Emmy voters have a chance to flaunt their risk-taking side with Thursday's nominations.
A best drama series bid for "Game of Thrones," HBO's sex-and-swords fantasy adventure, would seriously dent the TV academy's traditional resistance to top honors for genre fare.
Another opportunity for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to step outside its comfort zone: Telemundo promoted its "La Reina del Sur" ("Queen of the South") for a first-ever best drama series nod for a Spanish-language show and an acting bid for Mexican star Kate del Castillo. The International Emmys typically honor such programs.
Fresh faces may also make an impression this year at the 63rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards, including Mireille Enos of AMC's "The Killing" and the aptly named Emmy Rossum of Showtime's "Shameless."
Nominees for the Primetime Emmy Awards are to be announced at the TV academy's headquarters by Melissa McCarthy of CBS' "Mike & Molly" and the film "Bridesmaids," and Joshua Jackson of Fox's "Fringe."
Sci-fi and fantasy shows such as "Game of Thrones" rarely crack the Emmy code, although ABC's "Lost" performed magic in 2005 and won the best drama trophy. The HBO vampire saga "True Blood" nabbed a best drama series bid last year and could again.
The high-profile cast of "Game," including Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage, its storytelling rooted in George R.R. Martin's novels and a bold visual style might just push the academy into fan boy mode.
The series "has been so 'buzzy' over weeks and months that it could be seen as a possible show to knock 'Mad Men' from its perch," said Matt Whitfield, features editor for Yahoo! Entertainment. AMC's 1960s Madison Avenue drama received its third consecutive best drama series trophy last year and is an expected nominee.
The drama and comedy series categories will be extremely competitive "because it was such a great year in TV," Whitfield said.
It could be the best year for HBO since its Emmy-winning glory days of "Sex and the City" and, especially, "The Sopranos."
"Boardwalk Empire," the premium channel's fastidious re-creation of Prohibition-era mayhem and high jinks, is a leading contender for bids including best drama and best actor for Steve Buscemi.
HBO's critically acclaimed drama "Treme," set in post-Katrina New Orleans and with a cast that includes Academy Award-winner Melissa Leo ("The Fighter"), could also claim attention.
Other potential best drama contenders include CBS' "The Good Wife," Showtime's "Dexter," AMC's "The Walking Dead" and "The Killing," and DirecTV-NBC's "Friday Night Lights."
In the best comedy series derby, ABC's 2010 winner "Modern Family" should get the chance to defend its title. Other potential nominees include Fox's "Glee," Showtime's "Nurse Jackie" and "The Big C," NBC's "30 Rock," "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," and CBS' "The Big Bang Theory."
Shows out of the running this time include "Breaking Bad" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which didn't air during the eligibility period because they took a break between seasons.
With movies and miniseries combined into one category, competition will be stiff. Among the likely nominees: PBS' "Downton Abbey" and "Upstairs Downstairs"; Starz's "The Pillars of the Earth" and HBO's "Mildred Pierce" and "Too Big to Fail," about America's 2008 financial crisis.
The absence of "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston, who won acting honors for a drama series three years in a row, might help "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm: He hasn't converted any of his trio of nominations to a win.
Other potential nominees in the category include Hugh Laurie of Fox's "House," Michael C. Hall for "Dexter," Kyle Chandler for "Friday Night Lights," Bill Macy for "Shameless" and Timothy Olyphant for FX's "Justified."
Among actresses in a drama series, last year's winner Kyra Sedgwick of TNT's "The Closer" could return and be joined by, among others, Julianna Margulies of "The Good Wife," Connie Britton of "Friday Night Lights," Katy Sagal of FX's "Sons of Anarchy," Enos of "The Killing" and Rossum of "Shameless."
On the comedy side, Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" was voted best actor in a comedy and should have another shot at the award. Competing with him could be Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock," Steve Carell of "The Office," Rob Lowe of "Parks and Recreation" and Louis CK from Comedy Central's "Louis."
Among actresses in a comedy, the field could include last year's winner Edie Falco of "Nurse Jackie," Tina Fey of "30 Rock," Laura Linney of Showtime's "The Big C," Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation," Toni Collette of Showtime's "United States of Tara" and Lea Michelle of "Glee."
The Emmy ceremony is scheduled to air on Fox on Sept. 18.