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66th Primetime Emmy Noms A Mishmash of Delivery and Categories
July 10, 2014  | By Ed Bark

BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- Do you pay an extra premium for HBO? Is a Netflix subscription part of your monthly charge card bill? Do you even have cable -- or a satellite dish -- at your disposal?

If not, the top vote getters in television's four showcase competition categories have all managed to elude you. The 66th Primetime Emmy Award nominations, announced Thursday during the early stages of summer's Television Critics Association "press tour," were a bigger mishmash than ever of delivery systems and ill-fitting categories.

HBO, as usual, had the most nominations (99 this time). Its Game of Thrones led all drama series contenders with 19 nods, while The Normal Heart topped the made-for-TV movie field with 16.

FX claimed the most-lauded miniseries with Fargo, which notched 18 nominations. And Netflix's Orange is the New Black (right) outpaced all comedy series contenders with 12 nominations -- even though the hour-long "broadband" series is really no more a comedy than HBO's prison-set Oz was. Well, maybe a bit more of one.

Netflix's 31 nominations, more than double the 14 it had last year, ranked a heady seventh on Emmy's list of top performers. It has more contenders than Fox, AMC, Showtime or the Sundance Channel and is in the vicinity of both PBS (with 34) and ABC (37).

The conventional broadcast networks were led by CBS' 47 nominations, just one ahead of NBC. But CBS was a no-show on Emmy's elite list of programs with 10 or more nominations in major categories. And NBC's Emmy hopes hinge primarily on two series with double-digit nominations but little oomph on the big awards night. Saturday Night Live topped all "Variety Program" nominees with 14 while The Voice had 10 nods to lead the still relatively new "Outstanding Reality-Competition Program" category.

The Peacock had high hopes that its first-year success story, The Blacklist, would break through in a big way among the drama series contenders. But it had just one nomination, for "Outstanding Stunt Coordination." FX scored big with both Fargo and American Horror Story: Coven, which had 17 nominations. But the network's The Americans again was all but ignored, receiving a lone nomination for Margo Martindale's "guest actress" performance as the Communist agent, Claudia.

Perhaps The Blacklist and The Americans both should have entered what's now become the fraudulent "Outstanding Miniseries" category. That's how American Horror Story, HBO's Treme and BBC America's Luther got nominated, even though all three dramas have had multiple seasons on the air. It's also how Fargo avoided a direct collision with HBO's True Detective, which entered in the "Drama Series" category despite being no different than Fargo in its intention to introduce new characters and murder cases in its second season.

The "Best Drama Series" field still has a lot of juice, with True Detective going against Breaking Bad's last season in addition to fellow contenders Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones and House of Cards.

The "Best Comedy Series" finalists are also an interesting group, with ABC's Modern Family again trying to defend its title against The Big Bang Theory, Louie, Silicon Valley, Veep and the pretender in the field, Orange is the New Black.

The showcase competition, though, may be in the "Lead Actor in a Drama Series" category, where Matthew McConaughey (top) seeks to follow up his Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club with an Emmy for the role of detective Rust Cohle in True Detective. But can he topple Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad? McConaughey's True Detective co-star, Woody Harrelson, perennial nominee Jon Hamm of Mad Men, Kevin Spacey from House of Cards and the surprise in this category, Jeff Daniels of HBO's The Newsroom, round out the field.

This field would have been even spicier with Billy Bob Thornton in the mix. But his malevolent Lorne Malvo of Fargo instead is in the "Lead Actor In a Miniseries or A Movie" fold, where his main competition could be co-star Martin Freeman (with Thornton, left) or Benedict Cumberbatch from PBS's Sherlock Holmes movies.

The "Lead Actress in a Drama Series" category includes first-time nominee Lizzy Caplan for her role as sex researcher Virginia Johnson in Showtime's Masters of Sex, which will begin its second season on Sunday, July 13. But the favorite might very well be Kerry Washington of ABC's Scandal.

Whatever happens on the big night -- Aug. 25th on NBC -- the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences must do a better job of policing its categories. And as "broadband" providers such as Netflix continue to multiply, it also might be nearing the time to split the Emmys into separate divisions.

The sheer amount of quality programming has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. That's a good thing. The problem now is how to deal with all the traffic jams without turning some of the categories into free-for-all farces.

A complete list of Emmy nominees are here.
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