Sure, the Emmys have gotten pretty good about awarding the right shows at the right time (hello, Homeland!) — but that wasn’t necessarily always the case. In fact, its 60-plus-year history is filled with more question marks and drawn-out love affairs than an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Remember when The Practice won everything in sight? Or that time Joan of Arcadia happened?
With the Emmy nominations just 24 hours away, we’ve decided to take a look back at these and other once-popular shows that now exist only in conversations that begin and end with “Oh yeah, that show!” At the risk of drudging up every bad memory ever created by Judging Amy (which, trust me, isn’t fun), check out our list, below.
At the time, Huff, about a psychiatrist (Hank Azaria) in the midst of a midlife crisis, was one of those “cool” cable shows that one person in your office talked about incessantly and had everyone running back to their desks being like, “Wait. Should I be watching Huff?” Nobody really did, though, which is why the Showtime comedy was canceled after just two seasons. Still, that didn’t stop Emmy voters from trying to make Huff happen, which meant we all had to suffer through two inexplicable and consecutive wins for co-star Blythe Danner. (Fans of Grey’s Anatomy will remember Danner’s second win very well, as it was the year she beat frontrunner Sandra Oh.)
Heroes, in which a bunch of modern-day superheroes basically did everything in their powers to save Hayden Panettiere, was arguably the zeitgeist show of 2006, and had the eight Emmy nominations to prove it. Unfortunately, subsequent seasons failed to live up to the hype, and viewers were forced to sit through incessant promo campaigns until it finally disappeared four years later.
Joan of Arcadia (2003-2005)
Joan of Arcadia literally took the lyrics from Joan Osbourne’s “One of Us” and turned it into an hourlong drama. Which, to be fair, was a pretty good show. But the just-quirky-enough premise, backed by the just-quirky-enough Amber Tamblyn, never really caught on with audiences, making its 2004 nomination for Best Drama Series feel like a flash in the pan, if a little random.
The Practice (1997-2004)
You probably remember The Practice, that David E. Kelley legal drama that had people confusing Dylan McDermott with Dermot Mulroney, launched a forgettable memoir by co-star Camryn Manheim and actually beat the first season of The Sopranos for Best Drama Series. But does anyone really remember what actually happened on that show, besides the crossover episodes with Ally McBeal and that time Michael Emerson played a creepy killer? No? Me either.
Without a Trace (2004-2009)
In its early years, critics actually rallied behind Without a Trace, a CBS serial that focused on missing persons investigations. Star Anthony LaPaglia won a Golden Globe for his performance, and eventually got an Emmy nomination for season 2. But just as it was about to become a Real Thing, the show slowly fell apart until it was finally canceled in 2009. It currently lives somewhere in the Land of Syndication (ION, to be exact).
Dharma & Greg (1997-2002)
Dharma & Greg, about a straight-laced husband and his kooky wife, briefly made a star out of Jenna Elfman — so much so, she earned three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe and, by season 5, annoyed complaints from TV viewers who just wanted that goddamn show to end, already.
Judging Amy (1997-2005)
Judging Amy was about a judge named Amy (get it?) who lived in Connecticut with her mother and daughter and dealt with family law cases. It aired for six insufferable seasons, and Tyne Daly (who played Amy’s mother) was nominated every single year. She even won an Emmy in 2003, despite veryobviouscompetition, and the cut was deep.
Once and Again (1999-2002)
Once and Again aired at a time when hourlong family dramas were still a very popular thing on network television. Voters were even kind enough to give star Sela Ward an Emmy for its first season, but the show never made it past three.
Pushing Daisies (2007-09)
Pushing Daisies earned a staggering 12 Emmy nods for its first season; but not even a subsequent win for Kristin Chenoweth could keep the show on past season 2, despite very, very, very trying efforts from bloggers on the Internet.
Northern Exposure (1990-1995)
A New York doctor moved to a quirky town in Alaska and met a bunch of quirky patients, and a boatload of Emmys followed; but like other things that came out of The Last Frontier State, the appeal eventually wore off.