With still exactly a month to go before the big (Monday) event, the Emmy party season kicked off in style last night on the 3rd floor outdoor deck of the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills with a bash for performer nominees. Showing up to meet and greet potential voters as well as press and other Academy members were Modern Family’s Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson; Minnie Driver, nominated for the Lifetime movie Return To Zero; Veep’s pair of 2013 winners and nominees again, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale; double nominee for Mom and Masters Of Sex, Allison Janney; Scandal’s bad guy Joe Morton;  House Of Cards‘ Kevin Spacey; and Fargo’s Billy Bob Thornton.  Presiding over it all were actors branch Governors Bob Bergen and Lily Tomlin. Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum and new president Maury McIntyre also made the scene.

Emmy Party 2014Now this was just the first round. There will be an even bigger bash for performers two nights before the Emmys at the Pacific Design Center. Between now and then there will be another 21 of these peer group parties representing every branch of the Academy from Costume Designers (who actually were the first group to party a few days ago) to Make Up and Hairstylists to Writers (I am on the Board Of Governors repping that branch, which will celebrate its nominees August 21). That’s almost one a night. Putting all this together is the indefatigable Barbara Chase and the Academy staff.

Also happening during this period will be the Creative Arts Emmys and Ball on Saturday, August 16 where 94 categories will be presented (up from 80 last year). Just a measly 26 categories will be presented on the NBC telecast August 25th.Whew. August is usually the dog days for the TV industry, but this year it is where all the heat is — at least as far as Emmys go. Voting, which is done by individual volunteers from each peer group , also got underway this week with the first round of ballots due back August 6 (for Creative Arts)  and the final round the next week.

Minnie DriverThis sort of event is not only great for networking, it is a good place to be seen if you’re a nominee since there is also a press line with lots of free publicity opportunities before voting actually starts. Coming up in the elevator I asked the Oscar winner (Sling Blade) Thornton which was better: an Emmy or an Oscar. The first-time Emmy nominee’s answer was quick: “Both,” he said. That indicates how important television has become for film stars — and how prestigious an Emmy is, which is easy to see with the rampant campaigning that has been going on just to get nominations this year.

Kevin Spacey Lilly TomlinSpacey was swarmed wherever he went. He told me he just finished his one-man show of Darrow last month  at the Old Vic in London and put it together faster than any production he has ever done. Critics loved it. We talked about the ascendance of Netflix, which nabbed 31 nominations this year including 13 for his show. It was really Spacey and David Fincher who did the leap of faith that would eventually put the streaming service on the map Emmy-wise … and every other-wise. He’s proud of this year’s nominations and will soon start Season 3, he said. I thought he should have won last year but this year might be tough with frontrunner Matthew McConaughey from True Detective and Bryan Cranston’s last go with Breaking Bad among those competing against him. Nevertheless, his Francis Underwood is one for the ages.

Tomlin told me she is about to start her new Netflix show with Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. “It will be hard to fail with them,” she laughed.