As the number of series in contention for Emmy Awards continues to grow year over year (487 and counting in scripted alone), the voting members of the Television Academy have a tougher time narrowing the list down to the handful that will fit on the ballot. Of course, this leads to many worthy choices being shut out — but with some extra space available this year with staples such as “Veep” and “Better Call Saul” not making the cutoff of eligibility, a few fun surprises snuck in.
Here, Variety breaks down the snubs and surprises of the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards nominations.
SNUB: “Modern Family”
A staple on the ballot since 2010, this is the first year the ABC family comedy has been shut out of the comedy series race. In its ninth season, many assumed its box on the ballot would be checked out of habit, but instead the Academy chose to usher in some new blood — “Barry,” “GLOW,” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
SURPRISE: Yvonne Strahovski
Let’s face it, the entire cast of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is doing consistently powerful, poignant work, but this season Strahovski had to flit between the stoic, hard-edged Serena who helped Gilead come to be and a softer, more vulnerable Serena who was desperate for a baby, desperate to hold onto her stature and power, and increasingly learning how unsafe even she was. The concern was whether or not she could crack the dramatic supporting actress ballot, going up against her co-stars, last year’s winner in the category, Ann Dowd, and last year’s winner for guest actress in a drama, Alexis Bledel, who was bumped up this year. Thankfully, the Academy recognized the intensity of her work.
SNUB: Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke
Although “Game of Thrones” returned to the drama series category with a nomination for its seventh season, neither Harington nor Clarke got received individual acting accolades. Harington was previously nommed in 2016 in the supporting actor race, while Clarke was thrice nominated in the supporting actress race (2013, 2015, 2016).
SURPRISE: “The Americans”
In a stacked category of returning nominees from last year (“This Is Us,” “Stranger Things,” for example), as well as the return of powerhouse “Game of Thrones,” FX’s final season managed to squeeze its way onto the ballot for only the second time in its six-year run. It has been nice to see leads Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell acknowledged for the emotional work they have consistently delivered, but it’s far from only acting that made this series so special. So it’s extra special to see the acting, writing, directing, and below-the-line artistry celebrated with a drama series nod one last time.
SNUB: The women of “This Is Us”
“This Is Us” was once again the lone broadcast series to break into the drama race, and its leading men Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia both saw sophomore noms in the lead actor in a drama category. But the women were shut out. For the second year in a row, Mandy Moore was underappreciated as the matriarch of the family who had to keep it all together after beloved Jack (Ventimiglia) died. This year the show actually asked her to portray the moments after his death, allowing her to dig much deeper than Season 1. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough. Chrissy Metz, on the other hand, was nominated last year but did not see a repeat, despite an involved arc about learning to find her voice again while still grieving for her father and planning her wedding.
SURPRISE: Shake-Up in the Variety Talk Category
Samantha Bee scored one of the coveted six spots in the variety talk category this year, making hers the only show with a female host. But “Real Time With Bill Maher” was left out this year, instead paving way for “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.” The category is split this year between three cable shows and three broadcast ones, with the affable and often assumed to be shoo-ins “Late Night With Seth Meyers” and “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” shut out.
It may not have been a surprise considering that Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet got the revival canceled, but neither she nor the show scored any Academy love. However, there was still a question about how the rest of the cast would do. Yes, Laurie Metcalf was recognized in the supporting actress in a comedy category for her liberal Jackie Harris, but leading man John Goodman was shut out, despite delivering emotional work that depicted the plight of the everyman in today’s tough economy. The show also saw a nom for editing.
SURPRISE: Sandra Oh
BBC America’s “Killing Eve” delivered a first season that stormed onto critics’ radars, but being that it was only eight episodes in length on the still-underestimated cabler, it wasn’t a given that critical acclaim would translate to Academy love. But former “Grey’s Anatomy” star Oh had enough name recognition to push her into a tight lead drama actress race.
SNUB: Maggie Siff
The “Billions” actress had to take her performance coach character on quite the journey this season, participating in a scheme that threatens the lifestyle by which she tried to live. As she allowed her morals to slip away, the audience learned some tough lessons about ethical standards in the show’s world, and in its own.
SURPRISE: Tatiana Maslany
Although Maslany won the lead dramatic actress Emmy in 2016, she and “Orphan Black” were ineligible last year and the final season of the BBC America series wrapped last August. Although she inarguably had the toughest job, given that she played multiple characters, it wasn’t a lock that her performances would be top of mind come nomination time, especially in such a competitive category.
SNUB: Liev Schreiber
Schreiber has been nominated in the lead actor in a drama category every year since 2015 for his role as the titular fixer on Showtime’s “Ray Donovan.” This year he was tasked with a storyline that saw him reeling from his wife’s death, but when the third time wasn’t the charm for him to win last year, the Academy seemed to have enough.
SURPRISE: Big Talk About Parity but Not Big Results
With all of the discussion about the importance of parity in the headlines lately, it was somewhat expected that the Television Academy would want to show that they are taking bigger strides, especially after Natalie Portman’s pointed note about male directors at the Oscars. But it didn’t translate just yet. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s” Amy Sherman-Palladino was the lone woman to be nominated for directing a comedy series this year, while “The Handmaid’s Tale’s” Kari Skogland was the only woman to break through for dramatic directing.
SNUB: “Twin Peaks”
David Lynch’s return to his genre-bending 1990s project was much talked about when it was airing on Showtime, but that was a year ago, and it didn’t hold the attention long enough to be remembered come nomination time. It scored nine noms, but for below-the-lines artisans awards, not the hopeful limited series or lead actor in a limited series for Kyle MacLachlan that many hoped it would.
SURPRISE: “American Vandal”
The streaming series about petty crime in a high school picked up a Peabody Award earlier this year so maybe it should have been expected that it would be on the radar. But it was still surprising to actually see a centered on who drew penis imagery on vehicles pop up for writing for a limited series, movie or dramatic special (“Clean Up” episode by Kevin McManus and Matthew McManus).
SNUB: Alison Brie
Brie was nominated for a Golden Globe for her leading role on “GLOW” earlier this year, and a repeat reading of her name was expected on Emmy nomination morning. It didn’t come, though the show saw a comedy series nom and her co-star Betty Gilpin saw a nom for supporting actress in a comedy. But those two noms made the lack of Brie’s recognition even more surprising, as the show centers on her character of Ruth not only learning to wrestle but also learning to navigate new relationships, including with Gilpin’s Debbie, her former best friend turned reluctant co-star.
The short first season of HBO’s assassin comedy premiered in a sweet spot just ahead of close of Emmy eligibility, which clearly kept it fresh in voters’ minds as it managed to break into not only the lead actor in a comedy race for star Bill Hader but also the comedy series race proper.
SNUB: Al Pacino
“Paterno” got nominated for television movie but it’s A-list star Pacino did not see an actor nod. While that normally might seem unfathomable, last year the Academy snubbed Oprah Winfrey so simply being a big name may just not be enough if the project isn’t also extremely buzzy in this time of peak TV.
SURPRISE: “Westworld” still dominates
Last year “Westworld” received 22 nominations, tying with “Saturday Night Live” for the most overall for a series. But it was a shiny new premium cable epic at a time when the OG premium cable epic “Game of Thrones” was sitting out the race. This year, after some cast shuffling that moved around eligibility (Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris both went for lead drama actor nominations and both got them), and the return of “GOT,” “Westworld” still came out almost on top — with 21 nominations, the second most of a series, trailing just behind “GOT.”
SNUB: “The Good Doctor”
ABC’s ratings juggernaut medical drama won over mainstream audiences but didn’t fare the same with the Emmy voters. The show didn’t even see a nomination for leading man Freddie Highmore, who had previously been snubbed for “Bates Motel.” It’s a streak that unfortunately continues.
SURPRISE: Kelly Jenrette
The women of Gilead get most of the attention, but Jenrette’s role as Luke’s (O-T Fagbenle) first wife, seen in flashbacks in the second season of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which shone a light on the pre-dystopian complications of life for June (Elisabeth Moss), clearly proved too rich to be ignored.
SNUB: “Will & Grace”
The NBC sitcom was an Emmy staple during its original late-90s run but despite debuting the first revival season to record ratings this year, it only scored two above the line nominations — for Megan Mullally as supporting comedy actress and for Molly Shannon as guest comedy actress. (It also picked up three noms in the Creative Arts Emmys — multi-camera cinematography, multi-camera editing and production design.)
SURPRISE: Ted Danson
Danson has been an Academy favorite since “Cheers” in 1983 but his star power wasn’t enough to push “The Good Place” through last year. In its second season, though, the NBC comedy got more attention and Danson’s demon learning to be human charmed the audience and the voters.
SURPRISE: “The Alienist”
The TNT limited series packed some star power with executieve producer Cary Fukunaga and star Dakota Fanning but the category was a tight race due to new installments of familiar anthology series such as “American Crime Story,” “American Horror Story” and “Genius,” among other one-time short-term projects.
Read the full list of Emmy nominations here.