With last year’s big winner Game of Thrones taking an Emmys’ year off and Peak TV continued to Peak, there were more rookies than ever fighting for attention in the awards show’s nominations this year – The Crown, Stranger Things, Atlanta, The Handmaid’s Tale. This year, they had no choice but to break some of their bad habits regarding rewarding the same ol’ same ol’ – and they did some of that. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t some headslapping snubs in this year’s Emmys picks. No Michael McKean for Better Call Saul? No Leftovers? Seriously, WTF?
With the unveiling complete, let’s take a look at a baker’s dozen worth of this year’s greatest snubs – the performers who never got enough attention and the shows that could have used an Emmy bump but ended up with bupkiss.
The Leftovers and The Americans
Talk about left behind. Should we nominate two of the most critically acclaimed show on television, the Emmys thought? Nah, why bother? The final season of HBO’s masterful drama saw Damon Lindelof and his team producing some of the most riveting television of the entire decade, bringing their daring examination of grief and loss in for an emotional landing. And the Academy ignored ALL of it. Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Chris Eccleston, Mimi Leder’s direction, all of the writing – we could do a whole snubs piece on this show alone. And don’t get us started on the M.I.A. status of FX’s jawdroppingly great Eighties undercover-Russians drama, which manages to be one of the most incisive shows about marriage to air on the small screen and still find time for espionage and incredible wigsploitation. Kudos to Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell for the acting nominations, but still: Nyet!
Asia Kate Dillon, Billions
It appears Showtime will always be HBO’s little brother, picked last to play in the big game even when they have the talent to succeed. Sure, your William H. Macys and your Liev Schreibers show up now and then, but that’s mostly because the Academy still gives extra credit when movie stars do television. Yet one of 2017’s most remarkable performances on the network was ignore this year: Asia Kate Dillon on Billions, who jumped into a show that often hinges on testosterone-driven ego and completely reshaped the arc of the entire program. And let’s not ignore that the Academy had a chance to really make a statement by nominating the non-binary actor. Late to the party again, Emmys.
Aubrey Plaza, Legion
We all suspected that Noah Hawley’s trippy mutant-superhero mindbender would be relatively ignored (and it was). But there was still some hope that the scene-stealing Aubrey Plaza could slip in to the Best Supporting Actress category. The Tyler Durden of this show, Plaza gave a fascinating, physical performance that Academy members may have thought was “too weird” for Emmy consideration. Shame on them. Genre shows really need to break out – see this year’s inclusion of watercooler-chatter generators Westworld and Stranger Things – to get the Academy’s attention, and Legion never made that jump. Still, the former Parks & Rec actor should have nabbed a spot for that interpretive dance scene alone.
Bryan Tyree Henry and Lakeith Stanfield, Atlanta
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series has always been traditionally crowded and the Academy has a habit of getting it traditionally wrong. As great as it was to see Atlanta nominated for Best Series and Best Actor, how do those happen and not these? The fact is that past-their-prime nominees like Ty Burrell are still taking up real estate. Make way for Paper Boi, Phil Dunphy.
Maybe we should just be happy they didn’t nominate Divorce instead – but missing HBO’s clever Issa Rae vehicle is still a mistake. The Academy seems to have a quota for HBO comedies, and Veep and Silicon Valley are taking up the two spots right now. The acclaimed final season of Girls? Nah. (Although it was recognized, bizarrely, in the guest categories, notching three there.) And Issa Rae’s Insecure will have to wait at least one more year to get a deserving Best Actress or Best Series nomination. Although probably not till the two feted HBO comedies go off the air.
Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel
Who would have guessed that an origin story for one of cinema’s most iconic characters in film history would produce a performance like this one? As the show inevitably got deeper into the psychosis of Norman Bates, Highmore’s work became more complex and daring, especially in the final season of the show, one in which he spent most of his time talking to his dead mother. In the closing chapters of the show, as Norman realized he could only be happy with the protector that he killed, the actor was delivering one of the best dramatic performances on television. So naturally the Emmys ignored it. Sigh.
It was always something of a pipe dream that the Academy would take the final chance to nominate SundanceTV’s heartbreaking drama but no less of a snub. The somber Aden Young, who played the show’s ex-felon returning to his hometown after DNA evidence exonerated him, would have made a great Best Actor nominee. The show-stealing Abigail Spencer as his supportive sister? Should have been a lock. Clayne Crawford as Daniel’s stepbrother? Would have been a wonderful surprise nominee. We got none of them. Ditto the show itself.
Michael McKean and Rhea Seahorn, Better Call Saul
While the Academy did a nice job nominating “party tickets” of several ensembles (Westworld, This is Us), they somehow missed two of the best performances on a show they clearly like: Better Call Saul. Michael McKean’s examination of his own potential madness was as good as television gets, and Seehorn gave another typically grounded, fantastic performance as Jimmy’s partner in law (and crime). But she didn’t have an “Emmy Moment” this season, which probably cost her. Yes, that’s still a thing.
Michael Stuhlbarg and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Fargo
It’s hard to believe that a show with 16 nominations could be in a snubs column. Somehow, however, the choices made when it comes to Fargo still feel incomplete. The Limited Series/Movie categories were so crowded this year that some deserving choices were bound to get screwed, but how Sy Feltz and Nikki Swango missed the cut is still a little baffling. Are they not big enough movie stars? Okay, then.
The Fuller Torch has been passed. After years of ignoring Hannibal, the Academy did the same to his new show, this breathtaking, batshit adaptation of the Neil Gaiman classic. We kind of saw this coming in major categories, but couldn’t they have scraped together more tech nods than Visual Effects and Title Design? Both are well-deserved … except where’s Cinematography for one of the best-looking programs on television? Then again, Hannibal wasn’t nominated there either, thereby nullifying the category’s value for at least a decade by its omission.
Winona Ryder, Stranger Things
No one expected David Harbour to nab an Emmy nomination – he was not the most recognizable face in Netflix’s I-Love-the-’80s horror hit. That Stranger Things broke through the award show’s bias against genre shows to land a Best Drama nomination was also a nice surprise … but where was the nod for Winona Ryder as a grieving, terrified mother? The category was admittedly crowded, but this is one of the biggest surprises of the morning given the Academy’s love for star power. Although you have to adore the fact that Barb finally gets some justice. (Shannon Purser was nominated for Best Guest Actress.)
Ed Harris, Westworld
Like Ryder, this one is more of a “huh” than an egregious snub, given the general love for the show across the board. Maybe they figured 22 nominations was enough. Only where’s the Man in Black? He’s the character most people were talking about, and it would have been nice to see the Academy make an acting choice for this show that felt a little less predictable than how they went.