A staggering 754 TV shows were eligible for Emmys this year (too many of which premiered this spring, shortly before the qualification deadline). It’s hard to even remember what exactly came out in the past year ― no wonder there are shows that didn’t make it onto enough Emmys voters’ screens to get a nod.
For every buzzy show, there are plenty more that got lost amid the avalanche of television at any given moment. We broke down what surprised us from Tuesday morning’s Emmy nominations, and what we wish the Television Academy hadn’t overlooked.
SURPRISE: Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, “The Great”
Huzzah! It seems Emmys voters are finally recognizing the hilariously unhinged leading performances of “The Great.” Elle Fanning (Catherine) and Nicholas Hoult (Peter) scored their first Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress and actor in a comedy series for their performances in the Hulu show, which is very loosely based on Catherine the Great’s rise to power. The two actors play a royal couple constantly sparring for control over Mother Russia. The fun romp of a series contains oodles of witty banter, glass breaking, a guest appearance by Gillian Anderson, and yes, plenty of horse jokes.
Fanning and Hoult shine in their respective performances as a couple who despise and love one another in equal parts. Fanning is charming as the ambitiously naive Catherine. But Hoult steals every scene with his portrayal of Peter III — a lazy, misogynistic and hedonistic jerk who was Emperor of Russia for six months before Catherine outsmarted him. And although the Emmy nod for Hoult is very well-deserved, we’re still bitter the underrated actor only got a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Breakout Star for his role in 2013’s “Warm Bodies.” Make up for it, Emmys! — Elyse Wanshel
SNUB: Selena Gomez, “Only Murders in the Building”
While her co-stars Martin Short and Steve Martin scored nominations for Hulu’s true-crime parody series, the Emmys regrettably overlooked Gomez, who shines as the younger member of a mismatched trio of amateur sleuths recording a podcast about a murder in their New York City apartment building. Her deadpan delivery and comic annoyance at her older counterparts are among the most reliably amusing parts of the show.
Gomez, who rose to fame as a singer and Disney Channel star and has since shown a wide range of talents, would have been just the third Latina woman to ever land a nomination in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy category, following in the footsteps of Rita Moreno and America Ferrera, according to Variety. The second season of “Only Murders in the Building” just premiered, so Emmys voters will have a chance next year to rectify this snub. (Gomez was nominated as one of the producers of the show, making her only the second Latina ever to be nominated for a producing Emmy for a comedy series.) — Marina Fang
SURPRISE: “Inventing Anna”
OK, I pretty much hated this show, so excuse my disdain for it receiving any nominations at all. (Despite my undying love for Julia Garner in “Ozark,” this performance was a no for me.) The Netflix series follows Anna Sorokin (aka Anna Delvey) as she swindles several New Yorkers, banks and hotels out of their money by pretending to be a German heiress. Usually I’d love a scammer TV series, but the execution of “Inventing Anna” was mostly a snoozefest told through the eyes of a journalist who grew to become way too attached to her subject. You’d think a show about swindling people out of their money would get right to the drama, but the long-running episodes took way too long to get to the scamming.
By the end of it all, audiences might be tempted to feel bad for Delvey because of how the series digs into her backstory. Turns out “Inventing Anna” seemingly scammed its way into the hearts of Emmys voters, too. — Erin E. Evans
SNUB: Sadie Sink, “Stranger Things”
It’s telling that after all these years there is still no Emmy category for genre nominees, which says a lot about how voters feel about horror and sci-fi as a whole. But good on them for finding a way to nominate the horror series “Stranger Things” in the drama category for the fourth time in its run.
Still, unlike in the past where series actors Millie Bobby Brown and David Harbour were recognized, Emmys voters totally ignored Sadie Sink’s incredibly nuanced and remarkable portrayal of 15-year-old Max. Never mind the fact that her Big Moment in episode four practically revitalized Kate Bush fans everywhere. Sink’s performance beautifully embodies personal grief and regret — while having the literal fate of the world on her shoulders.
That deserves to be at least recognized among the Emmy nominees. Because what makes “Stranger Things” so great isn’t just the amazing effects and direction. It also has heart. And in its fourth season, Sink provides that heart. — Candice Frederick
SURPRISE: Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”
Look, I love “Killing Eve,” but let’s be real: this spring’s final season (and especially the series finale) was a letdown. So it was surprising to see both leads of the BBC America thriller get nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, an extremely competitive category. Both have been nominated before, and Comer has previously won for her role as assassin Villanelle.
Meanwhile, the legendary Oh has somehow never won an Emmy in all her years on TV (yes, really!). Again, this category is stacked with contenders, with “Yellowjackets” star Melanie Lynskey as the very deserving favorite to win. But maybe it’s time to finally make Oh an Emmy winner, even if it is for a lesser season of “Killing Eve.” — Marina Fang
SNUB: Mandy Moore, “This Is Us”
As matriarch Rebecca Pearson, Mandy Moore has long been the emotional anchor of NBC’s epic family drama, “This Is Us,” which aired its final season this spring. She is the only member of the show’s sprawling cast to have the difficult feat of portraying her character in three (!) different timelines, including spending hours in the makeup chair to play older Rebecca.
Much of this last season was about Rebecca grappling with a diagnosis of dementia and its effects on the whole Pearson family. Season after season, Moore has delivered incredible and emotionally devastating work, and it’s a shame Emmys voters missed their last chance to honor her performance. — Marina Fang
SURPRISE: Reese Witherspoon, “The Morning Show”
The Emmys loooove “The Morning Show,” Apple TV+’s flagship drama about a fictional network morning news show, that’s packed with big names. I was expecting Jennifer Aniston to land a repeat nomination, but her co-star Reese Witherspoon was a surprise. I actually liked parts of the show’s first season, especially several of its performances. But even I could not defend its trainwreck of a second season, set in the early months of 2020, right before you-know-what. Everything was way too heavy-handed, and I found myself laughing for all the wrong reasons. It was a hot mess (and yet I powered through every episode). — Marina Fang
The exquisitely crafted Apple TV+ adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s epic novel “Pachinko” was completely shut out of the drama categories, as I feared that it would be because it premiered during an avalanche of shows this spring. Created by veteran TV writer Soo Hugh, the show should have gotten recognized for its staggering scale, following multiple generations of a Korean family in Japan over nearly eight decades, dealing with the repercussions of imperialism and intergenerational trauma. It’s gripping and visually stunning, and it’s chock-full of moving performances from a multigenerational and international cast.
At the very least, it would have been great to see acting nominations for Minha Kim and Oscar winner Yuh-jung Youn, who play the young and old versions, respectively, of the family’s matriarch Sunja. “Pachinko” has been renewed for more seasons, so here’s hoping the Television Academy amends this massive snub in future years. — Marina Fang
SURPRISE: Janelle James, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Tyler James Williams for “Abbott Elementary”
It’s not that they don’t each deserve these nominations. Janelle James, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Tyler James Williams are all absolutely hysterical on the mockumentary series “Abbott Elementary.” It’s just that the Emmys has often recognized only one Black actor per show at a time (see the Emmy history of “Insecure,” for example).
This is James’ first recurring role on a live action series and she hits it square out of the park as Ava, a totally unqualified and unbothered elementary school principal. Meanwhile, Williams is firing from all cylinders as a substitute-turned-staff teacher who gives the single best “are you seeing this bullshit?” camera glances of all the actors on the show.
And can you believe this is Ralph’s first-ever Emmy nomination? The iconic actor, who dazzled us on hits like “Moesha” and “Designing Women” in the ’90s? She finally gets her flowers as a teacher who’s been in the game for a while and may or may not be borrowing some tips on digital learning from her less experienced colleagues. The Emmys said yes to all of these performances, and they should have. — Candice Frederick
SNUB: Pamela Adlon and “Better Things”
It’s absolutely wild that even after its superb final season, “Better Things” has been overlooked yet again by Emmys voters — and won’t get another opportunity to even be in the running. It’s also outrageous that throughout its nearly impeccable five seasons on air, the voting committee only ever recognized Pamela Adlon, the show’s resilient co-creator/star/director/writer, in 2017 and 2018. The Emmys never gave a nod to anything else about this show, which is truly special. Because it’s not just a series about a single mom struggling to manage her three precocious children (goodness knows we’ve seen that premise before). Rather, “Better Things” is a show that, above all, celebrates the small, seemingly insignificant moments throughout motherhood and adolescence — both good and bad — that remind us that we still have a pulse.
The half-hour episodes didn’t have traditional plots that began with a conflict and ended with a solution. Instead, Adlon guided her audience as these characters moved through their lives — from gender identity and unwanted pregnancies to asking yourself who you are besides being a mom. And “Better Things” managed to make us laugh and/or cry while doing all this! Alas, maybe the show is just ahead of its time. If so, Emmys voters will kick themselves later. — Candice Frederick
SNUB: “Power Book III: Raising Kanan”
“Power Book III: Raising Kanan” is the third series in the “Power” franchise and boasts the most talented cast of them all. Tony-winning actor Patina Miller leads the cast as Raquel Thomas, the drug-running boss lady and mother to Kanan (Mekai Curtis), who she hopes will one day run the family business in 1990s South Jamaica, Queens. The STARZ drama is a prequel to the original “Power” series, where audiences were first introduced to series villain Kanan (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) and crooked cop Jukebox (Anika Noni Rose). The series grapples with violence, love and loss, tense family dynamics and coming of age in New York City. Performances by Hailey Kilgore, London Brown and Malcolm Mays also make this series as riveting as it is anxiety-inducing in the best way. It’s the kind of drama that the Emmys voters too often overlook, but audiences eat up every storyline from week to week. Highly recommend you catch up on Season 1 before the new season begins in August. — Erin E. Evans
SNUB: “Reservation Dogs”
With an all-indigenous cast and writers’ room, the FX comedy series “Reservation Dogs” is a rarity and a true gem. Full of heart, the brilliant first season follows the adventures of a crew of teens on a Native reservation in Oklahoma, from stealing a chip delivery truck, to plotting out how to escape their mundane lives and pursue their big dreams, to grieving the death of another member of their crew. Each of its eight episodes is wonderfully languid and meditative, and the show has really reinvented and reimagined what TV can look like, on many different fronts. Luckily, the show’s second season premieres next month, so Emmys voters better not forget about it again this time next year. — Marina Fang
SURPRISE: Sarah Niles, “Ted Lasso”
One of the best additions to the second season of “Ted Lasso” was Sarah Niles as Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, who helps a therapy-resistant Ted (Jason Sudeikis) finally open up a bit about his demons and traumatic past. A great second season of a show is often about deconstructing what the first season did. Dr. Sharon was so integral in showing the limits of Ted’s sunny optimism. And on a show whose leads are largely white and male, I’m glad to see recognition for one of its few characters of color with an arc. I’ve also long admired Niles’ work on other British shows like “Catastrophe” and “I May Destroy You,” so it’s nice to see her get a bigger spotlight. — Marina Fang
SNUB: Damson Idris, “Snowfall”
I mostly think Damson Idris deserves this nomination for one particular episode: Season 5, Episode 8, which is titled “Celebration.” Jerome (Amin Joseph) and Louie (Angela Lewis) get married and almost everyone eats some chocolate laced with LSD. Idris, who portrays drug kingpin Franklin Saint, seems to have the most dramatic reaction to the acid and it makes for incredible television.
The FX drama has been overdue for recognition; “Snowfall” still hasn’t received a single Emmy nomination. The series’ first two seasons were a gripping portrayal of life in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s at the start of the crack cocaine epidemic. Michael Hyatt rounds out this stellar cast, who turn out convincing performances in every episode. (We’ll forget about that tiger plotline for now.) — Erin E. Evans