Most casual television watchers know the Emmy Awards as the top achievement for actors, producers and shows that air on the small screen. When the Emmy nominees are announced in July, it would be easy to assume that shows with the highest ratings and the most digital buzz would always top the list. Quite to the contrary, Emmy nomination lists have traditionally been a surprising mix of predictable smash hits with lesser-known cult favorites and critically acclaimed successes.
The unpredictable nature of Emmy nominations and winners is due largely to the voting process behind the event. The Primetime Emmys are overseen by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and nominees are chosen through multiple rounds of voting open to the Academy’s more than 24,000 voting members and 29 profession groups. While voting members are all TV industry professionals with their finger on the pulse, it’s largely a matter of individual taste.
While it’s no surprise that legendary shows like “Seinfeld,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos” and “The Simpsons” have had their share of Emmy success, there have been some massively popular shows that have missed the cut. “The Wire” — considered to be amongst the best HBO original series — is perhaps the most famous Emmy snub, while “Sons of Anarchy” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” were also repeatedly passed over for major awards. Even when hit shows like “The Office” are heavily nominated they may still miss out in major categories, including Steve Carell’s six-year snub for his leading role on the show.
In this article, we’ll explore the 50 most popular Emmy-nominated shows of all time. Much like the Emmy nominations list, there are some obvious classics but also some beloved cult favorites like “Archer” and “Firefly” that rose to the top. And just because these shows are popular doesn’t mean they’re all draped in hardware. Some hits like “Twin Peaks” and “Dexter” have earned dozens of nominations and won fewer than five Emmy awards.
Others have done exceedingly well in competition. These are the TV shows with the most Emmy wins of all time.
To identify the 50 most popular Emmy-nominated shows of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index based on the number of user ratings and overall series rating on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for TV shows that have been nominated for at least one Emmy Award at any point in history. To be considered, a series had to have at least 5,000 user ratings.