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‘American Horror Story’s’ mini strategy pays in Emmy nominations

When the Emmy nominations were announced Thursday morning, there were plenty of familiar names — the critical darling “Mad Men,” for one — but a lesser-known title also made headlines:"American Horror Story.”

In fact, “Mad Men” and “American Horror Story” earned the most nominations — 17 each — but the latter is competing in the miniseries and not the drama category. FX contends that the program, which featured 12 episodes, is a miniseries because its first and second seasons will have no relationship to each other and feature different plots, settings and actors. However, some critics have argued that the network labeled the show a miniseries only so that it wouldn’t have to vie against more established programs.

The first season of “American Horror Story” centered on a married couple (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) who move with their teenage daughter (Taissa Farmiga) to a Los Angeles home where numerous grisly murders once occurred. Jessica Lange portrayed the family’s wacky neighbor; next season she will take on a new role.

The List: Nominations | Snubs | Nominee reactions

The series from “Glee"creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk attracted 4.4 million viewers per episode — a solid number for basic cable and a higher number on average than other basic cable shows that received more media coverage, such as"Breaking Bad.” As its title indicates, “American Horror Story” was gruesome and often shocking with a strong sexual component. In one episode the lead actress had sex with a rubber-suited ghost.

“I actually thought no one would ever give me an Emmy nomination for doing it with a rubber guy,” joked Britton, up for lead actress in a miniseries. “It all works out in the end.”

In addition to being nominated as for miniseries or movie, “American Horror Story” is up for art direction, casting, sound mixing and makeup, among others.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.

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