There are a lot of great programs, creators, and performances nominated for Emmys this year, but that doesn’t mean a lot worthwhile possibilities didn’t get overlooked. Below, you’ll find our picks for some of the most unfortunate exclusions.
The Leftovers (generally) and Carrie Coon (specifically)
The Leftovers getting completely shut out of the major categories at the 2017 is a joke. It has to be. “Haha,” I imagine people saying, “this will be hilarious. Let’s even nominate House of Cards, just to twist the knife!” It’s the only explanation that makes sense to me. Because I don’t see how you could have watched that final season, in all its devastating/hopeful/sexboat glory and not think it deserves at least a token mention on the night of the ceremony. Something. Anything. I know a lot of people watched Westworld and that HBO heaved its weight behind that show instead (Westworld got 22 nominations this year, which is a little absurd for a show that was maybe a B or B+ in retrospect), but come on. Come on.
And it’s even crazier when you realize Carrie Coon wasn’t nominated. Man alive, did you see Carrie Coon’s performance this season? Did you see Nora Durst run the gamut of emotions? Did you see her Wu-Tang tattoo? How does that not get included on the list? There’s a part of me that almost wishes she hadn’t gotten nominated for Fargo, because then I could talk myself into an insane theory where her whole career has just been my own hallucination. But no, it’s real. The voters know Carrie Coon exists and they still chose to leave her out of the Outstanding Actress category. It’s almost enough to make you give it all up and move to Australia to raise pigeons. — Brian Grubb
Listen, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt certainly still has its moments, but the wrong Netflix series got a comedy slot this nomination go-around. (Master of None, you can stay) I know that the snobbery against animated series will probably never die, but Bojack Horseman somehow manages to be hilarious and emotionally devastating in equal measure.
As Bojack navigates his empty life in Hollywood, the show manages to build a landscape of scathing one-liners, amazing animal puns, and basically every comic actor worth a damn as the other players — all accompanying Bojack’s slow descent into self-realization and the depression. (Here, at least, the two go hand-in-hand.) Lots of shows will make you laugh. Bojack will make you laugh, knife you in the gut, and leave you weeping to sort through your confusing mix of emotions in the aftermath. Bojack Horseman is a difficult sell to Emmy voters, but the creativity, pathos, and genuine laughs it brings are remarkable. Does Modern Family really need (deserve) that spot on the ballot anymore? — Alyssa Fikse
Lena Dunham: Girls
I know, ok? I know. Dunham and Girls has been divisive pretty much since episode one, but when it was good, Girls was so good. Although it’s awards notice waned as the seasons progressed, Dunham’s nuanced performance as the selfish yet self-aware Hannah Horvath certainly deserved more
In the show’s final season, Dunham’s performance was excellent, but “What Will We Do This Time About Adam?” was perhaps her strongest performance to date. As Hannah looks ahead to life as a single mother, Adam makes one last ill-thought out attempt to make their fraught relationship work. After a day of pie in the sky life planning, the quiet dread that spent the entire episode creeping in at the edges of the frame came to a head during their last supper. As they sit across from each other in the diner booth, Dunham starts to cry and it is immediately apparent that they will never be the perfect little family that they had talked about all day. This was something that she had to do alone, and her split second realization is truly masterful.
Dunham and Adam Driver played off of each other extraordinarily well for the entire series, but their send-off episode was devastating and beautiful. It would have been nice for Dunham, who, for all her controversy, poured herself fully into Girls, to get a little credit in the end. — Alyssa Fikse
The Outstanding Comedy category for this year’s Emmys is filled with exciting selections like Aziz Ansari’s Master of None and Donald Glover’s Atlanta. There’s also the obligatory nod for veterans like Modern Family and Veep. While it’s nice to see comedians of color finally being recognized during awards season, it speaks volumes that Insecure, the relatable and revolutionary comedy series from Issa Rae, was left off the list. The first season of Insecure managed to finally give us a show about black women that portrayed its characters as complex, flawed, funny, and real without that view being filtered through a racist, misogynistic lens. The show tackled everything from dating and workplace sexism to institutionalized racism in season one and it did it through humor and some sly commentary that didn’t feel forced. Because the TV landscape is still pretty whitewashed at the moment, a lot of people have been quick to blame Insecure’s snub on the fact that another freshman comedy about people of color (Atlanta) garnered more attention. Won’t it be nice when the success of one black TV show doesn’t mean the nominations quota is filled, when black female-led series’ actually get their due? I love Julia-Louis Dreyfus and Modern Family as much as the next girl but it’s time to pass the damn baton. — Jessica Toomer
Michael McKean: Better Call Saul
All season, the battle between Michael McKeen’s Chuck McGill and Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill intensified, led by Chuck’s ever-present moral superiority and Jimmy’s efforts to dodge responsibility for the fraud he perpetrated against his older brother. The fight gave Chuck a renewed vigor, allowing him to ever-so-slightly push back against the illness (?) that had caused him to be tortured by radiation and electromagnetic waves. It was a stirring battle between two very opposite sides: a man who only saw things in black and white and one who lounged around in the gray. All battles have to end, however, and McKean’s performance in the season three finale — as he experiences the heartbreak of realizing he can’t talk his way out of a separation from his firm and is later driven beyond the brink — should have cinched him, not just an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but a win. — Jason Tabrys
Rhea Seehorn: Better Call Saul
Rhea Seehorn has a tricky needle to thread on Better Call Saul. Her character, Kim Wexler, is not a part of the Breaking Bad universe, like Jimmy or Mike or Gus, but she’s a very important part of this one. And since we know Jimmy eventually goes full Saul, and that Kim has spent a fair chunk of the show so far trying to dissuade him from doing that, she also appears to be headed for a pretty big loss in all this. (A loss for her, but a gain for many of the show’s viewers, because who doesn’t love seeing Bob Odenkirk in those rainbow shirts?) This season brought us closer than ever to that, with Jimmy making ads under the Saul name and Kim frying her brain a little bit trying to keep a legitimate practice going by herself. It was rough times, even before she crashed her car.
And the thing is, that’s all up there on the screen. Rhea Seehorn is so great. It would be very easy for her to fall into being a scold who holds Jimmy back, but it never happens, because she gives everything depth and understanding that requires a lot more than just reading the lines on the page. She can kind of get overlooked on the show because of the whole Saul/Mike/Gus business, which is probably a major reason she got overlooked by voters at nomination time, but make no mistake: this show — one of the best on television — doesn’t work without her performance. — Brian Grubb
Samira Wiley: Orange Is The New Black
Poussey Washington’s (Samira Wiley) death in season four of Orange Is The New Black at the hands of a corrections officer may be one of the show’s most powerful moments, sparking outrage, chaos, and a game-changing season five. But as we were all reminded of in the fourth season’s finale, Poussey was so much more than a body under a sheet on a cold floor and a symbol of blue-on-black crime in America. Throughout the show’s run, Poussey, who was as complex and troubled by the daily impact of her incarceration at Litchfield as any of her fellow inmates, brought an uncommon buoyancy to the prison at times. Wiley played moments of childlike wonder and enthusiasm against that dire backdrop in a masterful way and did the same in the season finale when audiences went with Poussey on a wondrous odyssey through New York.
Her absence was and will be felt for more than what it sparked. The prison and the show are less bright without her light and the Emmys should have noticed that and included Wiley as a nominee for Orange Is The New Black on top of the work she was recognized for on The Handmaid’s Tale. — Jason Tabrys
Fred Armisen and Bill Hader: Documentary Now!
Documentary Now! picked up a nomination for Outstanding Sketch Series, which is good, because Documentary Now! is good. Loose parodies of famous documentaries is admittedly a very niche thing, but even without the full catalog of references, the show is still done so well that you can get i. Like, do you need to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi to appreciate their episode “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken”? Well, no. I guess not. It’s still a funny and sweet story about fathers and sons that you can follow just fine. You might cry a little at the end, too.
Which brings me to my point: It seems odd to nominate the show without also nominating the performances of the two leads, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader. The show doesn’t work at all if they don’t dive headfirst into new characters in each episode, which they do, keeping up the performances for a half-hour at a time, instead of five minutes for a sketch. It’s remarkable. One week Hader is a barely fictional James Carville, another he’s a barely fictional Robert Evans. And Armisen’s work might be even better because he’s not just doing impressions a lot of the time. He’s creating whole new people to fit into the story. I’m serious, you have to watch “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken.” It’s on Netflix. Then I think you’ll see what I mean. — Brian Grubb
Aubrey Plaza: Legion
Look, I get why the Emmys didn’t recognize Noah Hawley’s delightfully weird FX superhero series. The voting crowd for the show skews… well, I’m not sure exactly what they like besides British period dramas and Veep but it’s safe to say Stranger Things is about as genre as we can hope for at the moment. That being said, it’s a damn travesty that Aubrey Plaza’s genius-level evil turn as Lenny/Benny/The Shadow King on Legion wasn’t recognized this year. Plaza not only inhabited a character originally written for a 50-year-old man, she transformed herself into a worthy villain (a rare feat for comic book fare) whom we couldn’t help but love despite the fact that she constantly f*cked with our hero’s mind. Plaza had a particularly memorable musical scene on the series in which she danced to Nina Simone, humped examination chairs, and reveled in toying with her host’s psyche. Being bad never looked so good. — Jessica Toomer
Ken Hall: People of Earth
With the combined comedic forces of The Office, Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live behind it, you’d think People of Earth would garner all the nominations. It hasn’t, though TBS’ original summer series is one of many Peak TV shows that don’t make the cut, so it’s absence isn’t too surprising. Yet People of Earth‘s lack of recognition still stings, especially since breakout star Ken Hall deserves plenty of accolades for his prosthesis-bound role of Jeff the Grey, one of a cadre of aliens whose workplace antics directly affect the program’s titular “people.” The award-winning Canadian comedian doesn’t boast the star power of Emmy nominees like Alec Baldwin, Louie Anderson and Tituss Burgess — whose work earned them nods for the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category this year — but Hall’s name deserves their company. Not only has he managed to render one of People of Earth‘s (and television’s) best comedic performances in recent memory, but he also achieved it while wearing a significant amount of prosthetics and makeup. — Andrew Husband