Six years after the TV Academy changed its rules to allow online series to compete in the Emmy race alongside traditional shows, series that have not aired on broadcast or cable TV made it to the top categories for the first time. Leading the breakthrough is streaming giant Netflix with House Of Cards, which landed 9 nominations, including best drama series and best actor/actress for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and Arrested Development, with a best actor nom for Jason Bateman. Netflix, which scored a total of 12 noms vs. none last year, employed some non-traditional Emmy campaign tactics, including lawn signs and a BBQ food truck. This marks Bateman’s second nomination for his starring role on the cult comedy eight years after he was first nominated for the series’ second season on Fox. But while the comedy earned best series noms for each of its three seasons on Fox, this time around it missed the cut in the top category.
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Meanwhile, FX’s Louie continued its awards momentum with its first best series nom. Over the past year, Louis C.K.’s edgy comedy landed its first Emmy in September, then first SAG, Golden Globe and PGA nominations and the top comedy prize at the WGA Awards. Now Louie, which is on a prolonged hiatus, netted its most Emmy nominations, six, including third consecutive noms for lead actor Louis C.K., and writing, a category won by Louis C.K. last year; as well as second nom for directing, also for Louis C.K. The stand-up comedian/Renaissance man, who writes, directs, acts and edits, surpassed his record of seven Emmy nominations last year, landing as many individual noms this year spread over Louie, his HBO special Oh My God and his hosting duties on Saturday Night Live, plus a best series mention for Louie, on which he serves as executive producer.
With its pedigree and documentary style, Louie often draws parallels to another off-beat comedy created and starring a veteran standup comedian playing himself, Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. So it is only fitting that Louie took the spot of Curb — also on hiatus as David is busy working on his HBO movie — in the best comedy series field. As a whole, there are very few changes and major surprises in the top series categories this year as the crop of new shows largely failed to impress the members of the TV Academy. The best comedy and drama series fields each featured only one newcomer, Louie, and House Of Cards, respectively, with the latter replacing HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Returning as best series nominees are comedies Modern Family, looking to extend its winning streak to four best series trophies, The Big Bang Theory, which is riding the wave of ratings success and growing critical recognition (it just won big at the Critics Choice Awards), last season’s breakouts Girls and Veep as well as 30 Rock, in its swan song. (No best series nom for the final season of another veteran Emmy-winning comedy, The Office, or Parks & Recreation.)
On the drama side, House Of Cards joins last year’s nominees Homeland, which swept the top drama categories at last year’s Emmy Awards; Mad Men, which is looking for its fifth best series win after its four-year streak was snapped by Homeland last year; Breaking Bad; Downton Abbey; and Game Of Thrones. After ranking as the most nominated primetime series for the past couple of years, Mad Men slipped down the list, tying Downton Abbey and Modern Family with 12 nominations, behind Game Of Thrones (16) and Breaking Bad & 30 Rock (13). FX’s American Horror Story, which competes as a miniseries, landed the most nominations overall with 17.
After getting shut out completely in the best drama series category for the first time last year, ad-supported broadcast networks again failed to place a contender on the top drama series list. Asked about broadcast’s Emmy drought in the category at TCA last year, Fox’s Kevin Reilly predicted that the network will have some major Emmy drama contenders/nominees this year. The network’s best shot at a drama nomination was for The Following leading man Kevin Bacon, who got snubbed. The only freshman broadcast series to land a major Emmy nomination this year was ABC’s Nashville, whose star and previous nominee for Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story Connie Britton earned her fourth consecutive Emmy nomination. Britton, Vera Farmiga of A&E’s first-year series Bates Motel and House Of Cards‘ Wright (but not Critics Choice Awards winner Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black) as well as Kerry Washington of red-hot Scandal bring new blood to the best actress in a drama series category, which is seeing the biggest turnover of all major categories this year with four newcomers. No fourth consecutive nomination for 2011 winner Julianna Margulies, whose show The Good Wife was snubbed for best drama series for a second year in a row. Returning nominees include last year’s winner Claire Danes of Homeland, Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery and Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss. Boardwalk Empire, which scored both best drama series and best actor noms (for Steve Buscemi) last year, failed to make either categories this year. Buscemi and Dexter’s Michael C. Hall, who had been nominated in each of the past five years, didn’t make the cut for best actor in a drama series, with Spacey and The Newsroom‘s Jeff Daniels joining returning nominees Damian Lewis of Homeland, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, who is still looking for his first Emmy win, three-time winner Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville. Daniels and Jane Fonda, nominated in the guest starring category, landed the only major nominations for the first season of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama, which failed to crack the best series, writing and directing fields.
In one of the bigger surprises, Enlightened’s Laura Dern landed her first Emmy nom for the now defunct HBO comedy series. Dern was the only new addition to the lead comedy actress field, which shrunk from 7 to 6 slots this year, squeezing out 2011 winner Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) and New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel. Coming back are last year’s winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), Tina Fey (30 Rock), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) and Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation).
Two And A Half Men‘s Jon Cryer, a surprise winner last year, is the only reigning Emmy champ in the lead acting categories not to get a nomination. Bateman and Episodes‘ Matt LeBlanc are back in Emmy contention after an eight and one-year break, respectively. They join last year’s nominees Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Don Cheadle (House Of Lies), Louis C.K. (Louie) and Alec Baldwin (30 Rock).
The biggest shocker in the supporting categories was the omission of last year’s winner Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family who had been nominated for the past three years, winning in 2010 and 2012. His co-stars Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara all made it. On the drama side, first Emmy nomination for the underrated Mandy Patinkin for Homeland. (He previously won for Chicago Hope.) Landing their first major nominations are Patinkin’s co-star Morena Baccarin and Game Of Thrones beauty Emilia Clarke.
Frozen in time are the best variety and reality competition categories, featuring the same nominees as last year. The Daily Show is looking to extend its winning streak to 11 best series trophies, again squaring off against The Colbert Report, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Real Time With Bill Maher and Saturday Night Live. (For some reason, IFC’s praised comedy series Portlandia was submitted in the variety categories, where it missed a best series nom but scored for writing and directing.) On the reality/competition side, perennial winner The Amazing Race, The Voice, Project Runway, Dancing With The Stars, So You Think You Can Dance and Top Chef are all repeating as nominees and American Idol is out for a second consecutive year.
There was a major snub in the host for a reality series category. After Jeff Probst surprisingly didn’t make the cut last year following four consecutive nominations and three wins, the Survivor host was shut out again, this time joined by the host of another veteran CBS reality series, Emmy juggernaut Amazing Race. Phil Keoghan, nominated for the past four years, did not get a nomination. Would that affect the chances of The Amazing Race to score its 10th best reality series completion Emmy? Returning reality host nominees include American Idol‘s Ryan Seacrest, who is still searching for his first Emmy, last year’s winner Tom Bergeron (Dancing With The Stars), Cat Deeley (So You Think You Can Dance) and TV Academy darling Betty White (Betty White’s Off Their Rockers). They are joined by Project Runway’s Heidi Klum, who is returning to the field after a two-year absence, this time in tandem with Tim Gunn, and Anthony Bourdain of ABC’s freshman The Taste.
HBO once again dominated the field with 108 nominations, up from 81 last year and 104 in 2011. It was followed by CBS and NBC, tied at 53 nominations, roughly on par with last year. Among studios, 20th Century Fox TV, which is behind AHS, Modern Family and Homeland, once gain dominated with 57 noms. Joining HBO as big gainers are Netflix, landing 14 nominations, up from zero last year, Sundance Channel (10 vs 0) and National Geographic (6 vs. 0), while PBS retreated with 25 noms, down from 58 last year. Like Netflix, Sony Pictures’ online network Crackle too got on the Emmy board for the first time with a nomination for Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee in the short-format nonfiction category.
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TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.