The nominees are out—but plenty of worthy shows and performances like NBC’s Community, James Franco, Fringe, and Dianna Agron have already lost. Shannon Donnelly on those deserving a nod. Plus, view our gallery of the Emmy nominees.
Every year, there are more shows worthy of Emmy nominations than there are nomination slots. Even if the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences followed in Oscar’s footsteps and supersized some categories, there would still be a ton of worthy shows and performances shut out. While no list of snubs could ever be exhaustive enough to make every fan happy—please put down the tar and feathers, devotees of Big Bang Theory, Sons of Anarchy, and Courteney Cox—there are definitely some unsung sci-fi, cult, and fringe show picks that could have used a little Emmy love.
Outstanding Comedy Series: Community
There’s been a lot of focus on all the things NBC did wrong in the 2009-10 television season—and with good reason—but Community was one major thing it did right. A shaky first few episodes quickly gave way to one of the tightest, funniest ensemble comedies to hit the airwaves since 30 Rock. By its sixth or seventh episode, Community had achieved the perfect mélange of meta and heart that even 30 Rock didn’t nail until well into its second season. Much like the late, lamented Bluth clan of Arrested Development, not one single character in Community—from Joel McHale’s snarky Jeff Winger to Alison Brie’s inspired “Adderall” Annie to Ken Jeong’s delightfully unhinged Señor Chang—is even remotely realistic, but you’ll find yourself rooting for them regardless.
Outstanding Drama Series: Fringe
Shows from the brilliant mind of J.J. Abrams have an unfortunate history of stumbling when they near their end, from Lost’s divisive finale to the off-the-rails fifth season of Alias, to say nothing of Felicity’s adventures in time travel. So we should reward Fringe while it’s still in the delightful, mind-tickling stage. Because right now, it’s one of the most intriguing shows on TV, balancing its far-out plots with the fully realized, engaging characters that Abrams has always excelled at creating. If sci-fi shows didn’t have such a horrible track record for securing nominations for outstanding performances (see also: Battlestar Galactica), then stars Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble would have been no-brainers for nods. Hell, even Gene the Cow would be a hoof-in for a nomination if there were an Outstanding Animal Performance category.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Josh Holloway, Lost
For Lost’s final season, Terry O’Quinn got most of the press based on his strong turn as enigmatic man-turned-scary monster, and deservedly so! But no man is an island, not even John Locke, so we respectfully submit Josh Holloway’s Sawyer. Over the course of the show’s six seasons, Holloway consistently delivered a nuanced performance, following Sawyer’s transformation from a scheming scoundrel to a flawed hero well on the path to redemption. And he was never stronger than in the final season, delivering a blazing portrait of grief as he mourned his dear, departed Juliet.
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Dianna Agron, Glee
In a similar vein, there’s absolutely no one who deserves their Emmy nomination more than Jane Lynch for Glee, but it would have been wonderful to slip Dianna Agron in there with her. Agron’s heart-wrenching turn as pregnant cheerleader Quinn helped ground a show whose delightful loopiness is often in danger of pushing it over the sublime/absurd line. Just try not to cry watching her face during the performance of “ Keep Holding On” from the seventh episode.
Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program: Julie Chen, Big Brother
Of all the cruel injustices meted out by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, surely nothing compares to the fact that Jeff Probst has two Emmys and Julie Chen has never even been nominated. Though it premiered less than two months after Survivor bowed, Big Brother has long played the role of runty little brother in reality-television landscape, never reaching true watercooler status. Which is a shame considering it’s one of the few really real reality programs. Thanks to the 24/7 live house feeds, which anyone can access (for a price, anyway), it’s easy to debunk or confirm any claims that edited episodes unfairly portrayed a contestant. When the eighth season winner, “Evel” Dick Donato, was given a sweetheart edit despite some alarming antics, it was easy for fans to see the truth in real time. All of which makes Julie Chen an incongruously wonderful, androidesque host for the show. Her perfectly metered “But first!”s and aggressively cheerful post-eviction interrogation style serve as the perfect antidote for all that reality.
Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: James Franco, 30 Rock
James Franco is either the most eccentric actor in Hollywood at the moment, or the most brilliant. It’s getting increasingly impossible to tell whether his assorted antics— falling asleep in class, guest starring on General Hospital—are a cry for help, a worldwide performance-art installation, or just an actor rejecting the standard “lunch at the Ivy, dinner at Nobu” Hollywood mold. In his guest stint on 30 Rock, he managed to somehow portray all three possibilities in one of the funniest episodes in the show’s history.
Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Nathan Fillion, Castle
Unlike the Oscars, the Emmy Awards are smart enough to divide the major categories into comedies and dramas, preventing wildly disparate shows from going head-to-head. If only they’d go a step further and create the much-needed dramedy category, which would give shows like Castle and Glee surer footing when it came to nabbing nominations. Alas, the current two-party system ensures that Nathan Fillion will never be recognized for his work on Castle, a by-the-books procedural whose success appears to be largely indebted to the indefatigable charm of its leading man.
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series: Lopez Tonight
The Great Late Night Wars of 2009-10 left behind a battlefield scattered with sullied interns, embittered Coco fanatics, and an increasingly smug Jay Leno. It also gave the newer late-night hosts a chance to shine. Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon all managed to steal some of the spotlight away from the clashing titans, but George Lopez deserves special kudos for trying to launch a new show—on basic cable, no less—in the middle of the mess. Even more impressive, he managed to produce a bevy of buzzy viral moments, from Jennifer Love Hewitt’s vajazzling revelation to Jersey Shore’s take on Hurt Locker to Jennifer Lopez’s stand-up attempt. Next year, Lopez moves to the slot after Conan’s new show, but after Lopez’s impressive debut, it’s worth considering them equals.
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Lisa Edelstein, House
House stands apart from its procedural brethren due to the strength of its characters, something that became especially clear this season, when it was often easy to forget what crazy ailment the patient of the week was suffering from—and sometimes that there even was a patient of the week. Per usual, Hugh Laurie’s conflicted titular doc ruled every episode with an iron cane, but Lisa Edelstein admirably held her own, from the Cuddycentric episode which showed the frazzled dean of medicine balancing a new baby and a bevy of medical crises, to the eyebrow-raising season finale.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Ed Helms, The Office
It’s hard to say whether Ed Helms returned invigorated from his smash hit The Hangover or whether the writers simply tired of the Michael/Jim/Pam core and decided to spice up the supporting storylines for The Office’s sixth season. Either way, it was Helms’ year, bringing fresh energy to a lackluster season of the aging comedy. After a painful love triangle with Angela and Dwight that dragged on way too long, Helms’ Andy Bernard found his perfect romantic match with his quirky equal Erin (Ellie Kemper), allowing his comic prowess to shine.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Ian Somerhalder, The Vampire Diaries
Face it, even before Twilight, the whole brooding bloodsucker thing was done to death. The airwaves have always been clogged with vampires who are wracked—wracked!—with guilt for their evil killin’ ways. This usually manifests in an overwhelming need to open a detective agency. Thank god for The Vampire Diaries’ Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder) and True Blood’s Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) to remind us that not all vampires have to go vegetarian to still be engaging characters. Both Somerhalder and Skarsgard are neck and neck in deserving plaudits for their imminently watchable turns as unrepentant vamps, but the snub goes to Somerhalder, who has the misfortune of doing fine work on the CW, a network that, much like its progenitors the WB and UPN, is destined to be forever overlooked by the Emmys.
Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Felicia Day, Dollhouse
As a fan of Joss Whedon's, it’s hard to summon righteous indignation for the failure of Dollhouse. While the show was often brilliant, it was flawed, never quite finding its footing until cancellation forced Whedon to wrap up the sprawling story in the final power-packed episodes. But even a meh Whedon show is better than much of what makes it to the airwaves, and it’s especially worth recognizing the performance of Whedonverse regular Felicia Day as a peripheral character who somehow managed to steal the series finale as an optimistic, resilient resistance fighter battling her way across a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
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Shannon Donnelly is a video editor at The Daily Beast. Previously, she interned at Gawker and Overlook Press, edited the 2007 edition of Inside New York, and graduated from Columbia University. You can read more of her writing here.