The Emmys are yearly awards that honor the very best of television. For more than 70 years, they have done a great job of recognizing genuine excellence (case in point: The Sopranos won 21 of them!) But there have also been some glaring snubs.
We are talking about universally loved and acclaimed TV shows that not only failed to win an Emmy, but also were never even nominated for one. From great animations to legendary sitcoms and a game-changing game show… the Emmys have certainly been guilty of engaging in next-level snubbery.
Gilligan’s Island (1964)
You know the story: The S. S. Minnow sets sail on what was supposed to be a three-hour tour. Aboard that boat was the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.), his first mate Gilligan (Bob Denver), and a diverse bunch of passengers. Sadly, the boat is hit by a storm and washes up on a remote island. The show follows the castaways as they adjust to life on the island, and encounter a surprising array of visitors.
Gilligan’s Island is now revered as a comedy masterpiece but at the time, it was hated by critics and only lasted three seasons before being canceled. The show’s comedic acting was top-notch, and its writing was ingenious. The fabulously designed outfits of Ginger (Tina Louise) also should have warranted an Emmy nod but the Emmy for costuming wasn’t introduced until a few years after the show ended.
The Partridge Family (1970)
This show follows a fictional bubblegum pop group consisting of five siblings and their single mother Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones). When they weren’t touring the country, they were attempting to live normal lives and having many laughs along the way. Although the Partridge’s flight lasted only four seasons, its wholesomeness and good humor helped it earn legions of fans and 5 Golden Globe nominations.
But no Emmy nominations. Why? In the 1970s, it was clear that the Emmys were leaning more towards comedies that didn’t just have jokes but some real zest and substance. Hence, shows like All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Sanford and Son, and M*A*S*H won big while The Partridge Family was left behind. What’s astounding is that the show didn’t even land a nomination in a music category, they offered up several albums’ worth of lovable tunes!
The Addams Family and The Munsters
Developed at around the same time, The Addams Family and The Munsters were two shows that put a ghoulish spin on the family sitcom. Both of them depict loving families that just so happened to be spooky and supernaturally inclined. The shows have some other unfortunate similarities: they both suffered from less than spectacular ratings, both were canceled after only two seasons, and never received any Emmy nods.
It would be a safe bet that both shows were simply too creepy and macabre for mainstream audiences and Emmy voters to embrace. The 1960s were a time when safe and comfortable shows like Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show ruled. Although, it is some consolation that both shows have grown into cultural powerhouses. The Addams Family has spawned hit movies, an animated series, and a musical and The Munsters has a promising film adaptation on the way, directed by the great Rob Zombie.
Diff’rent Strokes (1978)
The popular sitcom with a theme song that has been stuck in our heads for well over 30 years. The show starred Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as Arnold and Willis Jackson. After the death of their mother, they are welcomed into the family of the rich and kind-hearted Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) and his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato).
There was no recognition for any of the show’s “special episodes” in which taboo topics were boldly explored, using skillful writing and direction. Notable examples include “The Bicycle Man” which depicted child grooming and an anti-drug episode called “The Reporter” that had an appearance by First Lady Nancy Reagan. It’s official, not even presidential power is enough to move the Emmy voters!
The Jetsons (1962)
Following the success of The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera gave us another primetime family animation… from the opposite end of the time spectrum. This show follows the futuristic shenanigans of the Jetson family: George Jetson, his wife Jane, and their children Judy and Elroy. The Jetsons is regarded as an animated classic and also an accurate predictor of what the future would be like.
It’s a shame that The Jetsons couldn’t pull off an Emmy win 1962-1963 run like Hanna-Barbera’s many other well-loved shows. The Jetsons introduced video calls, 3D-printed food, and smartwatches to a population that didn’t even have a VCR in their home yet.The show would produce new episodes in the 1980s and several specials, including a crossover with The Flintstones (one of the first pieces of multiverse madness ever!) But for whatever reason, none of it was able to achieve Emmy love.
T.J. Hooker (1982)
William Shatner‘s first major, non-Star Trek role was as the tough but moral cop Thomas Jefferson “T.J.” Hooker. Hooker is on a personal mission to rid the streets of crime, working alongside him are fellow officers Vince Romano (Adrian Zmed), Stacy Sheridan (Heather Locklear), and Jim Corrigan (James Darren).
History has shown that the Emmys love police dramas and William Shatner, but somehow a TV show that has both got completely ignored. T.J. Hooker does have its share of cheese and awkward moments (many stemming from Shatner himself), but for the most part, it is a well-done series with plenty of touching emotion and pulse-quickening action. There’s even a legendary episode that reunites Shatner with Leonard Nimoy (“Vengeance Is Mine”). Although the show didn’t get major awards, it remains a major classic in the hearts of many.
The Critic (1994)
Brought to us by several of the geniuses behind The Simpsons, The Critic was a short-lived series about a snarky but well-meaning film critic named Jay Sherman (Jon Lovitz). When Jay isn’t hilariously lambasting films, he’s living a bizarre and often unpleasant life in New York City.
The show was a very clever and entertaining series, with consistently hilarious and impassioned voice acting from Lovitz. The Critic also had a boatload of Emmy-winning talent on its team (Oscar-winning too, in the case of composer Hans Zimmer). One would think a show with this level of prestige would be an awards darling. Perhaps the show’s many jabs at Hollywood hit too close to home for some.
It was the show that cemented David Hasselhoff as a global star, but don’t hold that against it! Baywatch follows the adventures of a photogenic group of lifeguards and the many challenges that they face. The show first ran onto our screens in 1989 and, thanks to a clever syndication deal, it became a monster hit around the world.
Baywatch was too cheesy and lowbrow to be considered in a major category, but it did demonstrate some technical flair that deserved rewarding. The show’s cinematography and sound was often strong, the fact that we could even hear the dialogue over the crashing waves is an achievement in itself.
Hey Arnold! (1996)
Hey Arnold! follows young Arnold and his friends as they do their best to navigate school and urban life. The show has a good amount of cartoonish fun but, for the most part, it’s very grounded and even includes some genuinely powerful and heartbreaking storylines.
Even someone with an Arnold-sized head would struggle to comprehend how this show could be completely ignored by the Emmys throughout its original run. Any of their powerful, serious episodes would have warranted an “Outstanding Animated Program” nod. Even the less profound episodes still had a quality of animation, voice acting, score, and storytelling that leaves most animated rivals in the dust. The Hey Arnold! universe would eventually get some deserved Emmy recognition, however. The TV film Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie scooped up a statuette in 2018.
The Dating Game (1965)
A classic American game show that pioneered the whole TV dating genre. The Dating Game would see one bachelor or bachelorette ask questions to three eligible women or men that were hidden behind a wall. At the end of the questioning, they selected one of those three to go on a date with. The Dating Game is famous for featuring numerous people who went on to become huge stars including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Selleck, Farrah Fawcett and, Steve Martin.
The Dating Game never scored a single Emmy nomination. The show was a massive hit and offered many years of fun and groundbreaking content. It arguably changed the nature of game shows, by making love the prize instead of money or appliances. Not even the warm and charismatic host Jim Lange received a nod despite doing a marvelous job leading the show for almost two decades. Love hurts, as do award shows.
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