Robin Williams was something of a regular at the Emmy Awards: He received eight nominations spread over roughly 30 years. In June, he was in the game again, in the running for an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series bid for his sitcom comeback, The Crazy Ones. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Williams’s attempt to garner a ninth-career nomination fell short at the nomination stage in July.
“It’s so competitive now for an Emmy,” says Michael Schneider, executive editor of TV Guide.
Williams, who died Aug. 11 due to committing suicide, will be posthumously honored by Billy Crystal at Monday’s 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.
Even with six slots up for grabs in Williams’s category, one more than in most of the glamor races at the Oscars and Grammys, there wasn’t enough room for the acclaimed performer and two-time Emmy winner. His bid might have been sunk the minute The Crazy Ones was canceled in May.
“It’s always tough with a canceled show,” Schneider says.
The last actor to win an Emmy for a canceled show was Kristin Chenoweth for Pushing Daisies in 2009.
But even Pushing Daisies lasted two, albeit-abbreviated, seasons over two years. The Crazy Ones, set in the world of Chicago ad execs, aired on CBS for just seven months. Williams’s co-star, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played the comic’s daughter and partner, didn’t even submit her name for a nomination. (She was, in the judgment of Vulture.com, one of the “big stars on canceled shows who said, ‘Eh, screw it!’ and left themselves off the ballot.”) Williams, like Michael J. Fox, who’d starred in his own one-and-done comedy series last season, went for it.
“Robin’s people probably said, ‘Why not?'” Schneider says.
With still-running series to promote, CBS didn’t mount much of a campaign on behalf of The Crazy Ones, according to Tom O’Neil.
“They put most of their oomph behind their leading Emmy contender, The Good Wife,” O’Neil says.
Still, Williams rated Emmy-timed press coverage, and the pundits seemed reasonably optimistic that the actor, who had gone from Mork & Mindy to a crowd-pleasing, Oscar-winning film career, was too big a name to ignore. Half of the 14 TV writers and critics polled penciled in Williams for a lead-actor nomination in the comedy category. The awards-show site itself put Williams’s shot at winning an Emmy at 25-to-1, better odds than given to all but five of his competitors. Even detractors, like the Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon, figured Williams would make the Emmy’s “weak-sauce list.”
But the nominations announced on July 10 told a different story.
“Williams and Andy Samberg [of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, another favorite of the pundits] got bumped by William H. Macy and that sneaky Ricky Gervais,” O’Neil says.
Gervais, who had been considered a 100-to-1 shot, earned his nod for the Netflix-streamed comedy series Derek. Macy, who’d been perceived as being on the bubble for a nod, right behind Williams, may have been the real spoiler. He got in for Showtime’s Shameless, a series that, until this year’s Emmy nominations, had been positioned as a drama, not a comedy.
In the end, The Crazy Ones was shut out of the Emmys, just as it had been at last winter’s Golden Globes. It was the final tough break for a show that, with only middling reviews and almost-weekly ratings declines, had suffered its share. Things might have been different, Schneider says, if The Crazy Ones had been paired on CBS’s Thursday-night linuep with its top-rated show, The Big Bang Theory. (The Millers, the 2013-14 freshman comedy that was married in the 8 p.m. hour to Big Bang, did win renewal for a second season.)
The results of Monday’s Emmys might have been different, too.
“If Williams had been nominated, he would’ve had a good chance to win, given how Emmy voting works,” O’Neil says. “Winners are chosen by judges who are suckers for the kind of big, emotionally expansive performance that he gave in Crazy Ones.”
Because he wasn’t nominated, Williams and his team weren’t asked to submit a single episode for consideration. “[But] he had lots to choose from,” says O’Neil.
In a tribute to Williams after his death, Slate’s Willa Paskin singled out the pilot for The Crazy Ones for an “undeniably great” scene in which Williams and co-star James Wolk pitch the idea of doing a McDonald’s commercial to Kelly Clarkson.
Erik Adams, who, like many critics was cool to The Crazy Ones in the early going, likewise singled out the pilot for its Williams-Wolk scene. Wolk, as it happened, also submitted his name for an Emmy nomination.
But that, too, was not meant to be.