10 of the Oddest Emmy Nominees of All Time


Earlier this morning the Primetime Emmy nominations were announced, and the internet is abuzz over who deserved recognition and who was outrageously snubbed. If there’s remotely the same kind of interest in the nominations as there has been in years past, then TV fans and critics are already having a field day. But before we weigh-in on what we think of this year’s crop, let’s take a look at some of the oddest nominees in Emmy history.

Bronson Pinchot, 1987 nominee for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy, Perfect Strangers

In 1987, a strange wardrobe, stranger accent, and assortment of catchphrases were apparently enough to snag an Emmy nomination. Balki Bartokomous was certainly one of the more, uh, memorable characters of the ’80s, but it is sort of incredible to see that Pinchot was considered at the top of the comedy field when viewing the talent pool that was his competition: Bob Newhart, Ted Danson, Harry Anderson and winner Michael J. Fox. We only wish Pinchot had won so that he could have performed the dance of joy at the podium.

Don Johnson, 1985 nominee for Outstanding Actor in a Drama, Miami Vice

In 1985, Don Johnson and his pastel suits managed to squeeze into the race when his show becoming a zeitgeisty, decade-defining hit. Detective shows were definitely a thing in the ’80s, because Tom Selleck won the previous year for playing smart-alecky private eye Magnum P.I., and Johnson was knocked out of the race the following year by another wise-cracking detective, Moonlighting‘s David Addison, portrayed by Bruce Willis.

Lassie, Outstanding Drama Series, 1958

So yeah. The show whose most dramatic moment usually constituted Lassie informing Timmy’s mom that he is trapped in a well/mine shaft/cave, was nominated for Best Drama Series back in the day. Just to put this in perspective, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and have never been recognized in this category. So there you go.

Kate Jackson, 1977-78 nominee for Best Actress in a Drama, Charlie’s Angels

If one of the Angels was going to be nominated for an Emmy, the sensible bet would be on Kate Jackson. She looked just as good in a bikini as her blond co-stars, but brought smarts and and even a bit of gravitas to Sabrina Duncan. Unfortunately, despite getting nominated twice, she was beaten both times, including by someone playing an even more preposterous crime-fighter than her: Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman.

Suddenly Susan, 1998 nominee for Outstanding Special Effects

The category for special effects is usually dominated by sci-fi shows, especially the many, many iterations of Star Trek. Once in great while, a show outside the genre will garner a nomination. 3rd Rock From the Sun was one of those shows, and one could understand how a show about aliens might use special effects from time to time. But a middling Must-See TV sitcom? Of all that was on television in 1997, what possibly happened on an episode of Suddenly Susan to merit recognition in this category? The internet does not yield any answers, unfortunately. If anyone happens to have the show on DVD, let us know.

The Flintstones, 1961 nominee for Outstanding Comedy Series

The characters and relationship dynamics on The Flintstones seemed to owe a great deal to The Honeymooners (basically, “Wilma!” = “To the moon, Alice!”), which could be how the show wound up being the first animated program to be nominated for Best Comedy. Interestingly enough, Seth MacFarlane, whose Family Guy was the second animated show to receive a nod in this category, is planning a Flintstones reboot, which is scheduled to premiere in 2013. Yabba dabba doo?

Ann Jillian, 1988 nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, The Ann Jillian Story

Yes, Ann Jillian was nominated for portraying herself. The It’s A Living star headlined a made-for-TV movie about her battle with breast cancer, and while it would seem that re-enacting events from her personal life would give her advantage over her competitors, not so when one of them is Jessica Tandy. Jillian received vindication when she was also nominated — and won — the Golden Globe for the same role.

The Muppet Show, 1977-81 nominee for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

Without a doubt the most delightful oddball nominee on this list. This category has been used to recognize a diverse array of shows, from talk shows like The Tonight Show and The Daily Show to highbrow TV specials like Baryshnikov on Broadway and The Kennedy Center Honors. Somehow Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang crashed this party for almost its entire run, and even ended up winning the Emmy in 1978.

Keshia Knight Pulliam, 1986 nominee for Outstanding Supporting Actress, The Cosby Show

Pulliam is actually the youngest nominee in Emmy history, scoring a nod at only age 6. She might be the only nominee in Emmy history who was nominated due to her adorableness. The whole category actually seemed like it was voted upon by teenage girls: Pulliam’s on-screen sister Lisa Bonet and Justine Bateman from Family Ties were also nominated, and even Malcolm Jamal-Warner snagged a nomination that same year for Best Supporting Actor.

Bill Cosby, 1966-68, Outstanding Actor in a Drama, I Spy

While his onscreen daughters, wife and son all scored nominations for their roles on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby never received an acting nod for the show that bore his name. He did however receive three nominations and wins for his groundbreaking lead role on I Spy. The fact that Cosby was nominated for a drama is not odd, but the fact he was overlooked every year he was on The Cosby Show (in favor of Bronson Pinchot among others) is a real headscratcher.