Hey, wait a sec, is this the Oscars or the Emmys? Several big-screen stars -- including Kevin Costner, Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Emma Thompson, Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates -- earned Emmy nominations Thursday morning for their work on the small screen.
They've all either won or been nominated for an Academy Award in years past. But on Thursday, they were at the center of the TV universe, a shift that underscores the medium's growing appeal to film stars who hunger for meaty roles that are harder to come by in youth-oriented Hollywood.
For example, Costner, who won the best director Oscar for the 1990 Western "Dances with Wolves," earned his first Emmy nomination, for outstanding actor in a miniseries or movie, for the History Channel's ratings blockbuster "Hatfields & McCoys." Kidman, who won the best actress Oscar for 2002's "The Hours," also picked up her first Emmy nod, for best actress in a miniseries or movie, for HBO's romantic drama "Hemingway & Gelhorn." Her leading man in the film, Owen, an Oscar nominee for best supporting actor for "Closer," received a best actor nomination for the HBO production.
Among the other Oscar-winning or Oscar-nominated performers who were nominated Thursday for Emmys are Glenn Close, Don Cheadle, Melissa McCarthy, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Wiig, Woody Harrelson, Judy Davis, Maggie Smith, Tom Berenger, David Strathairn, Mare Winningham, Joan Cusack, Ed Harris and Uma Thurman.
The star wattage illustrates the widening gap between cable television -- with its deep pockets and unfettered restraints -- and broadcast television.
So little wonder that HBO dominated the 64th annual Emmy nominations, picking up 81 nods for viewer favorites such as “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones” as well as comedy freshman series “Girls” and “Veep.” Next was CBS, which earned 60 nods, followed by a strong showing by PBS, with 58 nominations.
The Emmys are still mad about "Mad Men" if the nominations are any indication.
AMC’s period drama was one of the biggest winners of the morning, earning 17 nominations including nods for best drama, best actor for Jon Hamm and best actress for Elisabeth Moss. It has won the best drama category four years running, making it the immediate front-runner.
FX’s “American Horror Story” tied with “Mad Men” for the most nominations for a single program; its 17 nods included outstanding miniseries or movie. The gothic thriller stars Lange and Connie Britton -- who both earned acting nods. It is pitted against “Hatfields & McCoys,” which earned 16 nominations including one for outstanding miniseries or movie as well as nods for lead actors Costner and Bill Paxton.
“Downton Abbey” was also near the top of the heap with 16 nominations, and is another contender for best drama. The impressive showing for the British historical drama indicates that it got a boost from the strategic decision to move it from the miniseries category -- which it won last year -- to the dramatic series category.
Rounding out the best drama nominees are “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” and “Homeland.”
The nominees for best actor in a drama include Hamm, Steve Buscemi for “Boardwalk Empire,” Bryan Cranston for “Breaking Bad,” Damian Lewis for “Homeland,” Hugh Bonneville for “Downton Abbey” and Michael C. Hall for “Dexter.” (Notably missing from the best drama series category was a nomination for “Dexter.”)
The nominees for best actress in a drama series are Bates for the now-canceled “Harry’s Law,” Close for “Damages,” Claire Danes for “Homeland,” Michelle Dockery for “Downton Abbey,” and Julianna Margulies for “The Good Wife.”
On the funny side of the aisle, “Modern Family” and "Saturday Night Live"each earned 14 nominations. "Modern Family"is the front-runner in the race for best comedy series -- an honor it has won the last two years. It will be pitted against “The Big Bang Theory,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Girls” and “Veep.”
The nominees for best actor in a comedy series are Baldwin for “30 Rock,” Cheadle for “House of Lies,” Louis C.K. for “Louie,” Jon Cryer for “Two and a Half Men,” Larry David for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory.” Parsons has won the category the last two years.
Best actress in a comedy series nominees are McCarthy for “Mike & Molly,” Zooey Deschanel for “New Girl,” Lena Dunham for “Girls,” Edie Falco for “Nurse Jackie,” Tina Fey for “30 Rock,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep” and Amy Poehler for “Parks and Recreation.”
The biggest “winner” of the day? Arguably that was Louis C.K., with the comic actor earning what the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences described as a “historic” seven Emmy nominations. Three of the nods were for his F/X comedy series, including one for outstanding actor in a comedy series. The remaining four came for his F/X comedy concert, “Louis C.K Live from the Beacon Theatre.”
There was a sense of deja “view” with the announcements. Many of the nominees have been perennial favorites in recent years, such as “Mad Men,” “30 Rock” and “Modern Family,” as well as Hamm, Fey and Baldwin.
But there were also some newcomers in the mix, including Showtime’s freshman drama series “Homeland” and its stars, Lewis and Danes. Other new faces: Dunham from HBO’s “Girls,” and Jared Harris from “Mad Men.”
Rounding out the nominees in the miniseries or movies category are PBS’ “Sherlock:A Scandal in Belgravia,” which earned 13 nominations, and BBC America’s police drama, “Luther.”
The Emmys are to be broadcast live on ABC on Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, with comedian Jimmy Kimmel as host.
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