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2023 Emmy Nominations: The Queen Got Snubbed, Freevee Surprised, and Survivor Rallied

The snubs and surprises of the Emmy noms included a good morning for Star Wars fans and a bad morning for Taylor Sheridan.
  • Natasha Lyonne, James Marsden, Jeff Probst, Carson Garrett (Photo: Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock; CBS; Amazon Freevee)
    Natasha Lyonne, James Marsden, Jeff Probst, Carson Garrett (Photo: Evans Vestal Ward/Peacock; CBS; Amazon Freevee)

    We may not know when the 2023 Primetime Emmy Awards will be handed out, but we at least know who the nominees are. Wednesday's Emmy nomination announcement singled out the best TV of the year as chosen by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and as is the case every year, once they make their selections, it's our turn to weigh in on which nominations were surprises and who was cruelly snubbed. Succession, as was widely expected, dominated the field, racking up 27 total nominations for its final season, which is two more than the HBO prestige drama received last year. The Last of Us, The White Lotus, Ted Lasso, Abbott Elementary, and The Bear also racked up major nominations and should be the top contenders whenever the Emmys do get handed out. With the WGA strike in full force, there has been talk of moving the Emmy Awards ceremony back from September to November, or even January 2024.

    All of this means, if nothing else, that we get to linger in the nomination phase for longer, which is good since it takes a good few weeks to read through the entire Emmy ballot anyway. When it comes to snubs and surprises, I'm judging things based on the expectation that shows like Succession and The White Lotus were going to dominate exactly how they have. Of the 16 nominations for Supporting Actor and Actress in Drama, only two went to performers from shows other than Succession and The White Lotus. But while an entire ocean of TV dramas were left off the ballot entirely, this outcome wasn't much of a surprise. So while people like Better Call Saul's Carol Burnett, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jonathan Banks, House of the Dragon's Matt Smith, and The Old Man's John Lithgow were hanging around the margins of predicted nominees, it's not exactly shocking that they couldn't crack these HBO-intensive lineups.

    Honestly, I was more surprised by the omissions of more Succession and White Lotus cast members. Justin Kirk was so effectively terrifying as President-elect(ish) Jeryd Mencken on Succession, yet he didn’t make it into the Guest Actor lineup. Similarly, Emmy voters seemed to reject the Albie/Portia storyline on The White Lotus, with Haley Lu Richardson and Adam DiMarco among the very few cast members on that show to be denied nominations.

    With that in mind, here are my picks for the biggest surprises and most shocking and/or disappointing snubs on the 2023 Emmy ballot:

    SURPRISE: Jury Duty Gets a Best Comedy Nomination

    Amazon Freevee's mockumentary series was one of the most surprising and delightful comedies of the year, but I was pessimistic about its Emmy chances due to its unconventional format and unglamorous streaming platform. I was happily wrong, as the show not only scored an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination but also got James Marsden a much-deserved nod in Supporting Actor. The show's writing and casting was also recognized, which was richly deserved.

    SNUB: The Crown's Imelda Staunton

    Depending on stats is a dangerous game in awards prognostication, and where Emmy precedent gives, it also takes away. I was stone-cold certain that the Emmy voters' historical tendencies to nominate Elisabeth Moss for The Handmaid's Tale and whomever is playing Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown would hold true this year as well. I was only half-right. While Moss held onto her spot in this category by her fingertips (she was the lone nomination for The Handmaid's Tale this year), Imelda Staunton was left out of the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series nominations for The Crown. This breaks the 4-for-4 streak established by Claire Foy and Olivia Colman as the Queen's two previous portrayers. The series itself only pulled down six nominations this year, a clear sign that the Emmys' appreciation has waned.

    SURPRISE: House of the Dragon Gets a Best Drama Nomination

    Of all the shows I was unsure about heading into nomination morning, HOTD was the most precarious. Would it pick up where Game of Thrones left off in dominating the Drama categories, or would Emmy voters mirror the general public in being more reluctant to fully embrace this prequel series? The answer was a little bit of both. None of the show's acclaimed acting performances (including deeply worthy turns by Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith) were recognized, and seven of the show's eight total nominations came in the crafts categories. But it did manage to land an Outstanding Drama Series nomination. Chalk it up to the Game of Thrones pedigree or the Emmy-friendly HBO brand, which landed four of the eight Drama Series nominations. It was the first time since 1992 that a single network landed four Drama Series nominations (NBC did it that year with Law & Order, Quantum Leap, L.A. Law, and I'll Fly Away.

    SNUBS: Poker Face and Mrs. Davis

    It was a rough morning for Peacock, as their acclaimed comedy series Poker Face and wildly inventive limited series Mrs. Davis only amassed five nominations between them. Poker Face was expected to do well, but only series star Natasha Lyonne showed up in the major nominations. That the show missed out on a Comedy Series nomination while Netflix's messy and uninspired Wednesday got in instead is both displaying and a possible sign that Peacock's awards campaigning isn't at the level of Netflix's yet.

    Mrs. Davis was always going to be a harder sell, with its wild premise and aggressive style. Still, I was hoping Betty Gilpin (a former Emmy nominee!) might squeeze into Outstanding Actress in a Limited Series, though see below about that chaos in that particular field. But it's rather galling that Mrs. Davis managed only one nomination (in Sound Editing) when its costumes, makeup, production design, and cinematography were all so dazzling.

    SURPRISE: Dominique Fishback Got in for Swarm

    Presenter Yvette Nicole Brown let out a squeal of delight when she read the nomination for Dominique Fishback in Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series. I was right there with her, since I was not confident that Emmy voters would get on Swarm's wavelength. Lead Actress in a Limited Series turned out to be a good deal wilder than most people were expecting. Fishback and Lizzy Caplan (Fleishman Is in Trouble) were both pretty shaky when it came to making predictions, and Riley Kough also managed to sneak in on a surprisingly robust wave of nominations for Amazon's middling Daisy Jones & the Six. This left out more expected nominees like Emily Blunt for The English and Sydney Sweeney (a double nominee last year) for Reality.

    SURPRISE: Obi-Wan Kenobi

    It didn't seem like people liked Obi-Wan Kenobi very much when it aired last year. But the awards pedigree for the Disney+ Star Wars series must be stronger than I expected. Both Obi-Wan and Daisy Jones worked their way into the Outstanding Limited Series category despite the fact that shows like Apple TV+'s Black Bird were both better reviewed and had done better at other award shows up until now.

    SNUBS: Steve Martin and Selena Gomez

    Last year, Selena Gomez was the only one of the three Only Murders in the Building leads to miss out on an Emmy nomination. I figured this year, she stood a decently strong chance to join Steve Martin and Martin Short on the Emmy ballot. Turns out, Emmy voters went the other way, nominating only Martin Short and leaving Martin out in the cold. With Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Allen White all long considered locks for the Lead Actor in a Comedy category, it's Shrinking's Jason Segel who seems to have elbowed Martin out of the way.

    SURPRISE: The Other Two Gets a Writing Nomination

    One of my favorite things about the Emmy nominations is when a show that lies outside the parameters of the Best Series nominees ends up nabbing a writing or directing nomination. This year saw some writing nods for Bad Sisters and Only Murders in the Building, but even those shows were present in the acting nominations. The Other Two getting a writing nomination for creators Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider for their hilarious episode "Cary and Brooke Go to an AIDS Play" is an encouraging sign that even in this era where fewer and fewer shows get top Emmy nominations, Emmy voters will still look outside the handful of heavy hitters.

    SNUBS: 1923 and Taylor Sheridan

    Are we Emmy prognosticators just Charlie Brown-ing it every year with the Taylor Sheridan TV shows? Last year, many predicted that the high viewership for Yellowstone and the wave of "Shouldn't we be talking more about Yellowstone?" media hand-wringing would lead to that show finally getting some major Emmy nominations. It got none. This year, we all seemed to do the same thing with Sheridan's 1923. This one was a period piece, and starred Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren! The Emmys rarely miss an opportunity to nominate Helen Mirren. And yet, once again, the nominations arrived and 1923 was completely blanked. Emmy voters to Taylor Sheridan: still no, thank you. Let's all remember this next time.

    SURPRISE: Survivor Is Back

    This seems like it wouldn't be a surprise. Survivor is one of the pillars of reality TV, and it's enjoyed a resurgence of popularity since the pandemic. And even though fans have been grumbling about the show's new direction in its last several seasons, its longevity and popularity make it seem like an Emmy no-brainer. But here's the thing: Survivor hadn't been nominated in the Outstanding Reality Competition category since 2006. Seventeen years! Thirty-two seasons! This is low-key the Emmy comeback story of the year. Emmy voters are at their most stubborn when it comes to the reality categories. Change comes slowly, if ever. For Survivor to claw its way back in after falling out of favor in the George W. Bush administration, that's pretty impressive.

    SNUB: Dead Ringers

    One nomination? ONE nomination?! Get some taste, Emmy voters!

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: 2023 Primetime Emmy Awards, 1923, The Crown, House of the Dragon, Jury Duty, Mrs. Davis, Only Murders In The Building , The Other Two, Poker Face, Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Succession, Survivor, Swarm, The White Lotus, Dominique Fishback, Imelda Staunton, Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, Taylor Sheridan