Nominees list: part I | Nominees list: part II
Blog: On the Air | Blog: BLTv
Although the vampires are on HBO, the major networks have brought an infusion of fresh blood to the Emmys, as a trio of first-year programs — “Glee” and “Modern Family” on Fox and ABC, respectively, and CBS’ “The Good Wife” — broke through with series nominations Thursday.
The presence of new faces among contenders for the 62nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards is a welcome development for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, whose annual showcase has in the past often suffered from a surplus of repeat nominees that can sap some of the vitality from the balloting.
Of three past best drama winners that ended their runs this spring — “Lost,” “Law & Order” and “24” — only “Lost” was recognized with an outstanding series bid.
AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” HBO’s vampire drama “True Blood” and Showtime’s “Dexter” rounded out the drama field, while two-time winner “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Nurse Jackie” will vie in comedy.
By network, HBO led the way with 101 nods — its third highest total, and the first time the channel has cracked the 100 plateau since 2004. (HBO’s top showing was 124 nominations in 2004, the year dominated of “Angels in America.”)
Buoyed in part by its traditional demolition of movies and miniseries — an area the broadcast networks have virtually abandoned — the pay channel has now been the most-nominated network overall for 10 consecutive years.
Leading that charge was “The Pacific,” a massive 10-hour miniseries about World War II, which garnered 24 bids, the most bids for any program. That was one more than another historical drama, “John Adams,” recorded two years ago, but short of the staggering 37 that were showered on “Roots” in the 1970s.
“Glee” led all series with 19 nominations, followed by 17 for “Mad Men.”
For the second straight year, only two projects were deemed worthy in miniseries contention, the other being PBS’ two-part sequel “Return to Cranford.” HBO amassed another 30 nods for its movies “Temple Grandin” and “You Don’t Know Jack,” starring Claire Danes and Al Pacino, respectively, split evenly between them.
Like past one-hour programs — including “Desperate Housewives” and “Ally McBeal” — “Glee” heightened its opportunities for Emmy success by submitting itself in the comedy arena, which is widely viewed as being less competitive than the stacked drama ranks. Indeed, best drama represents the Emmys’ most competitive category — perhaps more so than at any time in its history, given the intrusion of basic-cable fare in recent years vying for the prestige previously reserved for HBO and more recently (albeit to a lesser degree, certainly in terms of volume) Showtime.
The nomination record for a comedy, 22, was established last year by “30 Rock.” The “Modern Family” gang, meanwhile — with 14 total nominations — as an act of solidarity chose to uniformly enter the race as supporting actors and came away with five bids.
Despite strong ratings for CBS’ Monday block anchored by “Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory,” no multi-camera sitcom — TV’s traditional comedy format — cracked the series code. Jim Parsons and Julia Louis-Dreyfus did earn recognition for “Big Bang” and the already canceled “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
In addition to the extension of bids to admired newcomers, critics will doubtless be thrilled to see dual nominations for Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights,” the low-rated NBC drama that has needed a shared deal with DirecTV to stay alive in the primetime game.
Unlike other major awards — which are presented a new roster of players from which to choose annually — the Emmys often turn to the same programs and performers year after year. Among marquee categories in 2009, “Mad Men,” “30 Rock,” actors Alec Baldwin, Glenn Close and Bryan Cranston, and reality host Jeff Probst were all repeat winners.
By contrast, only two comedy contenders — NBC’s “Rock” and “The Office” — are reruns from a year ago, with “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” and “Dexter” returning from 2009’s seven-drama lineup.
“Good Wife” creators Robert and Michelle King were very surprised their freshman drama landed a nomination.
“You’re always worried that cable (shows) will just take over,” Robert King said. “But this was such a good year, not just for pilots but for the work that was done on continuing series. And it’s always tougher when you’re on [a broadcast] network doing 23 episodes a year like we did.”
In what will surely be one of the most talked-about snubs, “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” also nabbed an outstanding comedy/variety nomination, whereas its replacement, fronted by Jay Leno, did not. That news elicited an audible “Ooh” from those on hand live for the nomination telecast.
“The Tonight Show” transition brought more attention to the latenight race, adding some intrigue to a category dominated for seven consecutive years by “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” — a record-setting run matched on the reality side by CBS’ “The Amazing Race.” With this year’s nominations, both shows will have a chance to prolong those streaks.
HBO’s dominance of longform has been equally consistent, spanning nearly two decades. The channel — with three of this year’s six contenders — has nabbed the movie Emmy for movie 15 of the last 17 years, and notched the most-nominated entry all but once since 1996.
All those nominations have obscured a somewhat less gaudy presence among episodic series, as Showtime and AMC have stolen some of HBO’s thunder in that competition.
Among broadcasters, ABC emerged with the most noms for the fourth time in the last five years, and CBS posted its highest total since 2005.
Riding its dark dramas AMC also improved upon its personal-best 26 nominations, while the movie “Georgia O’Keeffe” paced Lifetime to record 11 for the female-oriented channel. IFC also noted that its documentary “Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut),” by earning two nominations, became the first Emmy recognition ever for the fabled comedy troupe.
The primary ceremony will be held Aug. 29 and televised live throughout the U.S. by NBC, under the final year of an agreement in which the awards have rotated among the major broadcast networks.
Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.
See the list of nominees for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards.