You know how at the Oscars, the right person can win for the wrong role? Well, at the Emmys, the right person can not only win for the wrong role but they can win at the wrong time. This is not to say these people and shows aren't also deserving of their victories then, but because voters are such notorious creatures of habit or sometimes generally do weird things (Merritt Wever, #neverforget), the Emmys often play catch up with the bridesmaids. (But still none for you, Angela "0-18" Lansbury.)
And with the larger voting pool and a plurality tally — the latter of which is new this year — in play now, popular and sentimental also-ran champs are more likely than ever. We got two huge doses of that already last year with Game of Thrones' dominance and Jon Hamm at long last winning his first Emmy for Mad Men.
So which longtime loser stands the best chance of ascending the Microsoft Theater stage this year?
Real Time with Bill Maher
Bill Maher was the Emmys' biggest loser — at an astounding 0-32 — before his win as a producer on information series or special champ Vice two years ago. Real Time, however, remains Emmy-less and will likely be 0-19 after this year. It's only competing for variety talk series, where it's a severe underdog against the likes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, The Late Late Show with James Corden and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. If Real Time keeps up this losing streak, it could dethrone Newhart (the innkeeper one) as the biggest Emmy-losing program; the sitcom went 0-25 over eight years.
After Hamm's victory, the House star shares the dubious honor of being the biggest loser in the drama lead actor category (0-6) with Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Martin Sheen (The West Wing). Laurie is 0-7 overall and has two nominations this year for The Night Manager: as a producer on the limited series nominee and supporting TV movie/limited series actor. His biggest competition is The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story's Sterling K. Brown, but if Brown is too "new" or he splits the vote with co-stars John Travolta and David Schwimmer, Laurie can sneak in there.
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Everything about House of Cards, Frank Underwood and a two-time Oscar winner playing him screams "EMMY." But Spacey has yet to win for FU and is 0-8 at the Emmys overall, with two more chances this year, in lead drama actor and as a producer for House of Cards' drama series nod. The show will fall to Game of Thrones, but this is Spacey's best chance yet to get halfway to an EGOT. He lost his first three bids to a newbie with a riveting monologue, aka Emmy catnip (Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom); an Emmy fave in an iconic role (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad); and a perennial bridesmaid on his last shot (Hamm). Spacey has won a Golden Globe and two straight Screen Actors Guild Awards for House of Cards, but that doesn't foretell Emmy glory. Laurie, Hall and Sheen are all Globe and SAG champs who never won the Emmy.
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Poehler and Hamm once threw an Emmys losers party that probably was the best party ever. The Mad Men star, after being 0-15, got his Emmy last year and Poehler, currently 0-16, is finally poised to snag hers in the comedy guest actress category for co-hosting Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey. The guest race is where folks often go for an overdue win (see: Bob Newhart winning his first-ever Emmy, for The Big Bang Theory, in 2013), and SNL hosts have scored six wins since they were allowed to start competing there eight years ago. One of those winners? Emmy darling Fey. Poehler will learn her fate this weekend, when the guest trophies are given out at the Creative Arts ceremony.
OK, Paulson is "only" 0-4 heading into this year's ceremony, but one of those losses was unforgivable: Ellen Burstyn's boozy matriarch in Political Animals beat Paulson's tremendous Lana Winters in American Horror: Story: Asylum three years ago, in what was clearly a name-check win. (Also, incredibly ironic since Burstyn's name-check nod for her 14-second appearance in Mrs. Harris led to the Ellen Burstyn Rule.) Paulson has two nods this year, lead TV movie/limited series actress for O.J. and supporting TV movie/limited series actress for American Horror Story: Hotel, and she's a shoo-in for her unimpeachable turn as Marcia Clark in the former. Not only is it a great performance, but she's riding the inertia of O.J., which has 22 nods. Plus, when you have people like Tina Fey changing her membership status just to vote for you, you're basically golden.