For all the desire to draw meaning from the Emmy nominations year after year, one could easily maintain that the selection of the finalists is more idiosyncratic than trendsetting.

Here are a few items that suggest that exceptions to the rule are the rule.

  1. Cable’s comedy comeback — or rather, HBO’s. A year after the TV Academy shut cable out of the six comedy series nominations, the wired laffers rallied behind three HBO nominees, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Girls” and “Veep,” underscoring that just when you think you’ve spotted an evolution, it can devolve rather quickly. Two of the HBO nominees were new programs, one was a veteran returning from a long hiatus.

  2. Amid the attention to whether comedy or drama nominees come from broadcast or cable, the reality and variety categories go on their merry way, seemingly oblivious to who’s broadcasting whom. “The Amazing Race” on CBS, “Project Runway” on Lifetime, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC, “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO — they’re just examples of quality shows on American networks.

  3. The lead drama actress nominees at once reflect an appreciation of exciting new characters — Claire Danes’ bi-polar CIA operative in Showtime’s “Homeland” — and reliable standbys, such as Kathy Bates of NBC’s canceled “Harry’s Law” and Glenn Close of DirecTV’s “Damages.” Meanwhile, the Academy switched up its “Downton Abbey” faves, moving from Elizabeth McGovern in 2011 to Michelle Dockery this year.

  4. The Emmy acting noms always have a place for that big star in a ballsy new role, such as Don Cheadle in Showtime’s “House of Lies,” except when they don’t, such as the absence of Kelsey Grammer from Starz’s “Boss.”

Trends do develop at the Emmys — cable’s growing dominance in drama, for example, is not a figment of the industry’s collective imagination. But at the end of the day, rules are made to be broken and trends are made to be reversed. And at the Emmys, they can reverse themselves in a heartbeat.

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Nominees
Big Four’s TLC problem | Honors world order upended by exceptions | Music, magicmakers help craft successes | Nom after nom gives old ‘Antiques’ a youthful glow | Nods to the networks