Actors Karl Malden and Michael Douglas pose for a portrait on the set of 'The Streets of San Francisco' in August 1974 in San Francisco, California.

The most nominated TV shows that never won an Emmy

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January 4, 2024
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The most nominated TV shows that never won an Emmy

When it comes to television, there's no award more prestigious than the Emmy. Beginning in 1949 and created as something of a public relations opportunity, the Emmys were initially only awarded to shows originating and airing locally in L.A.

Having since expanded from that locale niche, the Emmys are now the premier merit for achievements in television. Although the Golden Globes are also very distinguished and awarded to both television and film, they are typically considered second both to the Emmys and to their film equivalent, the Oscars (and the Daytime Emmys, which go to daytime shows like "Today," or Sports Emmys, are not quite as prestigious as the Primetime Emmys).

For the Primetime Emmys, roughly 20,000 members of the Television Academy decide the winners, and the awards are across two ceremonies: the Primetime Emmys and the Primetime Creative Arts Emmys (for technical and filmmaking achievements).

Of course, some shows win more often than others. There was a five-year stint, starting in 2010 when no sitcom could beat "Modern Family" in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" nabbed the Outstanding Variety Series award for an even more impressive 10 years in a row, beginning in 2003.

Stewart's successor, Trevor Noah, didn't have quite the same luck. After 17 nominations, it wasn't until the final season of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" that the series took home its first Emmy (for Outstanding Variety Talk Series) in 2024.

As with any awards recognition, golden statues are not the be-all-end-all indicator of true quality. Still, audiences love the thrill of seeing their favorites win. But there are an unlucky number of well-received shows that have been nominated time and time again to no avail, going their entire tenure without taking home one of their many nods.

To celebrate the Susan Luccis of primetime TV—always a nominee, never a winner—Stacker looked at the TV shows with the most Primetime Emmy nominations that haven't won a single award, starting from the Emmys' inception in 1949 through the 75th Primetime Emmys ceremony in 2024. Series were ranked by their number of nominations, with ties broken by the shows' IMDb ratings as of December 2023. Further ties were broken by the number of IMDb votes. Limited series that lasted a single season, TV movies, and specials and spinoffs similar to their predecessors were not considered.

Check out these 19 television shows that haven't won one of their many nominations (and some that still have a shot!).

#19. Buffalo Bill

- Nominations: 11
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 478
- On air: 1983-1984

Not to be confused with the 1800s American soldier or the antagonist of "The Silence of the Lambs," this mid-'80s NBC sitcom starred Dabney Coleman as "Buffalo" Bill Bittinger, a self-centered talk show host in Buffalo, New York.

Co-starring Geena Davis and Joanna Cassidy, "Buffalo Bill" only ran for two seasons between 1983 and 1984; the former president of NBC Entertainment, Brandon Tartikoff, would go on to say his greatest regret of his career was pulling the plug on the series. But the show's quality didn't go unnoticed during its brief run—it received 11 Emmy nominations, including two for Outstanding Comedy Series.

#18. Conan

- Nominations: 11
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 24,799
- On air: 2010-2021

After hosting "Late Night" for an incredible 16 years, comedian Conan O'Brien left the NBC series in 2009 for a short-lived stint on the earlier (and more prestigious) "The Tonight Show."

Following a widely controversial exit a year later, in which former host Jay Leno appeared to many to have sabotaged O'Brien, he started his eponymous variety talk series "Conan" on TBS. During the series' run from 2010 to 2021, "Conan" ultimately struggled with viewership, and its final season hit a late-night audience low. However, the show did garner 11 Emmy nominations in categories like Outstanding Variety Talk Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Series, despite ending with no wins.

O'Brien's accompanying "Conan Without Borders" special did manage to take home an Emmy in 2018 for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Within an Unscripted Program.

#17. Luther

- Nominations: 11
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 152,007
- On air: 2010-2019

This BBC series followed Idris Elba as John Luther, a brilliant yet troubled detective who must hunt down the very worst of humanity and bring them to justice. At the same time, Luther must reckon with his complicated relationship with an elusive suspected murderer.

Running for five seasons between 2010 and 2019, "Luther" never managed to win one of its 11 Emmy nominations. Elba was nominated four times in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie category, but unfortunately lost to different peers each time, including fellow Brit Benedict Cumberbatch for "Sherlock" and Kevin Costner for "Hatfields & McCoys."

The series may have ended empty-handed, but "Luther" returned in 2023 for a movie titled "Luther: The Fallen Sun," released in theaters and on Netflix.

#16. Four Star Playhouse

- Nominations: 12
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 229
- On air: 1952-1956

On this 1950s CBS anthology series, the same group of stars—Ida Lupino, Dick Powell, David Niven, and Charles Boyer (with a few occasional additions)—would act out different stories in each episode, ranging in genre. Despite being nominated for 12 Emmys, including Best Dramatic Series and Best Direction, "Four Star Playhouse" never managed to snag one.

The show ultimately ended in 1956, reeling in sufficient viewership to keep it on the air for four seasons.

#15. The Kominsky Method

- Nominations: 12
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 43,071
- On air: 2018-2021

Actors Michael Douglas and the late Alan Arkin starred in this comedy series about an aging acting coach and his agent and friend, navigating life in sunny Los Angeles during their twilight years.

Created by TV comedy powerhouse Chuck Lorre ("Roseanne," "Two and a Half Men," and "The Big Bang Theory"), "The Kominsky Method" streamed on Netflix for three seasons and received generally favorable reviews. It garnered a dozen Emmy nominations between 2019 and 2021, but zero wins—with Douglas and Arkin getting multiple nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, respectively.

#14. Brooklyn Bridge

- Nominations: 12
- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 454
- On air: 1991-1993

Based loosely on creator Gary David Goldberg's childhood, "Brooklyn Bridge" was a '90s comedy set in 1956, following the life of a middle-class Brooklyn family. The cast featured "Happy Days" alum Marion Ross, Broadway star and future "Succession" actor Peter Friedman, and eventual musician Jenny Lewis, an established child actor at the time.

Despite faring well with critics, "Brooklyn Bridge" suffered from low ratings and was canceled after two seasons. Though it managed to snag a Golden Globe for Best Television Comedy or Musical in 1992, the series did not win any of its 12 Emmy nominations, including two for Ross and one for guest star Joel Grey.

#13. Penn & Teller: Bulls---!

- Nominations: 13
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 11,873
- On air: 2003-2010

This unscripted series followed the famed duo Penn and Teller as they traveled around debunking myths and revealing the secrets behind pulling off cons. Though the magicians and skeptics received some criticism for not always basing their arguments in fact, the show was a hit and became Showtime's longest-running series (a title it's since lost to "Shameless").

During its run, "Penn & Teller: Bulls---!" garnered an impressive 13 Emmy nominations, including four for Outstanding Reality Program. Ultimately, the series ended after its eighth season in 2010 without an Emmy to its name.

#12. Grace and Frankie

- Nominations: 13
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 55,918
- On air: 2015–2022

"9 to 5" stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin reunited for this Netflix comedy series about a pair of frenemies forming a bond after discovering their husbands are in love. The show ran for seven seasons, gaining more favorable critical reception as it went on and garnering numerous awards nominations as well. It was up for 13 Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for both Fonda and Tomlin, but "Grace and Frankie" unfortunately never took home any Emmys gold.

#11. Penny Dreadful

- Nominations: 13
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 128,845
- On air: 2014-2016

"Penny Dreadful" is a horror series set in Victorian London that weaves the stories of popular horror icons such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll into an all-new narrative, focusing on the characters' origin stories.

With an ensemble cast including Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, and Billie Piper, "Penny Dreadful" ran on Showtime for three seasons before its cancellation, which Showtime said was always the intention, but some suspected it ended due to low ratings. During its run, the show was nominated for 13 Emmys, though it never managed to win. It did, however, spur a spinoff series that lasted one season in 2020: "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels."

#10. The Good Place

- Nominations: 13
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 182,040
- On air: 2016-2020

Exploring themes surrounding ethics, mortality, and philosophy, "The Good Place" follows bad egg Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), who realizes she has mistakenly ended up in a utopian realm known as the Good Place upon her death.

The popular sitcom chronicles Eleanor's attempts to become a better person and earn her spot in the Good Place. The series from "Parks and Recreation" creator Mike Schur never won a single one of its 13 Emmy nominations, with many of its main cast members up for at least one award. Fans have cried for justice for "The Good Place," but the series unfortunately ended in 2020 after four seasons without any Emmy wins.

#9. Parks and Recreation

- Nominations: 14
- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 280,526
- On air: 2009-2015

Make that two Emmy-less sitcoms for poor Mike Schur. Unfortunately, the popularity and critical favorability of "Parks and Recreation" was never enough to earn one of its 14 Emmy nominations. The mockumentary-style series took a look at the lives of fictional local government workers in Pawnee, Indiana, primarily go-getter Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her big dreams to turn the city around.

Following a sleepy first season with tepid reactions from viewers and critics alike, the writers retooled the series and the character of Leslie for Season 2, and the show went on to become one of the greatest comedies in TV history. Yet, despite three nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series and an impressive seven for Poehler in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category, the show never took home any of these top prizes (one of many perceived casualties of the "Modern Family" streak over the years).

#8. The Streets of San Francisco

- Nominations: 16
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 6,602
- On air: 1972-1977

In this police drama, a veteran San Francisco cop and a newbie team up to fight crime in the homicide division of the SFPD, as the two bond and bicker over their differing perspectives.

Starring Karl Malden and Michael Douglas (whom Richard Hatch replaced at the start of the final season), "The Streets of San Francisco" aired for five seasons during the '70s and was filmed on location in the city of its title. It was nominated for 16 Emmys, including multiple Lead Actor and Supporting Actor nominations for Malden and Douglas across the series' tenure, although none were ever awarded.

#7. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

- Nominations: 16
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 6,062
- On air: 1964-1968

Before it was a 2015 Guy Ritchie movie starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was a popular television series during the 1960s surrounding the exploits of two spies who work for a secret agency called U.N.C.L.E. (played by David McCallum and Robert Vaughn).

Though the series won Best TV Show at the 1966 Golden Globe Awards, it never took home a single one of its 16 Primetime Emmy nominations. It was up for Outstanding Dramatic Series that same year and earned numerous performance awards, including some for McCallum and Leo G. Carroll, who played the head of U.N.C.L.E.

#6. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

- Nominations: 18
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 77,394
- On air: 2015-2020

In this Netflix comedy, the title character, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), is freed after an oppressive life in an underground bunker for 15 years at the hands of a cult leader (Jon Hamm). Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, she decides to start fresh in New York City, where she befriends a colorful cast of characters and experiences the joys and pains of adult life in the big city.

From the creators of "30 Rock," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" streamed on Netflix for four seasons, earning critical acclaim, a fervent fan base, and 17 Emmy nominations. Every season of the series was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, but it lost consistently to two funny, formidable foes: "Veep" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

#5. Antiques Roadshow

- Nominations: 21
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 1,324
- On air: 1979-present

The team behind this long-running unscripted series on PBS travels the country, allowing antique owners from all over to bring their treasured items for appraisal—some are worth far less than they thought, and others turn out to be priceless.

Based on a series originating in the U.K., the American "Antiques Roadshow" has been airing since 1997 and has received an impressive 21 Emmy nominations. It's most frequently been nominated for Outstanding Structured Reality Series and Outstanding Reality Program, losing out to shows like Netflix's "Queer Eye" reboot and "Shark Tank" in more recent years and "Undercover Boss" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Addition" in years prior.

In 2024, the series once again lost out at the Emmys to "Queer Eye." But since it shows no signs of stopping, "Antiques Roadshow" will likely have more chances to win in the future.

#4. Real Time with Bill Maher

- Nominations: 21
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 14,149
- On air: 2003-present

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher's late-night talk show skewers current politics and social discourse, bringing on interview subjects and a panel of guests to encourage stimulating conversation around hot-button issues.

With 21 seasons under its belt and still going at least through 2024, "Real Time with Bill Maher" has been nominated for 21 Emmys, often losing out to "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" in more recent years and "The Colbert Report" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in earlier seasons. However, "Real Time with Bill Maher," which has sparked controversy in recent years, has not been nominated for an Emmy since 2021.

#3. Newhart

- Nominations: 25
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 7,769
- On air: 1982-1990

Across eight seasons, comedian Bob Newhart starred in his eponymous series as Dick Loudon, the owner of a small Vermont inn alongside his wife, Joanna (Mary Frann). Having relocated from New York City, the couple is suddenly surrounded by the town's eclectic characters, whom Loudon must confront regularly.

With 25 Emmy nominations—including three lead actor noms for Newhart and two for Outstanding Comedy Series—it's a shock that this iconic '80s sitcom never managed to take an Emmy home, especially considering its powerful series finale has been dubbed one of the most memorable of all time.

#2. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

- Nominations: 26
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 14,608
- On air: 2015-present

After signing off from "The Colbert Report" in 2014, comedian and political satirist Stephen Colbert took over for David Letterman as the new "Late Show" host on CBS. Colbert, whose career initially took off on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," brought over his politically minded topics from his previous shows. Since then, "The Late Show" has gained steadily in viewership—in 2018-2019, the series even beat out "The Tonight Show" in viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 for the first time since the mid-'90s.

It's no surprise, then, that it has more than two dozen Emmy nominations, though it has lost out on them all. But with the show renewed through at least 2026, it will likely have a few more chances.

#1. Better Call Saul

- Nominations: 53
- IMDb user rating: 9
- Votes: 619,265
- On air: 2015-2022

"Better Call Saul" follows the origin story of beloved "Breaking Bad" supporting character Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), detailing how he went from small-time attorney Jimmy McGill to representing the notorious teacher-turned-meth-dealer Walter White.

2024 was the spinoff's last chance to win seeing as its sixth and final season wrapped in 2022. Though "Better Call Saul" was up seven nominations in 2024, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Odenkirk, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Rhea Seehorn, it went home empty-handed. The snub caused outrage among fans and officially made "Better Call Saul" the series with the most Emmys losses in TV history.

Story editing by Jaimie Etkin. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.

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