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Top 10 Great TV Shows That Never Won An Emmy

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
It just goes to show that awards aren’t everything. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten great TV shows that never won an Emmy. For this list, we’ll be looking at those critically acclaimed and publicly adored television series that have never won an Emmy award. To be included in this list, the show cannot have won a single Primetime Emmy award, including the technical ones. Seeing as how the Primetime Emmys honor American television, international shows like “Doctor Who” won’t be included.
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It just goes to show that awards aren’t everything. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten great TV shows that never won an Emmy.

For this list, we’ll be looking at those critically acclaimed and publicly adored television series that have never won an Emmy award. To be included in this list, the show cannot have won a single Primetime Emmy award, including the technical ones. Seeing as how the Primetime Emmys honor American television, international shows like “Doctor Who” won’t be included.





#10: “Bates Motel” (2013-17)




For a strong mystery and psychological horror show, look no further than “Bates Motel.” Co-developed by Carlton Cuse of “Lost” fame, “Bates Motel” acts as both a prequel to and a reimagining of Robert Bloch’s timeless novel, “Psycho.” For psychological horror done right, you need to have fantastic lead actors at the helm, and both Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga get the job done beautifully, portraying Norman and Norma Bates to eerie perfection. Vera Farmiga was recognized by the Emmys and received an Oustanding Actress nomination in 2013, and the series was also nominated for its music and cinematography. Despite how strong those aspects of the show were, it never received a coveted trophy.





#9: “Sons of Anarchy” (2008-14)




“Sons of Anarchy” was riding through this world for seven great seasons, yet it never won a single Emmy in all that time, despite receiving considerable critical acclaim throughout its run. The show follows Jackson "Jax" Teller, a member of the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club, who begins to question his role in the family business. It’s basically “Hamlet” with motorcycles and tattoos. The series was nominated for five awards, but never received a single one. Despite that, Katey Sagal won a Golden Globe for her performance as Gemma, so there’s that, we suppose.







#8: “Parks and Recreation” (2009-15)




Often considered to be the sister show of “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” follows the bumbling adventures of a parks department in the town of Pawnee, Indiana. Despite a rocky first season, “Parks” enjoyed critical acclaim for the remainder of its run, particularly for its wacky characters, intelligent writing, and Amy Poehler’s performance as Leslie Knope. The series was nominated for a staggering sixteen Emmys, with six of those nominations going to Poehler alone, but alas, they went 0 for 16. However, awards or not, these characters continue to live on in our hearts. And in our memes.





#7: “Prison Break” (2005-09; 2017)




“Prison Break” aired at a time when the TV landscape was changing: protagonists were becoming more complex, and stories were taking on a more serialized nature. This show, about a man who tries to bust his innocent brother out of jail, was in the thick of it, and its first two seasons provided some gritty and heart-racing entertainment. Despite the show’s positive reception, particularly in its first season, it only ever received one Emmy nomination, for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. While the opening theme IS badass, the show itself is considerably good and exciting as well.







#6: “Hannibal” (2013-15)




Despite “Hannibal” lasting only three seasons, they have to be some of the finest three seasons in network TV history. The series is adapted from Thomas Harris’ thrilling Hannibal Lecter novels and follows Will Graham, a tortured FBI investigator, and Hannibal Lecter, his cannibalistic psychiatrist. The show received immense amounts of critical acclaim throughout its run, particularly for its nuanced acting and nightmare-inducing visuals, but despite that, it never received recognition at the Emmys. In fact, the show was only nominated once, for Outstanding Special Visual Effects, which it lost to “Sherlock.” Travesty, we say!







#5: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (2005-)




This show may not be for everyone. After all, it follows what’s arguably the five worst people on the planet as they ruin the lives of everyone around them, and the humor is particularly dark. That said, it’s also gut-bustingly hilarious, and has since proudly taken on the description of “Seinfeld on crack.” However, no matter how great the performances and writing, the series has only been recognized three times at the Emmys, and they were all for Stunt Coordination no less. The series has poked fun at its own dysfunctional nature and lack of mainstream recognition, proving that the creators are perfectly content and proud of the show as it is.





#4: “Oz” (1997-2003)




“Oz” is easily one of the most influential shows of all time. It follows the inmates and guards of the maximum-security Oswald State Correctional Facility, and it features all the harrowing and disturbing content which that brings. Distressing and complex content like this had rarely been seen on TV before, and many critics argue that it was this series, among a few others, which helped usher in the Golden Age of TV that came about soon after. However, despite its enormous influence on the medium, it was only nominated for two Emmys throughout its lifetime: Outstanding Casting and Outstanding Guest Actor for Charles S. Dutton.







#3: “Star Trek” (1966-69)




Despite low ratings throughout its initial run, “Star Trek” has since become a cultural phenomenon and has had a huge influence not only on television, but also on popular culture as a whole. It spawned a franchise that continues today, and it is remembered fondly as one of TV’s most important titles. So of course, it received zero Emmy Awards throughout its original run. However, it’s not like it wasn’t recognized. The series was nominated for thirteen awards, including two for Outstanding Dramatic Series and three for Leonard Nimoy, yet it failed to secure a single win. Maybe it did in some other galaxy. We can only hope.





#2: “The Leftovers” (2014-17)




Despite an admittedly rocky first season, “The Leftovers” captivated critics and audiences alike for its remaining two seasons, providing viewers with some of the most mysterious and emotional television in years. The series is adapted from Tom Perrotta’s novel and follows a band of citizens after 2% of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes. Critics have consistently praised its acting, writing, and story, but no matter how much praise is showered upon it, it doesn’t change the fact that the series has only received one Emmy Award nomination. And that’s almost as mysterious as 2% of the world’s population disappearing.





Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.



“Laverne & Shirley” (1976-83)





“NCIS” (2003-)





#1: “The Wire” (2002-08)




“The Wire” is undoubtedly the most deserving show for the top spot on this list. It’s widely considered to be one of, if not THE, greatest television shows of all time. Not only does it tell thrilling stories with fantastic characters, but it has also been praised for its explorations of urban life, politics, and the drug trade, among many, many others. But, alas, it received almost no recognition at the Emmys. It was nominated twice for Outstanding Writing, but lost to “House” and “Mad Men”. However, even without any Emmys, it’s widely regarded and respected, and nothing can take that away.
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