With its 22 nominations — the most ever for a laffer in a single year — the dominance of comedy “30 Rock” is so complete, it’s almost garish.
Similarly, last year’s winner on the drama side, “Mad Men,” also seems the front-runner.
Just as other Oscar contenders this year were overshadowed by the force of “Slumdog Millionaire,” many feel that the Emmy outcome Sept. 20 is a foregone conclusion.
On the other hand, there are always surprises in awards.
A few newbies are looking to challenge that stranglehold, including “Family Guy,” the animated show that is making a groundbreaking appearance in the laffer mix.
And, among other contenders, “Mad Men” could be surprised by another AMC drama, “Breaking Bad,” which is riding high on critical acclaim and buzz at the moment.
“If it’s somebody else’s turn, that fine,” said “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner on Thursday. “Everyone feels the same about their show. If the Academy agrees with me, great. If not, that’s OK too.”
Among Emmy’s other juggernauts, after winning six times in the reality competition, is Emmy winner “The Amazing Race” poised for a seventh return to the stage?
And although “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” is also on a six-year streak in the variety, music or comedy series field, spinoff “The Colbert Report” has been on a roll of late, and the once-again-hot “Saturday Night Live” could be poised to win its first Emmy in the category since 1993.
The Peacock led all broadcast nets this year, with 67 nominations, and “30 Rock” was a big reason.
All five of its key cast members scored acting noms: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski. Five of this year’s 11 guest actor and actress noms went to the show.
It also pulled off four of the five nominations in the comedy writing category and three of the six in the directing field.
The stars were recognized even for their moonlighting: Fey is a guest actress nominee for her portrayal of Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live,” while Baldwin’s ad for Hulu earned a commercial nod.
“It’s such a funny and smart show, and the nominations are more validating than surprising,” said NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chair Ben Silverman.
If there’s any doubt that TV Acad voters were gaga over the two shows, “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm even landed a guest actor Emmy nomination for his stint on, you guessed it, “30 Rock.”
The buzz around “Mad Men” has been quiet of late, but that could change as the series gears up for its third season, which bows Aug. 16.
It’s probably no accident that the publicity wheels surrounding the show will start turning right as Emmy voters start making their picks on ballots that are due back to Ernst & Young on Aug. 28.
“Mad Men” also blew away the competition in the writing category, earning four out of the five nominations among dramas. (Weiner was a writer on all four of those entries.)
Whether the fourth-best “Mad Men” or “30 Rock” script was better than anything else on TV is, of course, open to debate. The two shows’ dominance in the writing categories was already starting to draw fire from critics on Thursday morning.
“Fine shows, but when one program can swallow a category like that, excellent work gets overlooked,” wrote Akron Beacon-Journal TV critic Rich Heldenfels. “Shouldn’t there be a limit to the number of nominations for a single series in a category?”
“The Office” exec producer Greg Daniels said that while he agreed that “30 Rock” is a funny show, its four comedy writing noms meant most other shows were shut out of the race.
“I do feel that our writing staff should have been nominated for something,” he said. “We had some excellent episodes this year. I don’t know how the voting stuff works, the actual mechanisms of it, but just anecdotally, I know a lot of people are a little surprised that none of our writers got anything.”
The sheer number of nominations for both “30 Rock” and “Mad Men” — neither of which is a big ratings grabber — also left some scratching their heads.
“I’m a big fan of (’30 Rock’), but really — 22?” wrote Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin. “That says more about the state of TV comedy than it does about ’30 Rock.’ Similarly, AMC’s anti-nostalgic ‘Mad Men,’ about the advertising world of the early 1960s, is terrific, but 16 nominations suggests it’s turned from a series into a cult.”