It’s an awards-season cliché to say that it’s an honor just to be nominated, but going to the Emmy ceremony year after year and never taking home a statuette can be excruciating. Just ask Bill Maher, Emmy’s current “biggest loser.” Despite 32 nominations (including three for this year alone) for Politically Incorrect, Real Time and various standup specials, Maher seems cursed when it comes to the golden girl. At least he retains a sense of humor about it: “I am OK with it. In fact, winning now would only fuck things up. I would lose all my street cred,” he told Deadline a few seasons ago, adding that he’s proud he has been nominated every single year since his shows started in 1995. “It comes down to people voting their taste, and I’m not the taste preference of a majority. Maybe that’s a good thing.”
Nevertheless, Maher is in good company, considering the caliber of talent that has also gone Emmy-less over their careers. Susan Lucci was the poster child for Emmy losers, striking out 19 times at the Daytime Emmy Awards before finally taking her one and only win for All My Children in 1999. It must give hope to others like Angela Lansbury, the reigning queen of the Tonys, who has managed to lose the Primetime Emmy 18 times. That includes 12 consecutive nominations for every single season of Murder, She Wrote. She even lost the Emmy for hosting her beloved Tonys.
Steve Carell managed to lose 10 times for The Office, and that includes six bids for comedy actor. He was also nominated four times as a producer on the series. The one year the show actually won, he didn’t have a producing credit. Damn, no Emmy for Steve. Hugh Laurie lost seven times for House and wasn’t even nominated in the show’s final season when he finally should have received his due. The same scenario has now befallen Dexter’s perennial loser, Michael C. Hall. Out of his 14 nominations, TV sitcom icon Jerry Seinfeld did win as a producer on Seinfeld, once in 1993, but struck out every time as the show’s lead actor.
Some iconic stars never won an Emmy throughout their careers, and now it’s too late. Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery lost nine times for that series and several movies of the week. And TV icons Jackie Gleason, Larry Hagman and Andy Griffith never won a single Emmy. In fact, it is almost shameful to say Griffith was only nominated once, and that was for a supporting role in a 1981 soap called Murder In Texas. The list goes on and on.
So that brings us to this year’s race and the hope that maybe some past Emmy snubs will be turned into Emmy triumphs. Topping the list is every single actor who has ever appeared on Mad Men. Though the show is laden with the most Emmys in cable history, including four drama series wins, not a single member of its cast has won. That includes star Jon Hamm, whose work as Don Draper has given us one of TV’s most indelible characters. He’s been nominated 11 times overall but always loses. Like Carell, he actually became a producer on the show in the fifth season, but that was the first season the show itself lost. So no Emmys for Hamm or six-time nominee Elisabeth Moss or four-time nominee Christina Hendricks. This year, all of them are nominees, along with guest stars Linda Cardellini, Harry Hamlin and Robert Morse, giving the TV Academy a real chance to turn things around.
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Also looking for a reversal of fortune this year are Modern Family’s Jessie Tyler Ferguson, Sofia Vergara and Ed O’Neill, who lose to their costars every season. O’Neill would be a satisfying choice because he was annually robbed of even a nomination for his long-running Married…With Children. Comedy nominees Laura Dern and Matt LeBlanc are equally zero for five. Connie Britton has lost for Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story. Can moving to Nashville do the trick? Ryan Seacrest—a key reason American Idol has survived despite the annual drama at the judging desk—is zero for 11 on the show, but he did pick up a couple of Emmys for a parade and a food show he executive produced. Will 10-time nominee Amy Poehler pick up an Emmy this year after losing twice for Saturday Night Live and then Parks And Recreation? She’s even nominated for writing on January’s Golden Globes show that she hosted with Tina Fey (who has so many Emmys she could melt them down and retire). Finally, a Poehler win for the Golden Globes?
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But of all the nominees this year, none would be more deserving of a first win than TV legend Bob Newhart, who will turn 84 just a couple of weeks before the Emmys. He is up for a guest star spot on The Big Bang Theory, but has been nominated seven times in his long career, beginning as a writer in 1962 on his first short-lived NBC variety show. Though The Bob Newhart Show actually did win a program Emmy, Newhart doesn’t have one of his own; he was never nominated for the classic 1970s Bob Newhart Show and lost all three bids for his long-running Newhart. He even came up empty for guest spots on ER and The Librarian. It would be a fitting career capper.
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