'Game of Thrones' reigns, but 'Big Bang Theory' bombs: The biggest snubs and surprises of this year's Emmy nominations

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons in Big Bang Theory and Kit Harington in Game of Thrones. (Photo: CBS/HBO)

The Iron Throne may be no more, but HBO sits atop the Emmy throne once again. After watching Netflix claim the most-nominated network crown in 2018, the pay cable behemoth retook the top spot with a whopping 137 nominations — a single-season record. Netflix settled for a not-insignificant 117, nearly double the number of the third place network, NBC, at 58. HBO’s comeback was fueled, in large part, by the 32 nominations awarded to the final season of Game of Thrones, another new record that stands as a direct rebuke to the online backlash. Chernobyl, Barry and the final season of Veep also contributed to the network’s strong showing.

Meanwhile, Netflix’s most-nominated program was Ava DuVernay’s incendiary When They See Us — which picked up 16 nominations in the various Limited Series, Movie or Special categories — followed by Natasha Lyonne’s breakout cult hit Russian Doll with 13. Here’s our list of the major surprise and snubs from this year’s nominations.

SURPRISE: Game of Thrones earns 32 nominations for its final season

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones. (Photo: HBO)

Sorry, online petitioners. Emmy voters have declared that no do-overs are necessary when it comes to Game of Thrones’s six-episode farewell. The show bested all of its past hauls this time around, and now boasts a jaw-dropping 161 nominations over its entire eight season run. Besides Outstanding Drama Series, all the major players in the ensemble received nods, and it dominated in technical categories as well. This show is so powerful, even stray Starbucks coffee cups can’t bring it down to Earth.

SNUB: The Big Bang Theory shut out of all major Outstanding Comedy categories

Melissa Rauch, from left, Simon Helberg, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, Mayim Bialik and Kunal Nayyar in a scene from the series finale of The Big Bang Theory. (Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS via AP)

Like Game of Thrones, CBS’s ratings monster signed off this past spring to huge viewership. Unlike Game of Thrones, though, the powerhouse sitcom didn’t set any Emmy records. Shut out of all the major Outstanding Comedy categories, The Big Bang Theory eked out three technical nods. Boo-zinga!

SURPRISE: Schitt’s Creek scores first Emmy nominations

The cult Canadian comedy from father-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy received four nominations, including an acting nom for Eugene. (Photo: Pop TV)

To borrow a lyric from Cabaret (which factored heavily into the Season 5 finale), it finally happened, happened this time. Maybe this time, Schitt’s Creek will win! After five years as a word of mouth favorite, the Canadian comedy broke through in a big way, with nominations for stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara as well as Outstanding Comedy Series. We’re raising a glass of fruit wine in tribute.

SNUB: The Masked Singer completely hidden from the Competition Program category

Alien in the "New Masks on the Block" episode of The Masked Singer. (Photo: FOX via Getty Images)

Fox’s latest singing series became an unlikely all-ages success story with its parade of masked performers belting merry melodies. Unfortunately, Emmy day only brought the sound of a sad trombone as The Masked Singer didn’t make the final cut among Outstanding Reality Competition nominees.

SURPRISE: Fleabag earns 11 nominations after Season 1 snub

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's passion project comedy received 11 nominations for its second and final season, including five acting nominations (with one for star Waller-Bridge herself). (Photo: Hulu)

Season 1 of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliantly acerbic comedy missed out on Emmy love back in 2016, but voters didn’t pass up the chance to lavish attention on the even-better sophomore year. Fleabag scored 11 nominations, including nods for Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford and this year’s Best Actress Oscar winner, Olivia Colman. We can’t be the only ones wondering how they could snub the Hot Priest, though.

SNUB: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon left out of late-night category

Chrissy Teigen during an interview with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon host Jimmy Fallon on June 24, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

On the heels of reported ratings woes, the Jimmy Fallon-fronted Tonight Show goes Emmy-less for another year in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series category. Fallon can commiserate with Bill Maher, whose HBO chat show, Real Time, also missed the final cut.

SURPRISE: Robin Wright persevered after Kevin Spacey's scandal-riddled ouster

Robin Wright attends the Netflix House of Cards FYSEE Event at Raleigh Studios on June 04, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)

With Kevin Spacey out of the picture, Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood quietly closed out House of Cards’s six-season run on Netflix. Despite largely negative reviews, Emmy voters opted to reward her for her years of service with a final Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series nomination.

SNUB: Oscar winners Julia Roberts and George Clooney left out of nominations

Julia Roberts in Homecoming and George Clooney in Catch-22. (Photo: Amazon/Hulu)

The Ocean’s Eleven lovebirds (and off-screen pals) brought some movie star glamour to streaming TV with Amazon Prime’s Homecoming and Hulu’s Catch-22, respectively. But neither Roberts nor Clooney received any Emmy attention, suggesting that voters aren’t as impressed by seeing Oscar-winners on the small screen as they once were.

SURPRISE: Fox’s RENT earns five nods, including Live Variety Special

Jordan Fisher and Brennin Hunt in RENT. (Photo: Fox)

Thanks to a last-minute cast injury, Fox’s live version of the Broadway favorite wasn’t so live. Voters decided to show the beleaguered production some (seasons of) love anyway, nominating it for five Emmys, including Outstanding Live Variety Special.

SNUB: Pamela Adlon ignored for Season 3 of Better Things despite nominations in the first two seasons

Pamela Adlon attends the Los Angeles Confidential Impact Awards at The LINE Hotel on June 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Los Angeles Confidential)

Critics largely adored Better Things’s third season (and the first without co-creator Louis C.K.), but Adlon’s semi-autobiographical series was shockingly shut out of all categories, even writing and directing. We’re adding that to our list of the year’s most terrible things.

SURPRISE: Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch gamble pays off

Fionn Whitehead in Bandersnatch. (Photo: Netflix)

The Emmys can be slow to embrace change, but voters clearly saw plenty of potential in Netflix’s experiment in Choose-Your-Own-Adventure storytelling. While some of the branching storylines in this super-sized Black Mirror episode were disappointing, it was an overall successful proof of concept. We’d love to see a multi-branching Schitt’s Creek adventure, for example.

SNUB: The Good Fight

CBS All-Access’s Good Wife spinoff is so... well, good that CBS proper has started airing previous seasons. But voters have yet to catch on, stiffing star Christine Baranski for a role that brought her six nominations during her Good Wife days.

SURPRISE: Nailed It!

You don’t have to be a professional chef to love Netflix’s feel-good baking competition series. In fact, that’s the entire point of the show! Sure, the dishes on Top Chef may look tastier, but kudos to voters for recognizing the personal touch that’s on every one of Nailed It!’s sweet treats.

SNUB: William H. Macy misses out on a sixth nomination for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

A perennial nominee for five years running, the Shameless star missed out on a sixth Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series nod for Showtime’s long-running series. Maybe Shameless had an off-year... or maybe voters have been keeping up with the news.

SURPRISE: BoJack Horseman lands first Animated Program nomination

Hooray for Hollywoo! Netflix’s beloved entertainment industry satire landed its first Outstanding Animated Program nomination in its fifth season. Here’s hoping the equine star doesn’t use this as an excuse to go on another bender.

SNUB: Diversity

Following back-to-back years where the Emmy Awards made great gains in the diversity of its nominees, this year’s crop of nominated actors only includes 24 performers of color. Here’s hoping we see Game of Thrones numbers next year in the diversity department.

The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards air Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on Fox

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