Emmys 2015: Where was 'Empire'? And other snubs and surprises

It’s the Emmys list that generates perhaps the most chatter each year: the ranks of the non-nominees. And Thursday morning’s announcement of the 2015 Emmy nominations was no different in creating an outcry.

Leading the greatest chorus of protest was the fact that broadcast’s biggest new show last season — Fox’s “Empire” — was not among the drippity-drop of drama nominees. Even with a rule change that saw the comedy and drama series categories grow this year — from six to seven nominees — the show didn’t elbow into the mix. Surprising, considering the Lee Daniels hip-hop-tinged family drama not only made waves on social media, it grew its total audience every week of its debut season.

Series star Taraji P. Henson did nab a lead actress in a drama nomination for her much-loved turn as brash ex-con Cookie, but her partner-in-crime Terrence Howard did not receive a nod for his turn as her estranged husband, Lucious Lyon.

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“Really? Wow,” said Henson, who was on her way to the “Empire” set when a Times reporter broke the news to her on the snubs. “That’s a real surprise. I don’t do the show by myself. And Cookie is nothing without Lucious. She is nothing without her family.”

Also creating some waves was the exclusion of two of last year’s winners: Jim Parsons in the lead actor in a comedy category and Julianna Margulies for drama actress.

With four victories, Parsons is tied for most Emmy wins in the comedy series actor category with Carroll O’Connor, Michael J. Fox and Kelsey Grammer for his role as geek king Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.” In fact, he won the last two years. 

Also overlooked was his mother ship — “The Big Bang Theory.” The perennial nominee was left out of the comedy race.

Meanwhile, Margulies’ performance as scorned wife turned tough career woman Alicia Florrick on CBS’ legal drama “The Good Wife” had, up until now, earned her a nomination in four of the series' previous five years on the air.

Then there was Gina Rodriguez. Despite being a critical darling and snagging a Golden Globe win, the “Jane the Virgin” star was overlooked by Emmy voters. The only nomination the CW series earned was for voice-over artist Anthony Mendez.

Margulies’ exclusion left room for a newcomer to the drama lead actress category that TV viewers and critics have been championing in recent years: Tatiana Maslany. As the star of BBC’s conspiracy thriller “Orphan Black,” in which she plays a consortium of clones, Maslany has generated much recognition for the complexity of her performance. She finds herself in the company of Henson, Claire Danes (“Homeland”), Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”), Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) and Robin Wright (“House of Cards”).

Other surprising moments came in the lead actor in a comedy category, which saw newcomers Anthony Anderson (“black-ish”) and Will Forte (“Last Man on Earth”) join the fray over favored possible nominees Billy Crystal (“The Comedians”) and Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”).

Comedy Central also had reason to celebrate. Keegan-Michael Key scored a nomination for “Key & Peele” in the supporting actor in a comedy category, while Amy Schumer is in the lead actress in a comedy race. And three of the network’s shows — “Drunk History,” “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Key & Peele” — got nominations in the sketch series category.

Finally, it was hard not to notice “Modern Family” took a hit this year. The ABC comedy saw only two of its cast members — Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen, who play husband and wife — earn nominations, far fewer than in past years when the cast had dominated the acting categories. And the series was shut out of the writing categories, which it had regularly ruled.

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