LOS ANGELES — "Glee," the spunky TV musical comedy about high school misfits and the teachers who shepherd them, was a top Emmy nominee Thursday with 19 bids, including for best comedy series and stars Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele.
"I'm in such shock," Michele said from New York.
The leading nominee was the gritty, unsparing World War II drama, "The Pacific," with 24 nominations. But the miniseries, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks as a companion to their acclaimed "Band of Brothers," failed to produce the same buzz as its European theater of war predecessor.
Conan O'Brien is gone from NBC's "The Tonight Show" but his short tenure as host is not forgotten: The late-night show with him at the helm nabbed a nomination as best variety, music or comedy series, while resurrected Jay Leno was snubbed in the category.
Don Mischer, executive producer of the Emmy Awards telecast that will air on NBC, said he wasn't surprised by O'Brien's nomination. The comedian exited "Tonight" after rejecting the network's attempt to push him and the show to a post-midnight slot to make room for Leno's return to late-night.
"Everybody understands what happened," Mischer said. "And it was an opportunity for Emmy voters to like give him some support, you know. And he deserved it."
David Letterman's "Late Show" also was missing from the nominees, after a season in which the host turned an admission of affairs with female staffers and a blackmail attempt into high broadcast drama.
Out of the running for best comedy series is "Two and Half Men" as well as its star, Charlie Sheen, who's been charged in a domestic dispute case involving his wife. The show and Sheen have routinely been nominated in past seasons.
Besides "Glee," other newcomers receiving Emmy recognition include "Modern Family," with nods for best comedy series and for five members of its ensemble cast — although not linchpin Ed O'Neill as the patriarch — and "The Good Wife," a nominee for best drama and recognition for star Julianna Margulies.
'I phoned it in'
Top categories were announced on an early Thursday telecast by Sofia Vergara of "Modern Family," who was nominated, and Joel McHale of "Community," who wasn't.
"That's all right. I phoned it in," McHale responded when TV academy Chairman and CEO John Shaffner offered his condolences.
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Vergara was stunned by her nomination.
"With this accent, it's very hard to find roles. To have been able to find a role so perfect for a person like me with my ethnicity, with the way I look, it's unbelievable," she said.
The final season of "Lost" garnered nominations for best drama series and a nod for star Matthew Fox and supporting nominations for Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson. Elizabeth Mitchell received a guest actress bid for the drama.
The most-nominated reality series were "Dancing with the Stars" with nine bids, "The Amazing Race" with seven and "American Idol" with six.
Jane Lynch was a double-barreled threat, with a supporting comedy actress bid for her sadistic cheerleading coach in "Glee" and a nod as guest actress for "Two and a Half Men." She plays a therapist for Sheen's character.
Betty White shines at 88
"Saturday Night Live" received 12 nominations for a total 126 nominations during its run, surpassing the "ER" all-time record of 124 bids. One of the nominations went to Betty White, who at 88 proved you're never too old for comedy when she hosted the show to big ratings and applause.
White's competitors include Tina Fey, the former "Saturday Night Live" writer and star who took a break from her "30 Rock," the second-most nominated comedy with 15 bids, to return as an "SNL" host.
Fey made light Thursday of her best comedy actress nomination for "30 Rock."
"This is great and exciting news. Also, this seems like an appropriate time for me to announce to NBC that I will not be renewing my contract — with my gym," Fey said in a statement. Of the show's best comedy series bid, she added, "We're grateful and excited. Especially since today is the fifth anniversary of the day NBC forgot to cancel us."
"Mad Men" was the most-nominated drama with 17 bids. The darkly sexy 1960s period show has been honored as best drama two years in a row. Its stars, Jon Hamm and January Jones, received acting bids.
Besides "Glee" and "Modern Family," other nominees for best comedy series include "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Nurse Jackie," "The Office" and last year's winner, "30 Rock." The comedy has won three times in a row. Joining "Mad Men," "Lost" and "The Good Wife" as best drama series nominees were "Breaking Bad," "Dexter" and first-timer "True Blood," which overcame TV academy voter reservations about fantasy genre shows.
Only one other miniseries nominee, "Return to Cranford," is competing with "The Pacific."
Big names prevailed in the made-for-TV movie category. Al Pacino's performance as euthanasia advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian in "You Don't Know Jack" and the film itself were nominated, while this year's Oscar winner Jeff Bridges was nominated for "A Dog Year."
The most-nominated movie was "Temple Grandin," based on the life of the animal science expert, with 15 bids, including one for star Claire Danes.
"I hadn't done anything in television since 'My So-Called Life,'" Danes said. "Both projects are so extraordinary and since I was last nominated — since I was a kid — television has become incredibly sophisticated and a wonderfully fertile ground for actors because there's just incredible characters available in television shows now and TV movies."
Other film actors in the TV movie honors hunt are Dennis Quaid and Hope Davis for their portrayals of Bill and Hillary Clinton in "The Special Relationship," along with co-star Michael Sheen as British politician Tony Blair.
When 'Bad' is good
Bryan Cranston, last year's best drama actor winner for "Breaking Bad," was nominated again. He's joined by Hamm, Fox, Michael C. Hall of "Dexter," Kyle Chandler of "Friday Night Lights" and Hugh Laurie of "House."
"It's a double celebration," said Cranston. "It's my 21st anniversary today. However, when I turned to my wife and said, 'Is being nominated enough of an anniversary present for you?' And she said, 'No.' I went, 'OK. I'll be right back.' We will have a double celebration tonight at dinner, yes we will."
Glenn Close, who captured top drama acting honors last year for "Damages" received a bid, along with Jones, Margulies, Kyra Sedgwick of "The Closer," Connie Britton of "Friday Night Lights," Mariska Hargitay of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Besides Michele of "Glee" and Fey of "30 Rock," bids for lead actress in a comedy went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the canceled "The New Adventure of Old Christine," Edie Falco for "Nurse Jackie," Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation" and last year's winner, Toni Collette, for "The United States of Tara."
Among comedy series actors, the nominees are Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory," Larry David for "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Tony Shalhoub for the last season of "Monk," Steve Carell for "The Office" and Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock." Baldwin is a two-time winner for the series.
HBO received the most nominations overall, with 101 bids, followed by ABC with 63 and CBS with 57. NBC earned 48, Fox received 47 and PBS had 32. Showtime had 23 nods.
The Emmy Awards will air Aug. 29 on NBC, with Jimmy Fallon hosting. The ceremony, which usually airs in September, was moved up to avoid a conflict with NBC's Sunday NFL broadcasts.
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