On March 10, 1997, the fledgling WB network premiered a new show called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” based off of a 1992 film that failed to register at the box office. The series centered around Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a Sunnydale high school student who was gifted with incredible strength and skill as she was the “chosen one” to rid the town of its vampire infestation. While the premise didn’t really scream “EMMYS!” 20 years later the show and its stars still stand as the biggest snubs in Emmy Awards history.
Through its run, “Buffy” did collect 14 total Emmy nominations and won two trophies in 1998 for music and makeup. Thirteen of those bids were below-the-line, but it did earn one big breakthrough nomination in the Best Drama Writing category for the Joss Whedon-penned episode “Hush” in 2000. Buffy herself never received a single nomination though there were outcries from critics and fans alike to award Gellar her rightful due, or at least a nomination.
After “The Body” episode in Season 5 where Buffy’s mother dies of natural causes and the only battle on screen is grief, many felt Gellar’s performance would be too hard to ignore and she’d be a cinch not just to collect a nomination, but the Emmy itself. Alas, she was snubbed again, though Gellar did receive a Golden Globe nomination in 2001, a small consolation.
Aside from Gellar’s unforgivable snub, the rest of the cast was given their time to shine throughout the series’s seven-season run (the first five on WB, the last two on UPN). Alyson Hannigan, who played Buffy’s best friend Willow Rosenburg, went Emmy-less even after an outstanding sixth season that saw her turn into the world’s worst witch after her anger over her girlfriend’s death consumed her. Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander Harris, was equally strong in the sixth season when his relationship with his fiance Anya fell apart.
Emma Caulfield (Anya) and Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn Summers) were Emmy-worthy in the fifth season, while Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia Chase) and David Boreanaz (Angel) should have secured nominations for the show’s second season. Add on James Marsters (Spike), Juliet Landau (Drusilla), Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles) and Eliza Dushku (Faith) for their strong work in all seasons in which they appeared, and the hole Emmy voters dug themselves with “Buffy” snubs just gets deeper and deeper.
“Buffy” itself never scored a Drama Series Emmy nomination, but it did land Television Critics Association bids for Drama Achievement in 2000 and 2001 and won the TCA Heritage Award in 2003. The series did, however, change television just as much as Buffy Summers changed the potential outcome of an apocalypse. Thanks to “Buffy” and the outcries of its Emmy snubs, other fantasy/horror/drama shows like “Lost” and “Game of Thrones” have had a path to Emmy victory paved for them. In fact, “Game of Thrones” now stands as the most awarded primetime series in Emmy history at 38 statues.
The path for such victories is not all that “Buffy” gave. It also gave TV one of the most iconic characters it has ever seen. It gave TV a dramedy led by a strong, fierce, funny, kick-ass woman. It gave TV the right to think outside the box and fuel creativity into an otherwise by-the-books slate of shows. It gave TV the right to push boundaries that no other show had ever touched, including one of the first prominent same-sex couples. And it gave millions of viewers and fans the feeling that they were not just part of the show’s “Scooby Gang,” but part of a world full of potential apocalyptic moments that they could fight and survive through.