made them ineligible to VOTE FOR–a nomination-only type of situation. This way, JLD could continue being nominated for her phenomenal comedic work, but not have to win every single year. I think the only hope she doesn’t win tbh is that Janney is now lead, and Janney is also beloved. Plus, this is the Emmys chance to make Janney a winner in all 4 female acting categories (drama lead/supporting and comedy lead/supporting). Ironic though that it takes one Emmy hog to dethrone another. (I don’t say this maliciously. They’re both amazing, 2 of my favorites. Janney is worthy of some Oscarbait role, in fact. She’s sometimes the best part of films, and usually in brief supporting roles.

  9. liendal says:

    Speaking of Oprah…..is that a handrail her right hand clutches in photo, or is she clutching a cane?

  10. What about Asia Kate Dillon for Best Supporting in Billions?

  11. Dee says:

    The New Edition Story was snubbed for Outstanding Limited Series! But we all know why that is…

    • Joanna says:

      I agree! The New Edition Story was a huge snub and yes, I do know why. They weren’t even mentioned in this article. What a shame…

    • Tulip says:

      I don’t. Why was it snubbed?

      • Tracey says:

        I so agree. It was snubbed because it aired on BET! And even though it received such high reviews and ratings, I guess “usses” we’re the only ones watching. And that wasn’t good enough for the Emmys. So disappointing.

  12. The only true snub was ‘The Leftovers’, specifically Justin Theroux. Theroux put on a masters class in acting with all the pain and emotional weight he carried on his face for 3 seasons. Carrie Coon as well. They tried to make up for it by giving her the Fargo nomination, but she has no chance of winning because she was the weakest character in that show. Lena Dunham? You have to be joking. She played a version of herself and most viewers hate both the tv and real life versions. ‘Insecure’ was no snub. It was boring and had the same theme for every scene: “It’s so hard being a black woman”. That gets tiring after 2 episodes. ‘The Americans’ had arguably its worst season and didn’t deserve any nominations this season. ‘SNL’ getting the amount it did was also a big joke. The skits everyone loved this season didn’t even feature actual cast members and after the political opening sketch, the rest of the show was steaming, hot garbage.

  13. IT--II--IT says:

    The INTEL RUN talking image franchise slum – – — is FINISHED !

  14. jason says:

    Mate – BILLIONS (SNUB) AXEL “FRICKEN” ROD!!!

  15. Larry Pirerre says:

    Oprah actin like a po black woman in the Lack’s project is pathetic. Her gimmicky negro shtick is insulting to real people she will abandon in welfare lines with no remorse. The movie is terrible btw.. Lena Dunham had her day in the sun, the show is cute, but gets old fast. The Good Fight is an excellent show I see more potential there.

    • liendal says:

      Larry Pirerre, you’re out of order stating….”insulting to real people she will abandon in welfare lines with no remorse” …. or anything similar. None of this has anything to do with the movie, however this woman has given more back than could ever be counted

      • Larry Pirerre says:

        My comment refers to her lack of character development. She cant act the part because she doesnt understand what the character is like. This is obvious from her portrayal, tone and cliche acting, which she does in every role.

        Oprah’s thing is profiting off the good work of others. Like high ranking church officials she is wealthy beyond belief cuz of it. I see her as a self entitled megalomanic hypocrite you do not. She is unrelatable to most black folks, and does little for the black community. Incomes for black families under Obama did not increase, she made millions.

  16. TV viewer says:

    I am sorry to hear you feel the TV Academy should/would nominate Oprah, even when not seeing her performance first, just because she’s Oprah. Who cares. That has nothing to do with merit, even tho folks do things like that. If she is deserving, I am all for it. But just giving someone credit because of who they are, is not only unfair, it is not logical. If this were the way of every voting process, Meryl
    Streep would have an Oscar for every single film she’s ever made. And we know she doesn’t.

  17. TN says:

    Snubs? Ha. It seems that the Emmys has it right. If Oprah would just produce and not try to act, it would be better. Transparent—-nah! Jimmy Fallon—he had some problems this year. Zach G—yeah, a surprise. BUT Lena Dunham—no surprise there.

  18. Jane Griffith says:

    Its no surprise Jimmy Fallon didn’t get a nomination this year. Despite being the most talented, most kind, and most entertaining, what you HAVE to be…is vile, dull, and have a one track, seemingly political mind.

    • Dharna says:

      Kind? Jimmy Fallon fake-laughs his way through a kiddie show. Tousling Trump’s hair was not funny, on so many levels. Fallon’s numbers are dropping like a stone. He’ll fake laugh in obscurity very soon.

    • Alex says:

      He needed to be snubbed so Sammy Bee could get the nom.

  19. BIGGEST SNUB.

    “Forged In Fire” was not nominated for “Best Reality-Competition Program”

    It’s my new favorite show – Forging metal knives and historical weapons is about as uncool as you can get in the 21st century. So the contestants are all these quirky unique characters who just love the blacksmith craft even though every person in their lives must think they are really strange

    It makes for a great show – with lots of metal, fire, hammering, slicing , stabbing and cutting. The highest form of praise given about a weapon from one judge is telling the contestant, “It Will Kill”.

    It’s great fun, and definitely deserved at least a nomination. Unfortunately, given it’s blue collar/red state appeal, I doubt most of the blue state elitist Emmy voters have ever seen the show. And that’s too bad.

  20. joestemme says:

    Unless Variety or Ms.Turchiano have evidence of a coordinated effort to collude to not vote for a Specific Person or Show – it is not a “snub”. A genuine snub is a willful act to shun or diss a particular person or thing. Getting outvoted by your peers who make another choice is not a “snub”.

  21. james t. jablownick says:

    Odd, I don’t see the listed ‘Snubs’ as subs at all. I would agree all those not chosen definitely did not deserve to be nominated. Crap is crap, those producers wanted to play it safe and pander to the tired & remedial so why would anyone think they were being snubbed?

  22. Suez says:

    Colbert? His show SUCKS! All is it is Trump did this, Trump did that. A monkey could replace him and the writing is dreadful.

  23. David K says:

    As far as snubs go: love Transparent but it was painful to get through this season, just overwrought all around with increasingly unlikable characters. Rami Malek & Mr. Robot were directionless in season 2, and Lena Dunham-that finale was AWFUL!
    the Academy got it right

  24. Jeffrey says:

    MIcah Fowler really should have been recognized for his role on speechless.

  25. Randy says:

    The most bizarre choice for me was picking Carrie Coon for Fargo instead of The Leftovers. In the latter, she was simply unbelievable. After watching the last episode, I said to my wife that she had the Emmy locked up. Instead, she was snubbed for that superb performance and nominated for Fargo, in which she had much less to work with in terms of screen time and quality writing. She may have deserved a nomination for Fargo; she definitely deserved one for the Leftovers.

  26. nickp91 says:

    it is a real shame to snub Lauren Graham and Gilmore girls once again

  27. Einstein says:

    Many of these are not snubs. Oprah gave same performance she gives every time. Queen Sugar is not a good show — bad writing, mediocre storyline and acting. Once again, DuVernay and her publicity machine working overtime, but if the work isn’t great no amount of spin can make it so. Insecure is also very blah, seems controlled in a way Awkward Black Girl was not. It’s also not v funny.

  28. Jill says:

    why should Girls/Dunham get a nom, just because it was the last season? Terrible, pretentious, niche show and so glad it’s gone.

  29. IKidYouNot says:

    Colbert’s terrible show, one of the worst in the history of late-night TV, being nominated is absolutely ludicrous.

  30. Jazmin says:

    Insecure is a very basic show. Seriously nothing interesting or new about it. And I say this as a woman of color who was so excited to watch it. Not even in the same remote league as the other comedies nominated. Biggest snub was Mary Elizabeth Winstead of Fargo.

  31. Andrew Lee Jackson says:

    The fact the Orphan Black got no nominations and is not on this list, is a travesty

  32. Orphan Black should be Recognized says:

    Tatiana Maslany…………ROBBED AGAIN!
    Who else is on TV playing 10 versions of themselves? No One!
    Shame

    • ZBT says:

      Orphan Black aired no new episodes. Tatiana won for Season 4 and Season 5 debuted after the eligibility period. She’s eligible for her season 5 performances next year.

    • Alex Meyer says:

      Tatiana Maslany wasn’t robbed. Orphan Black’s new episodes aired outside of the Emmy eligibility period, so therefore, Tatiana Maslany COULDN’T be nominated this year. She’ll have to wait until next year.

    • Paul Hernandez says:

      Michael McKean snubbed from BCS. Jonathan Banks, who was barely in the season, was nominated instead. k.

      • Gurk says:

        I know right? It was a weak season for Jonathan banks’s character, michael mckean was beyond outstanding (especially in the episode “chicanery”). I have no idea why banks was nominated over mckean. It’s a crime.

  33. L says:

    Orange is the New Black. Orange is New Black. Orange is the New Black. That 4th season was such a triumph. I am utterly disappointed. And then you don’t even include it on your Snubs list, Variety? Come on.

  34. Paul M says:

    Lena Dunham has never won an Emmy award. She was nominated in 2012, but did not win.

  35. greg marotta says:

    Maybe Fallon should bring back the Orange Freak for an encore.

  36. Adlon is a glorified voice actress and little else. She lucked into that nomination based on her connection to Louie CK. Kristen Bell got jobbed for the 12th consecutive year.

    • Charli says:

      You have zero idea what you’re talking about. She was one of the main actors on Californication for several years, she’s also been in several movies and other tv shows before this. I’ve known of her since the early 80’s for a couple of her film roles when she was a teenager.

  37. ABoss says:

    RUpert Friend. Homeland. Snub.

  38. Matthew says:

    You should probably mention that Adlon WON an Emmy for King of the Hill.

  39. Robbie says:

    No, the big snub was Mary Elizabeth Winstead for Fargo, not Carrie Coon, who really did nothing on Fargo to be worth rewarding. And the Supporting Actress in a Limited Series category is filled with so much dross, that it’s even doubly shocking that Winstead, who should have won this easily, was not nominated.

  40. Matthew says:

    Lena Dunham never won an Emmy for Girls.

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