63rd Primetime Emmy Nominations
HBO’s new dramas Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones made a big showing in their first Emmy races, Friday Night Lights received a great sendoff for its final season, Modern Family solidified its position as the undisputed comedy king, The Big Bang Theory and Parks and Recreation landed first best series noms, and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and So You Think You Can Dance broke into the major categories at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards. On the heels of its Golden Globe and SAG wins, Prohibition-era extravaganza Boardwalk Empire netted an impressive tally of 18 Emmy nominations — including best drama series, best actor (Steve Buscemi) and best director (Martin Scorsese) — second only to the drama series that has dominated awards races for the past four years, AMC’s Mad Men, which had 19 noms. HBO led the network pack with 104 nominations, followed by CBS, which was the most nominated broadcast network with 50 noms, NBC with 46, PBS with 43, and this year’s host of the Primetime Emmy ceremony, Fox, with 42. HBO’s miniseries Mildred Pierce was the most nominated program overall with 21 mentions, including one in the newly consolidated best movie/miniseries category.

In its final Emmy hurrah, high school football drama Friday Night Lights earned its first best series nomination for its final season on DirecTV, along with the second consecutive best actor and best actress noms for stars Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. In the best drama series category, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones and FNL joined returning nominees Mad Men, Dexter and The Good Wife, which was once again the sole representative of broadcast TV in the top drama series category. Game of Thrones took a spot occupied by another genre series last year, HBO’s vampire drama True Blood, while notable omissions in the best drama series field include AMC’s high-profile new entries The Walking Dead and The Killing as well as FX’s Justified, all considered strong Emmy contenders, though the last two landed acting noms for stars Mireille Enos and Timothy Olyphant, respectively, and standout supporting players Michelle Forbes (The Killing), with her co-star Joel Kinnaman overlooked, and Margo Martindale, Walton Goggins and Jeremy Davies (Justified). Left out in the cold were Showtime’s drama Shameless and HBO’s Treme, as the TV Academy continues to show little love for Treme co-creator David Simon.

Following its complete dominance of the awards races following its best comedy series win at last year’s Emmy Awards, ABC’s Modern Family was once again the top comedy dog with 17 nominations, including best comedy series as well as acting nominations for the entire adult cast of the show, all of whom submitted themselves as supporting: last year’s winner Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen and Ed O’Neill, who was surprisingly left off last year’s nominee list. With no new comedy series making a big splash this past season on broadcast or cable, Emmy voters took a second look at series that had been passed over for best series recognition in the past. Both NBC’s Parks and Recreation and CBS’ The Big Bang Theory landed their first best comedy series nominations this year for their third and fourth season, respectively, but NBC’s offbeat sophomore Community and its cast were once again overlooked. Both Parks & Rec and Big Bang already had had lead actor nominations for stars Amy Poehler and Jim Parsons, who won for best comedy actor last year. Both are back in Emmy contention this year. However, Poehler’s co-star Nick Offerman was snubbed, while in another Emmy gain for Big Bang, Parsons is facing fellow star Johnny Galecki, who earned his first Emmy nomination. Joining Modern Family, Parks and Recreation and Big Bang in the best comedy series category are last year’s nominees Glee, The Office and 30 Rock.

It wasn’t a strong year for new broadcast series, so it is not surprising that none broke the best series categories. But three actresses from freshman sitcoms — Melissa McCarthy of CBS’ Mike & Molly, Martha Plimpton of Fox’s Raising Hope as well as Laura Linney of Showtime’s The Big C, which just started airing its second season — made the cut for best actress in a comedy series, where they will compete against returning nominees Tina Fey of 30 Rock, Poehler and last year’s winner Edie Falco of Nurse Jackie, though Showtime’s medical dramedy failed to repeat as best series nominee.

Steve Carell landed his sixth consecutive and final nomination for his starring role on The Office. Carell, who is still looking for his first win, will be the sentimental favorite in the best actor in a comedy series category where he goes against previous winners Parsons and Alec Baldwin as well as Galecki, Louis CK of FX’s comedy Louie, which was snubbed for best conedy, and Matt LeBlanc of Showtime’s Episodes, who is back in Emmy contention seven years after landing the last of three Emmy nominations for NBC’s Friends.

Notably missing from the lead comedy acting categories are Glee stars Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison, who made the cut last year. While the high school musical dramedy was shut out of the lead acting categories this year, last year’s winner (and this year’s Emmy host) Jane Lynch and nominee Chris Colfer returned as nominees in the supporting fields on the heels of Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy revealing that the upcoming third season of the show will be the last for Colfer as well as Michele and co-star Cory Monteith. And with Colfer, the four Modern Family guys and former Emmy winner Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men nominated, squeezed out of the supporting actor in a comedy series category was Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother, a significant upset.

There were even bigger snubs in the best actress in a drama series category. Surprisingly, left out were last year’s winner Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer, who didn’t make the cut for the first time following five consecutive nominations, as well as this year’s Golden Globe winner Katey Sagal of FX’s Sons of Anarchy. Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU, like Sedgwick a former Emmy winner and star of a police procedural, did land another nomination, along with The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies, Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss, The Killing‘s Enos, FNL‘s Britton as well as Oscar winner Kathy Bates of NBC’s Harry’s Law, who earned her first nomination for her role in David E. Kelley’s legal dramedy. The Good Wife expanded its footprint in the acting categories with six noms. Joining Margulies are Josh Charles (first nom) and Alan Cumming (he was nominated as a guest star last year) in the supporting actor category, last year’s winner Archie Panjabi and Christine Baranski in the supporting actress category and Michael J. Fox as a guest star.

Trying again in the best actor in a drama series category is Hugh Laurie, who landed his sixth nomination for Fox’s House, seeking his first win. The lead drama actor field is wide open this year with Bryan Cranston, who won for the past three years, out as his AMC series Breaking Bad was not eligible this year. Laurie, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, FNL‘s Chandler, Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall and Justified‘s Olyphant all have a shot, though fellow nominee Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire has momentum, coming off Golden Globe and SAG wins. However, that is not a guarantee for Emmy love as proven by last year’s surprising loss of Margulies in the best drama series actress category following wins at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards.

The best variety, music or comedy series and best reality competition series expanded from five to six nominees each this year. Each category kept the five nominees from last year (though Conan O’Brien was represented with his new show, Conan vs. The Tonight Show last year): Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, winner for the past 8 years, and The Colbert Report, NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Conan and HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher for best VMC series; and CBS’ The Amazing Race, Fox’s American Idol, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, Lifetime’s Project Runway and Bravo’s Top Chef for best reality-competition series. The newbies in the best series fields are Late Night With Jimmy Fallon for best VMC series, adding to the generational shift in the category from veterans like David Letterman and Jay Leno to younger comedians like O’Brien, Fallon, Stewart and Colbert, and Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance for best reality-competition series. This is the first major recognition for both shows, now in their third (Fallon) and seventh (SYTYCD) years. What’s more, the top series categories noms were garnered by a second major nominations for each series: best writing for Fallon and best host for a reality or reality-competition program for SYTYCD‘s Cat Deeley, who is facing perennial nominees Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race, Ryan Seacrest of American Idol, Tom Bergeron of Dancing With the Stars and Jeff Probst of Survivor.

The merging of the best TV movie and miniseries categories did not produce a major shocker as HBO’s highest-profile longform entries, mini Mildred Pierce and movies Too Big to Fail and Cinema Verite, all made the cut, with three other high-profile miniseries, all acquisitions, also landing noms: Starz’s Pillars of the Earth, PBS’ Downton Abbey and, probably the only surprise, ReelzChannel’s largely critically panned The Kennedys. Thanks to the last-minute pickup of The Kennedys after it was dumped by History, ReelzChannel landed impressive 10 nominations, more than many other cable networks, including mentions of The Kennedys co-stars Greg Kinnear and Barry Pepper in the best lead actor in a miniseries or movie category.