The cable creep has finally taken over the Emmys. Making steady inroads over broadcast television in recent years, cable networks dominated the nominations for the coveted top drama category Thursday morning, blanking the major networks by taking five of the six slots — leaving the remaining nomination for public broadcasting.
Those drama nominees — “Boardwalk Empire"(HBO), “Breaking Bad"(AMC), “Downton Abbey” (PBS),"Game of Thrones” (HBO),"Homeland” (Showtime) and"Mad Men” (AMC) — illustrate the widening gap between cable — with its deep pockets, unfettered restraints and shorter seasons — and traditional broadcast TV.
HBO led the pack, picking up 81 nods, including for comedy freshman series “Girls” and “Veep.” CBS made the strongest showing of the broadcast outlets, earning 60 nods, with PBS third with 58.
After five years, 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 a lead actor nod for Jon Hamm and lead actress for Elisabeth Moss. It has won the drama category four years running, making it this year’s front-runner.
For series creator Matthew Weiner, the hardest part about taking “Mad Men” into Season 5 was, well, facing Season 5. “It’s literally like, ‘What do you do now?’ If you have a rule that you don’t want to repeat yourself, it’s a scary proposition,” he said. “I don’t want to say I’ll raise the bar, because it’s too intimidating, and I don’t think that way anyway. There were so many changes this season: Megan and Don’s marriage, the year changing, history changing. The first week in the writers’ room is always the most challenging.”
FX’s “American Horror Story"tied with “Mad Men” for the most nominations for a single program; its 17 nods included one for best miniseries or movie. The gothic thriller stars Jessica Lange and Connie Britton — each of whom earned acting nominations. It faces strong competition from the Civil War-era blood feud tale “Hatfields & McCoys,” which earned 16 nominations, including lead actors Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton.
The nominees for lead actor in a drama are Hamm, Steve Buscemi for “Boardwalk Empire,” Bryan Cranston for “Breaking Bad,” Damian Lewis for “Homeland,” Hugh Bonneville for “Downton Abbey” andMichael C. Hall for"Dexter,” which notably failed to earn a drama series nomination.
Cranston, who has won the lead actor award for the series three times, warns viewers not to expect too much in the way of redemption for Walter White, his meth-making character in “Breaking Bad.”
“He is spiraling into hell. There’s no turning back. The egregious acts that he has committed are beyond forgiveness, and he has dragged everyone down with him, sacrificed his soul,” the actor said. “Somewhere, somehow, it’s going to all come crashing down. It’s like the host body has been devoured by the visitor. There’s little to recognize from the old Walter.”
The other nominees for lead actress in a drama series are Kathy Bates for the canceled “Harry’s Law,” Glenn Close for “Damages,” Claire Danes for “Homeland,” Michelle Dockery for “Downton Abbey” and Julianna Margulies for"The Good Wife,” another notable omission from the drama series nominees.
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 top comedy series — an honor it has won the last two years. It’s pitted against “The Big Bang Theory,""Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Girls” and “Veep.”
“Modern Family’s” entire adult cast received supporting nominations — for the second year in a row. Ty Burrell, who won last year for playing family man Phil Dunphy on the ABC series, called the honor “a very pleasant surprise. We’ve been texting each other and are so happy about it. It’s such a rare thing for us to be nominated as a group, and we definitely didn’t have any expectation.”
For costar Eric Stonestreet (a winner two years ago), the real joy would be to see the award get passed around among the nominees each year. “We hopeJesse [Tyler Ferguson] orEd [O’Neill] win this year. ‘Modern Family’ is having a moment. We’ll enjoy it now because it won’t always be that way. We just want so badly to keep doing a great job, first and foremost.”
The nominees for lead actor in a comedy series are Alec Baldwin for “30 Rock,” Don 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 for “The Big Bang Theory.” Parsons has won the last two years.
Because of a tie in voting, there were seven nominees for lead actress in a comedy, including three freshmen : Zooey Deschanel for “New Girl,” Lena Dunham for “Girls” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep.” They are joined by Edie Falco for “Nurse Jackie,” Tina Fey for “30 Rock,” Melissa McCarthy for “Mike & Molly” and Amy Poehler for"Parks and Recreation.”
Louis-Dreyfus has been nominated 13 times in her career, putting her on par with Lucille Ball as the most nominated comedic actress in Emmy history. “How could this have happened to me?” Louis-Dreyfus said. “How could what started out as an extracurricular activity in high school gotten me to where I am now? I am truly speechless.”
Rounding out the nominees in miniseries or movies are PBS’ “Sherlock:A Scandal in Belgravia,” which earned 13 nominations; HBO’s “Game Change” and “Hemingway & Gellhorn"; 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.
Times staff writers Danielle Paquette and Amy Kaufman and freelance writer Rachel Miller contributed to this report.