With "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire" and other prestige series, cable ruled the Emmy nominations for drama. But broadcast networks got the last laugh with their sitcoms.
Of the six nominees for best drama series only one, CBS' "The Good Wife," is a network program. Of the half-dozen comedy series contenders, all air on networks.
Members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences clearly favored sitcom tradition in Thursday's nominations. "Modern Family," "The Office" and other broadcast shows have a more purely comic bent and err on the good-natured side of satire. Cable comedies are increasingly, in a word, mordant: Think Showtime's "The Big C," about a cancer-stricken woman.
"There was a heyday of comedies on cable like 'Sex and the City,' but now it's broadcast" that dominates the genre for Emmy voters, said Tom O'Neil, editor of the award websites goldderby.com and theenvelope.com.
The lack of cable comedy bids may represent "a bit of a backlash" against the hybrid comedy-drama, O'Neil said.
It also underscores the sitcom's resurgence on broadcast TV, which seemed to lose its comic touch as hits such as "Friends" and "Seinfeld" faded into memory and weren't replaced.
A winning new crop is now emerging, including ABC's "Modern Family" and its clever take on what family has come to mean. Crowned best comedy series after its freshman season, it received 17 nominations this time around. Nods also went to NBC's "Parks and Recreation," "The Office" and "30 Rock," CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" and Fox's "Glee."
They've yet to break into lofty ratings territory — only one comedy, CBS' former Charlie Sheen vehicle "Two and a Half Men," cracks the Nielsen top 20 — but they're generating buzz and gaining momentum.
"OK, keep it together," a surprised nominations co-announcer Melissa McCarthy said Thursday when she realized she was a nominee herself for "Mike & Molly."
While cable comedies were overlooked, their stars weren't. Edie Falco, who was named best actress in a comedy last year for Showtime's "Nurse Jackie," was nominated again. Laura Linney scored a bid for "The Big C" and Louis C.K. earned a best comedy actor bid for his FX Networks show "Louie."
Given broadcasters fixation on franchise crime dramas such as "CSI"and "NCIS," it's unsurprising that cable's daring, unique (and often awash in nudity and violence) series dominate the Emmys.
Besides handing AMC's "Mad Men" 19 nominations and a shot at a fourth consecutive best drama series trophy, the academy gave fistfuls of bids to HBO's wild Prohibition-era series "Boardwalk Empire" (18) and fantasy saga "Game of Thrones" (13). Other best drama cable nominees are DirecTV's "Friday Night Lights" and Showtime's "Dexter."
"The Good Wife" had to be really good to wrestle a spot. It received eight other nominations, including one for star Julianna Margulies.
The period melodrama "Mildred Pierce," starring Kate Winslet and based on the 1941 James M. Cain novel, grabbed a top 21 bids, including best miniseries or movie in the new category that combines both formats.
Also in the category is the miniseries "The Kennedys," which was dropped by the History channel and given a second chance by lesser-known ReelzChannel. It received 10 nominations, including best miniseries and, among its acting bids, one for the critically lauded Barry Pepper as Robert Kennedy.
There was room for fresh faces, including best drama actress nominee Mireille Enos of AMC's "The Killing" and best drama actor Timothy Olyphant of FX Networks' "Justified."
And there were longtime favorites as well, most notably Betty White. The 89-year-old wonder nabbed a best supporting actress bid for the sitcom "Hot in Cleveland." If she wins, it would be her eighth Emmy.
"I am so thrilled. How lucky can an old broad be?" White said by phone a few minutes after her agent woke her. "I wasn't even thinking about the nominations because I didn't even think there was a chance."
Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" received his fourth nomination and another chance to convert one to a win. Although three-time winner Bryan Cranston is out of the running because "Breaking Bad" took a breather, Steve Buscemi, a Golden Globe winner for "Boardwalk Empire" is among the formidable competitors.
Emmy voters have a chance to flaunt their risk-taking side with "Game of Thrones," given the usual resistance to rewarding genre shows such as fantasy or science fiction. The series based on the George R.R. Martin novels scored a best drama nod but only a single acting bid, for Peter Dinklage in a supporting role.
HBO received the most nominations, 104, more than double second-place CBS' 50. NBC has 46 bids; PBS, 43; Fox, 42; ABC, 40; AMC, 29; Showtime, 21.
The nominations were announced by McCarthy and Joshua Jackson of "Fringe" at academy offices. The Emmy Awards are scheduled to air Sept. 18 on Fox, with "Glee" star and nominee Jane Lynch hosting.
CBS and Showtime are subsidiaries of CBS Corp.; ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co.; NBC is controlled by Comcast Corp.; AMC is part of AMC Networks Inc.; Fox and FX are subsidiaries of News Corp.; HBO is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang contributed to this report.