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10 popular series that surprisingly never won Primetime Emmy Awards

The Primetime Emmy Awards celebrate the best in television. Or do they? While plenty of deserving series have taken home wins, some fantastic shows have surprisingly been left by the wayside.

In some cases, great shows have been nominated over and over again without ever seeing the golden statue, while others have been completely ignored in the major categories despite winning technical Emmys for things like costumes and makeup. Here are 10 series that you might be surprised to know never won a Primetime Emmy.

Star Trek: The Original Series

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The groundbreaking sci-fi series following the adventures of the starship USS Enterprise and its crew may be the inspiration for the modern cell phone, but it never won an Emmy. Led by the intrepid Captain James T. Kirk (Willian Shatner), and featuring a diverse cast of beloved characters, the show aired on NBC from 1966 through its cancellation in 1969.

The series went on to spawn a massive franchise featuring a wide array of spinoffs in television, film, and other media, along with tons of merchandise and a still-expanding mythology. It was nominated 13 times in categories like film editing and outstanding dramatic series, but lost every time. It could be due to the fact that the ahead-of-its-time show wasn’t all that popular when it aired, gaining its stature in syndication.

The Wire

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This HBO crime drama aired for five seasons from 2002-2008. The series was created by David Simon, an author and former police reporter, and examined the relationship between law enforcement and various institutions, covering a different one each season while still featuring the same characters and advancing the core storylines. Despite being well-received by critics and audiences alike, the series only received two Primetime Emmy nominations in 2005 and 2008, both times for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. In 2005, it was beaten by House, and in 2008, by Mad Men.

Sons of Anarchy

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Perhaps this FX crime drama had far too much blood, gore, and gratuitous violence for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to recognize it during its seven-season run. Starring Charlie Hunnam and Katey Sagal, the series is a sort of modern Shakespearean tale involving an outlaw motorcycle club that was always up to no good as it dealt with local officials, rival gangs, and other colorful allies and enemies. The series was nominated several times in various categories, but no win was ever bestowed upon it.

Better Call Saul


A spinoff prequel to AMC’s Breaking Bad, which itself took home plenty of Emmys, Better Call Saul seems to be having a hard time catching up to its predecessor in the awards department, despite being widely praised for both its story and acting. In fact, Bob Odenkirk, who plays the series’ con man-turned-lawyer Jimmy McGill (aka Saul Goodman), has been nominated every year since the show has been on the air. Supporting cast members Jonathan Banks, Michael McKean, and Giancarlo Esposito have also been nominated for Emmys, but haven’t won. This year, the series received nine nominations — including one for Odenkirk (again) — so it will be interesting to see if the show finally takes home a well-deserved Primetime Emmy.

Bates Motel

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Airing on A&E for five seasons from 2013 through to 2017, this psychological horror drama served as a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (which was nominated for four Oscars without a win). The show follows a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), before the events of the 1960 film. Despite universal praise for the series and healthy ratings throughout its run, the show never managed to win a Primetime Emmy. What’s more, it only received three nominations: One in 2013 for Farmiga, and two in 2016 for cinematography and music composition.


Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal
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This psychological thriller aired on NBC for three seasons from 2013-2015, and starred Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen as characters from novelist Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising. The show follows FBI special investigator Will Graham (Dancy) as he works with Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mikkelsen), a forensic psychiatrist who is secretly the serial killer Graham is trying to hunt down. Despite the success of the show, often regarded as one of the best TV series of the decade, its one and only Emmy nomination came in 2016 for visual effects.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol
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Would you believe that this British sci-fi series, which has been going strong since 1963 (following a short hiatus through the 1990s), has not only never won an Emmy, but has never even been nominated for one? The series chronicles the time-and space-hopping adventures of an extraterrestrial Time Lord known as “The Doctor,” who has been played by 13 actors (or more, depending on who you ask) throughout the show’s record-setting run. Yet not a single one of those actors has earned an Emmy nod for the role, despite its international impact on popular culture. It should be noted, however, that it has won many BAFTA awards.

Parks and Recreation

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Following the lives of employees working at the Parks Department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, this political satire sitcom has a star-studded cast that includes Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Andy Dwyer, Adam Scott, and other familiar faces. Yet even that comedic star power couldn’t help the series win a Primetime Emmy during its seven-season run on NBC. The sitcom was nominated 15 times, including five nods for Poehler as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She lost out three times in a row to category-sweeper Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep, and previously, to Melissa McCarthy for Mike & Molly and Edie Falco for Nurse Jackie.

New Girl

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This hysterical sitcom about a quirky young woman who breaks up with her boyfriend and, on a whim, moves in with three single guys, ran for seven seasons on Fox from 2011 to 2018. With Zooey Deschanel heading up the cast along with Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, and Damon Wayans Jr., the show received five Emmy nominations after its second season in 2012, including a Lead Actress nomination for Deschanel and Supporting Actor nod for Greenfield. It was essentially forgotten after that, though, despite running strong for another six years.

The Walking Dead

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Technically, AMC’s post-apocalyptic series The Walking Dead has received two Emmys for its prosthetic makeup effects. However, it has not won in any of the major Primetime Emmy Award categories. Even if the cast isn’t recognized for their acting, surely Greg Nicotero deserves a nod for directing some of the most compelling episodes on TV? In total, the series has received 16 nominations, but all in sound editing, visual effects, makeup, and other arts and sciences categories. It also hasn’t been nominated since 2017. It’s now gearing up for its 10th season this October and has spawned a spinoff series, Fear the Walking Dead, and other upcoming projects.

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Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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