Thanks to the success of streaming services, more TV shows are airing than ever. Between 2021 and 2022, there were over 817,000 different programs available to watch, according to Nielsen’s State of Play report. As this number continues to grow, the must-see TV also increases.
With an overwhelming amount of critically-acclaimed shows, it is easy for some of TV’s greatest offerings to be overlooked. This is particularly the case regarding accolades such as the Emmy Awards, often considered television’s highest honor. Unfortunately, even when shows are beloved by fans and critics, there can only be one winner per category.
10 The Wire
Set in Baltimore, The Wire follows various departments of law enforcement attempting to tackle the city’s underground drug empire. While technically a cop show, the series gave then-unprecedented focus to citizens and the urban institutions that birthed the drug trade. With no big names in its cast, The Wire was an unusually diverse series for its time.
Now, The Wire is considered a key show in shaping the “Golden Age” of television in the 2000s. However, the show was not a ratings giant during its time on the air, earning two Emmy nominations and zero wins. The series gained its following thanks to streaming and word of mouth, mostly after The Wire had wrapped.
9 Better Call Saul
Set before the events of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul details follows Jimmy McGill, an unconventional but hardworking lawyer. The series details Jimmy’s origins and early ties to Albuquerque cartels before formally adopting the alias Saul Goodman. Better Call Saul also features events set after Breaking Bad, after Walter White’s drug empire collapses.
Many Breaking Bad fans consider Better Call Saul to equal or even beat the quality of the original series, easily making it one of the best drama series of the 21st century. The prequel has been nominated for over 30 major Emmys, but has yet to win. However, the second half of its final season is eligible for the 2023 Emmys in September.
8 BoJack Horseman
Set in a world of anthropomorphic animals in Hollywood, BoJack Horseman follows the character of the same name. BoJack is a washed-up actor known for a famous TV show in the 1990s. BoJack, an alcoholic who struggles with depression, sets out to conquer the entertainment world once more by releasing a revealing autobiography.BoJack Horseman was one of the first Netflix original shows, and is still widely considered one of their greatest. Like The Simpsons, the series pushed the boundaries for animated television for adults. Its focus on issues such as mental illness, sexuality, and abuse was unprecedented for a cartoon.
7 It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia follows a group of unlikeable friends who run the Irish bar “Paddy’s Pub” in the city of Philadelphia. The gang, as they are known, are all sociopathic with little moral compass. Every episode follows the gang as they get into new, half-brained, and often narcissistic schemes that quickly go wrong.
It’s Always Sunny has been airing since 2005, with consistent critical acclaim, making it one of TV’s best comedies for two decades running. The Emmys, however, have yet to award such an impressive feat, only garnering nominations for stunts – with no wins so far. Even the cast has poked fun at the show’s inability to win major accolades.
6 Jane The Virgin
In this telenovela-style Comedy, Jane Villanueva is a hardworking aspiring writer who has pledged to save her virginity until marriage. In a freak accident, a routine gynecology appointment sees Jane artificially inseminated after a mix-up. Jane discovers she is pregnant with the child of Rafael Solano, her wealthy boss.
Jane the Virginwon a Best Actress Golden Globe Award for Gina Rodriguez in 2015. Despite this, the comedy-drama was largely snubbed by The Emmys, only garnering nominations for Best Narration. It is odd that, given the prestige of the Golden Globes and its ties to the film industry, The Emmys would shut the series out almost entirely.
5 Parks And Recreation
Parks and Recreation takes place in the fictional small town of Pawnee, Indiana. The series focuses on the town’s local government in charge of its parks. The cast of zany characters is led by Leslie Knope, an ambitious Director of the Department who wants to transform Pawnee and make her way up the political ladder.
Parks and Recreation helped stars like Chris Pratt and Nick Offerman become household names. Its influence on multi-camera mockumentaries can be seen in shows like Abbott Elementary, which has won multiple Emmys over its two seasons. Despite this, the sitcom never won an Emmy during its tenure.
4 Star Trek: The Original Series
Set aboard the USS Enterprise, Star Trek is set over 200 years in the future. The Enterprise’s crew is led by Captain James T. Kirk, on a mission to explore new worlds and discover new alien civilizations. The adventures of the Enterprise take the characters and viewers, as its opening credits state, “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
It is no exaggeration to say that Star Trek changed television forever. The show shaped modern science fiction and fandom, and even broke social barriers with television’s first interracial kiss. Given its incredible influence, it is surprising that academy voters never formally rewarded its efforts.
3 New Girl
Airing from 2011 and 2018, New Girl follows a cast of millennial adults attempting to make their way through adult life of the 2010s. Jess Day, a recently-dumped English teacher in her early thirties, moves in with three male roommates in the first episode. Jess’ quirkiness and overbearing optimism help and hinder the tumultuous roomie dynamic.
New Girl is, in many ways, a millennial answer to Friends. The series showcases the struggles of the next generation of young people, such as the financial inability to own their own apartments and having roommates well into their thirties. Unfortunately, however, the show never achieved Friends‘ fate of winning major awards.
2 Happy Days
Set in idealized 1950s and early 1960s Americana, Happy Days aired from 1974-1984. The sitcom initially focused on teenager Richie Cunningham, played by future Hollywood giant Ron Howard. However, the popularity of supporting character “The Fonz” – an ultra-cool biker able to achieve amazing feats – shifted the show’s focus.
Happy Days never scored an Emmy, likely in part due to its infamous decline in quality, helping coin the phrase “jumping the shark.” The Fonz, however, remains one of the most beloved and recognizable TV characters in history. Henry Winkler would eventually go on to win an Emmy four decades later, in 2018, for the HBO black comedy Barry.
1 Prison Break
Prison Break follows two brothers, Lincoln Burrows, and Michael Scofield. After Michael is framed for the murder of the brother of the US Vice President, and is held on death row at the brutal Fox River State Penitentiary. As time draws close to Michael’s execution, Lincoln risks everything to help his brother escape.
Prison Break isone of the most successful shows of the 2000s, spawning a spin-off series, video games, and a revival season in 2017. Despite its commercial success, its critical success never rose to the level of an Emmy accolade. The drama is a prime example of the disparity between TV critics and audiences. NEXT: 10 American TV Shows You Didn’t Know Had Foreign Remakes
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