17 Most Shocking Emmys Snubs and Surprises: Bill Maher, Bill Hader, ‘Roseanne’ & More

Our annual tradition of moaning about Emmys exclusions and cheering over unexpected inclusions commences!

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Winter is back, but Selina Meyer is on a leave of absence, thus explaining most of the shake-ups in this year’s Emmy nominations.

With 22 nominations, Game of Thrones is back with a vengeance, leading all shows with the most nods, barely edging out Saturday Night Live and Westworld’s 21 each and the 20 given to The Handmaid’s Tale. (Blessed be the fruit, too. Imagine the thinkpiece overload if that woefully uneven season of Westworld had scored the most nominations.)

Veep sitting out the comedy side made room for freshman comedies The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Barry to score massive Emmy tallies, with Mrs. Maisel’s 14 nods and Barry’s 13 falling just under Atlanta’s comedy-leading 16-nomination total.

Also scoring big: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (18), The Crown (13), and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (13). Not scoring big? For our money, the five best TV shows that aired last year: The Good Fight, Killing Eve, The Good Place, One Day at a Time, and American Vandal, all of which failed to pick up series nods in their respective categories.

That means that this year’s noms went just about as expected, which is to say, they’re entirely nonsensical. The best shows and performances on television, as usual, go overlooked because of Emmy voters’ utterly random tastes. The big series from last year all repeat again this year, with love shown to just a handful of new series. Things look diverse-ish. Broadcast is still almost completely shunned. (How else to explain the love for the Curb Your Enthusiasm reboot over the far superior Will & Grace reboot?)

There’s a lot to cheer about. A lot to whine about. It’s pretty much business as usual. So let’s go about our usual business: laying out this year’s biggest snubs and surprises. (See the full list of nominees here.)

SURPRISE: John Legend! Ricky Martin! Sara Bareilles!

It’s a good year to be a singing actor. John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Brandon Victor Dixon all scored acting nominations for their entirely sung work on NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, marking the first time performers from one of the networks’ live musicals have scored Emmy nods. And Ricky Martin didn’t sing a word but still got a nod for his heartbreaking turn as Gianni Versace’s lover on American Crime Story.

SNUB: Twin Peaks

Did that whole exhausting “is the Twin Peaks revival a TV show or a movie?” debate get to Emmy voters? Or did they just not bother to watch? Either way, David Lynch’s Showtime reboot failed to score a Limited Series nod or mentions for actors Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern. Lynch did, however, get writing and directing noms, and the series earned nine total. That’s not too bad!

SURPRISE/SNUB: Sandra Oh and Killing Eve

Our most piercing yelp this morning was born out of the glee in seeing Sandra Oh’s name appear in the Best Drama Actress category. Rivaling it was Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s prestigious nomination for writing the series. That’s great, but the series itself more than deserved a Best Drama mention, and Oh’s co-star Jodie Comer should’ve been nominated alongside her in Best Actress. In fact, if we had an Emmy ballot, both Comer and the series would get our votes to win.

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SURPRISE: Emmys really, truly love Bill Hader

Bill Hader scored nominations for acting in, writing, directing, and co-creating Barry, plus he earned a guest acting nod for hosting Saturday Night Live. And Hader’s Barry co-creator Alec Berg is nominated for co-writing an episode of both that show and another HBO comedy, Silicon Valley, essentially competing against himself.  

SNUB: Revivals…except Curb Your Enthusiasm

Networks may be revival crazy, but the Emmys sure aren’t. While Curb Your Enthusiasm picked up expected big nods in Best Comedy and Best Actor, Will & Grace’s—which we’re already on record liking a whole lot more than Curb’s reboot—only major nominations were Megan Mullally’s supporting actress and Molly Shannon’s guest actress mentions. Nothing for the rest of the Emmy-winning cast or Best Comedy. Twin Peaks didn’t fare much better, but both trumped Arrested Development, which came up completely empty.

SNUB/SURPRISE: Speaking of revivals...Roseanne

The most talked-about show on TV this past year didn’t translate controversy into a Best Comedy nod, which is both unsurprising and maybe also completely shocking, depending on how cynical you are. Roseanne Barr didn’t take the whole ship down with her, though. Laurie Metcalf is nominated for Best Supporting Actress—much deserved—though we’d have loved John Goodman and Sara Gilbert to have gotten more serious consideration, too.

SURPRISE: Jason Bateman dominates drama, not comedy

In the wake of the one of the most egregious mansplaining disasters recorded for public consumption, Jason Bateman’s joins Arrested Development’s complete Emmy shut out. But we’d venture he’s hardly upset, what with receiving Best Drama Actor and Best Drama Directing nominations for his work on Netflix’s Ozark. Noted dramatic actor, Jason Bateman.

SURPRISE/SNUB: Jessica Biel! And the utter nonsense of the Limited Series categories

Ladies and gentlemen, Emmy nominee Jessica Biel! Truthfully, the snark is totally unfounded, for Biel’s work on The Sinner is one of the only performances that belongs in the otherwise completely random Best Limited Series or Movie Actress category, amid total nonsense lists for the entire genre.

Good work is rewarded—Laura Dern and The Tale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Patrick Melrose, Jesse Plemons and Black Mirror—but the rest is a grab bag. The Assassination of Gianni Versace deserves to be showered with love, but we’d have limited the acting nods to Darren Criss, Judith Light, and Penelope Cruz. But the weird amount of love for The Alienist, Genius: Picasso, and American Horror Story: Cult is absurd when Alias Grace, Howard’s End, and American Vandal all could have been nominated instead.

SNUB: Real Time With Bill Maher

Last year, Bill Maher’s HBO talk series earned a nomination despite a flood of bad press over his use of the N-word. So it’s a little shocking to see him passed over this year, after being nominated in Outstanding Variety Series every year from 2005 through 2014 and Outstanding Variety Talk Series in 2016 and 2017.

SURPRISE: Kenan Thompson, finally!

After 15 years on Saturday Night Live, the longest tenure of any current cast member, Kenan Thompson gets his much overdue first Emmy acting nomination, joining last year’s nominees Alec Baldwin, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, and, in another delightful surprise, Aidy Bryant, too, who also scored her much deserved first acting nod. (Fun fact: Both Thompson and Bryant have been nominated for one Emmy each before, for writing original songs for SNL.)

SNUB: Jon Snow and Aunt Khaleesi

While Game of Thrones dominated the nominations, including acting nods for Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, and first-time nominee Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, both Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke were snubbed after moving up into the Lead Actor and Actress races. They shouldn’t feel too bad. Freddie Highmore, Liev Schrieber, J.K. Simmons, Jonathan Groff, Christine Baranski, Jodie Comer, Mandy Moore, and Claire Danes all failed to crack the stacked categories, too.

SURPRISE: Emmy nominee Fuller House

Once derided as possibly the worst show on television and the case study for why reboot culture is bad for art and entertainment, Fuller House is now an Emmy nominee, something its predecessor never managed to accomplish. It’s nod is in Outstanding Children’s Program, where it joins another surprise program, Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, which we actually love and are very happy to see there.

SNUB: Transparent

It was a foregone conclusion that Jeffrey Tambor’s once award-winning performance wouldn’t repeat with a nomination this year after his controversy-mired firing from the Amazon series over allegations of sexual misconduct. But it is a bit of a surprise to see the former Emmy darling snubbed completely this year. The directing, writing, and performances from Judith Light, Amy Landecker, and Gaby Hoffman are perennially award-worthy.


The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling muscled their way into a competitive Outstanding Comedy Series category, which had to expand to eight nominees to accommodate all the programs. While it’s a bummer to see its stalwart leader Alison Brie come short for a Best Actress nod, her excellent co-star Betty Gilpin is a surprise nominee in the supporting category.

HUH?: Viola Davis

We’ll never question any award inclusion for the inimitable Viola Davis. But it’s still a trip to see her nominated in the Guest Acting category for playing her How to Get Away With Murder character...on an episode of Scandal.

YAY!: Comedians!

Some of our favorite comedians scored major nods. Amy Sedaris, Sarah Silverman, and Tracey Ullman are all competing in Variety Sketch Series for their respective shows, against Drunk History and Portlandia. And John Mulaney, Michelle Wolf, and Patton Oswalt are all nominated for writing their own comedy specials.

WHOA: The Crown and The Handmaid’s Tale acting bonanza

The acting on The Crown and on The Handmaid’s Tale is real good. We love the actors on those shows. The Emmys really, really love the actors on those shows. In addition to dynamos Claire Foy and Elisabeth Moss getting their big nods, nearly their entire supporting and guest casts join them. Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, and Matthew Goode are all nominated for The Crown. Meanwhile, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, Alexis Bledel, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Cherry Jones, and Kelly Jenrette are all nominated for The Handmaid’s Tale.