Biggest Emmy snubs of all time: 10 actors who never took home TV's coveted prize

Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal. Photo: Supplied
Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal. Photo: Supplied

American television's highest accolade - the Emmy Award - is generally regarded as a solid barometer of brilliance.

With past winners such as Breaking Bad, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Modern Family, Tina Fey and Steven Soderbergh, how could they not be?

And yet, when you look into Emmy's history books, she was not always so wise about what and whom she honoured.

Shows such as The Wire, Oz, Roseanne and The Shield never won Emmys. Neither have Sons of Anarchy or Parks and Recreation.

Dig deeper into Hollywood's archives, and even classics such as Star Trek and The Honeymooners were denied the big prize.

And a raft of high profile actors who excelled in some of television's greatest comedies and dramas have been overlooked.

As you sit down to watch tonight's Emmy Awards and watch the deserving, and in some cases the not-so-deserving, come to accept their awards, think for a moment about the greatest oversights in the history of the Emmys.

The stars who ought to have won, but for a twist of fate, did not.

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Greg House. Photo: Supplied

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Greg House. Photo: Supplied

1. Angela Lansbury, for Murder, She Wrote

Twelve nominations, never won.

Really? One of America's grand dames of the cinema, the stage and the small screen couldn't secure an Emmy Award after playing television's greatest sleuth, Jessica Fletcher, for what felt like decades?

2. Jane Kaczmarek, for Malcolm in the Middle

Seven nominations, never won.

One of television's most underrated actresses, in one of television's most underrated comedies. Kaczmarek, collaborating with the brilliant Bryan Cranston, took the Carol Brady TV "mom" paradigm and exploded it from the inside out.

3. Martin Sheen, for The West Wing

Nominated six times, never won.

Possibly the most popular US president in recent memory, but still no cigar for Jed Bartlett. Martin Sheen delivered one of the most dazzling performances of his career in this critically exalted drama, but never quite got past the finish line at the Emmys.

4. Hugh Laurie, for House

Nominated six times, never won.

The maverick, anti-establishment genius Doctor House, whose imprimatur is still present in the many characters elsewhere on television that he inspired, remains one of TV's best performances for its complexity, maturity and nuance.

5. Steve Carell, for The Office

Nominated six times, never won.

From the humble beginning of a US remake of a much better British comedy, Carell's Michael Scott came into his own, and eventually equalled his British antecedent David Brent. That Carell was never honoured for his work is a stunning oversight.

6. Jerry Seinfeld, for Seinfeld

Nominated five times, never won.

Where do you even begin? One of the most successful comedies in history, and one of the most career-defining performances ever seen on the small screen. If Seinfeld can't win an Emmy, then who on earth are they giving them to?

7. Michael C. Hall, for Dexter

Nominated five times, never won.

Without a doubt one of the most nuanced, complex characters ever written for television, Hall's performance transformed a murderer into a (mostly) sympathetic hero.

8. Garry Shandling, for The Larry Sanders Show

Nominated five times, never won.

One of the most influential comedies of all time in terms of its lasting impact on the writing and tone of other comedies, it beggars belief that Larry Sanders, and his alter-ego Garry Shandling, were never given TV's top gong.

9. Elizabeth Montgomery, for Bewitched

Nominated five times, never won.

One to make the history books shudder in shock. Montgomery's Samantha Stephens remains one of the most beloved characters in television history, and the star of one of the most beloved sitcoms.

10. Calista Flockhart, for Ally McBeal

Nominated three times, never won.

You can re-define a generation of women but you can't win an Emmy? Come on. Flockhart's Ally McBeal was smart, sexy and opinionated. Her performance breathed a refreshing sense of the ridiculous into network TV.