FX's 'American Horror Story' benefits from category shift

With its eyebrow-raising move out of the jam-packed drama race into the miniseries-movies category, FX’s “American Horror Story” made itself into one of the biggest winners at Thursday’s primetime Emmy nominations.

In the winners vs. losers measure, victory laps were also taken by NBC’s “The Voice” (which booted “American Idol” out of the reality-competition category), ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (which edged “Conan” out of variety series) and Louis C.K., who hoovered up a record-setting seven noms.

Programs that found themselves bereft of significant Emmy nom attention as the sun rose over L.A. Thursday included Starz’ “Boss,” HBO’s “Enlightened,” FX’s “Justified” and Lifetime’s “Five.” And broadcast network dramas wound up with a goose egg, as cable fare dominated the top series category for the first time in Emmy history. That result wasn’t so much of a surprise as it was a somber milestone for Big Four nets.

While there’s no way of knowing how many noms “Horror,” which announced it was an anthology after completing its first season, would have received had it stayed in the drama series race, it’s unlikely it would reached the height of tying “Mad Men” for bragging rights as the year’s most-nommed program with 17 bids.

One of the casualties of the “Horror” juggernaut was Lifetime’s prestige telepic “Five.” Despite having such behind-the-scenes personages as Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, Patty Jenkins and Penelope Spheeris on board, the project centered on coping with breast cancer had to settle for a single nom for casting.

“Horror” wasn’t the only program to benefit from positioning itself as a miniseries after being initially thought a drama. Ashley Judd of ABC’s “Missing” earned a nomination for lead actress in the genre — an opportunistic move for a canceled show that drew scoffs from many awards observers.

On the other hand, PBS’ “Downton Abbey” triumphed as it made the opposite move, from miniseries in its first year to drama its second to grab 16 total noms, tying with History’s “Hatfields and McCoys” for second among all programs.

But “Downton” wasn’t all PBS had to offer. The channel finished with 58 noms total — 15 more than 2011 and third among all networks behind HBO and CBS. Having once again come under the Republican gun for its funding, PBS picked a good time to reassert its relevance (if only among those who value the Emmys to begin with).

CBS’ highlights included seven noms each for “The Amazing Race” and “The Good Wife.” Though “Good Wife” fell out of the drama race — leaving broadcast networks without a drama series nom for the first time ever — it did earn six acting nods (three for guest).

The Emmys brought mixed results for cult comedies, with HBO’s “Girls” earning a series nom despite fears that it skewed to young and female to win over the Academy, but NBC’s “Community” being left out in the cold, save for a single nod in writing. Instead, it was NBC stalwart “30 Rock” staying in the comedy series race, with 2011 nominees “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” dropping out. Nods for HBO’s “Veep” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” gave the pay cabler half of the comedy series heat, and it’s a rare year when HBO comedies get more series noms than HBO dramas.

The other half of the six comedy series slots went to broadcast shows, including “Modern Family” and “The Big Bang Theory.” Last year, bizzers were surprised when broadcasters swept the comedy series race.

For AMC, it was feast and famine — a drama-high 17 noms for four-time defending Emmy champ “Mad Men” and 13 more for “Breaking Bad,” followed by a quick dropoff to three for “The Walking Dead” and one for “Hell on Wheels.”

It was a rough day for Starz, whose “Boss” was shut out of the Emmys — many thought star Kelsey Grammer was a shoo-in for a lead actor bid — while the cabler’s heavily touted “Magic City” came away with a consolation nom for main title design.

Among other critically praised series that lost out on greater Emmy recognition, getting stuck with one nom apiece, were ABC’s “The Middle” (single-cam makeup), NBC’s “Parenthood” (guest actor for Jason Ritter), TNT’s “Southland” (stunt coordination),

History, meanwhile, rebounded in the miniseries world, with 16 noms for “Hatfields & McCoys,” a year after “The Kennedys,” which originally started at the channel, went to Reelz and brought them 10 noms.

Not many networks would be disappointed with one of its shows getting four Emmy nominations, but one that might be is NBC with its heavily promoted musical drama “Smash,” whose quartet came in three music-based categories, plus guest actress for Uma Thurman. However, the Peacock could celebrate the 14 noms for “Saturday Night Live” — matching ABC’s “Modern Family” for most among comedies.

In addition, NBC’s “The Voice” muscled into the reality-competition race that saw the return of all but one of last year’s nominees: ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” Bravo’s “Top Chef” and CBS’ defending champ “The Amazing Race.”

“Amazing” and “Dancing” led nonfiction series in noms this year with seven each. The three noms garnered by Fox’s “American Idol” marked the show’s lowest tally since 2004.

Having already won the hosting gig for the Sept. 23 Emmycast on ABC — as well as accolades for the “husky baby” pajama ensemble he sported at Thursday’s pre-dawn nominations announcement — Jimmy Kimmel also celebrated his latenight show’s first nomination in the variety series category. Other than TBS’ “Conan,” all of last year’s other contenders are back: Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report,” NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Saturday Night Live” and HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

The winner as far as category turnover came in the reality program competish, which had all-new nominees in “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” “Shark Tank” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” Last year’s winner, “Deadliest Catch,” was not nommed in the program category this time around.

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