Shafted: 15 TV Stand-Outs Who Deserved More Emmys - Rolling Stone
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Shafted: 15 TV Stand-Outs Who Deserved More Emmys

‘The Wire,’ Jon Hamm, MTV — you won’t believe these these landmarks and legends have been given so little Emmy love

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in 'The X-Files,' one of the many shows that have been under-rewarded at the Emmys.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in 'The X-Files,' one of the many shows that have been under-rewarded at the Emmys.

© 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy of the Everett Collection

All award shows make mistakes. However, the Primetime Emmys is truly unique — because it seems to make the same mistakes over and over again. Whereas a great film can only lose Best Picture at the Academy Awards once, so many fantastic television dramas and comedies are ignored year after year by Emmy voters. It's not just shows that miss out on the trophies either: Many classic television roles, from George Costanza to Don Draper to Jessica Fletcher, never got their Emmy due.

We've combed through the archives and found the 16 most under-rewarded TV icons, from show runners to modern classics like The Wire to an entire network (!) that have been given the cold Emmy shoulder. For some, the 2014 ceremony offers another shot at recognition; for others on this list, their time has passed. Either way, they're all winners to us.


Angela Lansbury

The longtime Murder, She Wrote was the Susan Lucci of the Primetime Emmys, with Lansbury receiving an unprecedented 12 Lead Actress in a Drama Series nominations for her role as detective Jessica Fletcher. But each and every year she showed up to the ceremonies and went home empty-handed.  On the bright side, while a dozen other actresses may have racked up those Emmy wins, only Lansbury has inspired a hit reggae track.


The Cast(s) of ‘Law & Order’

The Law & Order universe might be the most binge-worthy franchise on television, but whereas mere mortals often fall pray to those SVU marathons that are always on the USA Network, Emmy voters seem far less susceptible. Of all those great actors who have been a regular on any L&O show – Christopher Meloni, Sam Waterston, Jerry Orbach, S. Epetha Merkerson, Richard Belzer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Eric Bogosian, even Ice T! – only Mariska Hargitay has won an Outstanding Acting in a Drama Emmy for their work on the show. And forget about Outstanding Drama Series nods; none of the various L&O shows have even been nominated in that category since the original won an Outstanding Drama Series Emmy back in 1997 — which was so long ago, Lieutenant John Munch was still slumming it on Homicide: Life on the Streets.


Jon Hamm

It's remarkable that the actor behind one of TV's most iconic characters ever has never been the recipient of Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Hamm earned six nominations for his portrayal of Don Draper on Mad Men but has zero wins to show for them. Three of those potential Emmys went to another TV legend – Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston – while the others went to Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler, Homeland's Damian Lewis, and Jeff Daniels of The Newsroom. Cool characters, but they're no Don Draper. Hamm is once again nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor this year, but he faces stiff competition from Cranston yet again and the True Detective boys. Luckily for Hamm, Don Draper – who will get a nod for part two of Mad Men's final season – won't have to worry about Walter White or Rust Cohle in 2015.


Meryl Streep

One of the greatest actresses of all time, Meryl Streep has 18 Oscars nominations… but only three Emmy nods. Yes, her winning percentage for Emmy Awards (2 out of 3 wins in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie category) is way better than the 3-for-18 she's batting in the Academy Award Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress categories. Still, it seems strange that Meryl didn't receive nominations for her guest voice work on The Simpsons and King of the Hill, or her portrayal of Margaret Chase Smith in the miniseries Freedom: A History of Us, if only just to add her majestic aura to the ceremony. Streep's first major award win was actually the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for 1978's Holocaust; 26 years and double-digit Oscar nods later, she'd win in the same category for Angels In America.


Vince Gilligan

While Breaking Bad and its actors have been rightfully honored at the Emmys since the show debuted in 2008, its mastermind Vince Gilligan has never won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing or Outstanding Director — despite a handful of nominations that even goes back to his exceptional work on The X-Files. However, this might be the year the losing streak ends for Gilligan as he's up for Emmys in both categories once again, so hopefully the showrunner finally will receive the stand-alone award he deserves. Either that or he can hope that his amusing appearance on Community somehow earns him an Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series nomination next year. (Spoiler alert: It won't.)


Seth MacFarlane and ‘Family Guy’

Amazingly, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has just as many Grammy nominations (three) as his long running comedy has Outstanding Animated Series nods. In both cases, both MacFarlane and Family Guy left the award shows empty handed. The Simpsons and South Park had a stranglehold on the Outstanding Animated category during FG's peak years, and now the emergence of cartoons like Archer and Bob's Burgers (which deservedly won the 2014 Emmy in this category) have left MacFarlane's most famous show without so much as a nomination. While the show's Emmy days might be over, it hasn't been a total shutout for MacFarlane: He won Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 2000 for his work as Stewie Griffin and Outstanding Music & Lyrics in 2002 for the Family Guy episode "You've Got a Lot to See."

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