'30 Rock' tops Emmy noms

'Family Guy' earns best comedy series nomination

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It was a rather animated morning for Seth MacFarlane, whose two-year gamble of pulling "Family Guy" from animated series contention and submitting it for best comedy paid off.

For the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, his Fox hit "Family Guy" on Thursday became the first animated series in nearly 50 years to get a comedy series nomination.

"I think it is extremely encouraging for everyone who is busting their ass on these animated shows to have this happen," MacFarlane said. "This is a huge step forward for open-mindedness in the voting process."

"Family Guy," one of the 10 best series finalists last year, might have been a beneficiary of the TV academy's decision this year to expand the number of nominees in the main categories from five to six and have its entire membership vote on the top fields.

"It's a suggestion that the academy voters are getting younger and appreciate the fact that animation has come of age and is a genre worthy of respect," TV historian Tim Brooks said. "Until 'The Simpsons' in the early 1990s, animation was perceived as a lesser genre, and it's hard to make that argument today."

With two ties, the best comedy and drama series categories ballooned to seven noms this year, inching closer to their feature brethren; last month, the best picture Oscar category was expanded to 10 nominees.

For the past three years, the five nominees in the top series and acting categories were determined by blue-ribbon panels, originally designed to boost the presence of more obscure series in those categories.

But if, by scrapping the panels this year and reverting to a popular vote, the academy and the broadcast networks that carry the Emmy broadcast were hoping that the big network shows would return to their dominance in the marquee categories, it didn't happen.

In the comedy field, for instance, in addition to "Family Guy" -- which became the second animated series to land a best comedy series nomination, following "The Flintstones" in 1961 -- the biggest surprise is the nomination for HBO's "Flight of the Conchords." The offbeat show, barely known outside of the big cities, landed two major noms: best series and lead actor in a comedy series (Jemaine Clement).

The category also features the biggest infusion of fresh blood, with four of the seven nominees being first-timers: "Family Guy," "Conchords," CBS' long-overlooked "How I Met Your Mother" and Showtime veteran "Weeds."

"When you're not getting nominated, you tell yourself it's not about the nominations," "Mother" co-creator/exec producer Craig Thomas said. "But you're like the kid in high school who says the prom is stupid when he doesn't get invited. It's definitely nicer to be asked to the prom."

In the top comedy category, "Mother" represents CBS' Monday comedy block, whose two leading shows -- Chuck Lorre's three-time best series nominee "Two and a Half Men" and the much-buzzed-about "The Big Bang Theory" -- are among the most surprising omissions this year.

"Family Guy," "Mother" -- both from 20th TV -- "Conchords" and "Weeds" will compete against defending champ "30 Rock," previous winner "The Office" and three-time best series nominee "Entourage."

Last year's best series winners, NBC's "30 Rock" and AMC's "Mad Men," again are the most-nominated shows, with 22 and 16 noms, respectively. "30 Rock's" haul broke the record for most noms for a comedy series.

Just how big is "30 Rock" and "Mad Men's" dominance this year? They landed four of the five writing nominations in the comedy and drama series categories. "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner landed mentions for writing or co-writing all four nominated episodes.

In the best drama category, "Mad Men," the reigning champion at all major TV awards, faces two first-time nominees, AMC's "Breaking Bad" and HBO's "Big Love," as well as FX's "Damages," Showtime's "Dexter" and only two network tentpole series: ABC's resurgent "Lost" and Fox's "House."

One big snub was Alan Ball's critically and commercially successful HBO vampire drama "True Blood," which didn't land any major nominations despite its star Anna Paquin being touted as a lead contender on the heels of her Golden Globe triumph in January.

Also MIA are top FX dramas "The Shield," whose much lauded final season failed to earn a single nomination, and "Rescue Me," which only landed a guest-starring nom for Michael J. Fox. The final seasons of two other long-running dramas, NBC's "ER" and Syfy's "Battlestar Galactica," also were largely overlooked.

Among the networks, HBO again leads the pack, this time with 99 nominations, followed by NBC (67), ABC (55), CBS (49) and Fox (42). A record three cable networks -- HBO, Showtime and AMC -- landed multiple best series nominations.

The lead actor and actress in a drama series fields stayed status quo, with only one new face in each field: Simon Baker of CBS' freshman hit "The Mentalist" and Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men."

In the male race, last year's surprise winner, Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad," is back, along with four-time nominee Hugh Laurie for Fox's "House," Gabriel Byrne of HBO's "In Treatment," Michael C. Hall of Showtime's "Dexter" and Jon Hamm of "Mad Men," joined by the new kid on the block Baker.

On the distaff side, Moss joins the five actresses nominated last year: previous winners Glenn Close of "Damages," Sally Field of "Brothers & Sisters" and Mariska Hargitay of "Law & Order: SVU" as well as Kyra Sedgwick of TNT's "The Closer" and Holly Hunter of TNT's "Saving Grace."

"Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons, one of the hottest comedy stars at the moment, landed his first awards nomination in the lead actor in a comedy series category, where he will face off against last year's winner, Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock"; Steve Carell of "The Office"; Charlie Sheen of "Two and a Half Men"; three-time winner Tony Shalhoub of "Monk"; and newcomer Clement.

Toni Collette earned her first Emmy nomination for her multiple-personality-disorder-stricken heroine on Showtime's "United States of Tara." In the lead actress in a comedy series category, she's joined by two previous winners, Tina Fey of "30 Rock" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine," as well as Sarah Silverman for Comedy Central's "The Sarah Silverman Program," Mary-Louise Parker of "Weeds" and Christina Applegate of ABC's recently canceled "Samantha Who?"

Only two projects made it into the ever-shrinking best miniseries category: HBO's Iraq War drama "Generation Kill" and PBS' "Little Dorrit," raising questions whether the category would continue or be folded into the TV movie field.

Another Iraq-themed HBO drama, "Taking Chance," will compete in the best TV movie field alongside two other politically tinged HBO films, the Winston Churchill-centered "Into the Storm" and the Kennedys-themed "Grey Gardens," as well as Lifetime's biopic "Coco Chanel" and based-on-a-true-story "Prayers for Bobby."

With its 17 noms, including those for stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, "Gardens" tied the record of 1976's "Eleanor and Franklin" and 1977's "Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years" for most nominations for a TV movie.

It's a case of deja vu in the best reality competition and best variety, music or comedy series categories, in which the nominee lists are replicas of last year's fields and in which the respective incumbents -- six-time winners CBS' "The Amazing Race" and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" -- will try to extend their record streaks.

In reality competition, "Race" again will go against Fox's "American Idol," ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," Bravo's "Project Runway" and "Top Chef."

It was a bittersweet big showing for Bravo, which scored a record 12 nominations in the final year it can count "Runway" as one of its own. The reality series moves to Lifetime in the fall.

In variety, musical or comedy series, "Daily Show" again competes with Comedy's "The Colbert Report," CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman," NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher."

The nominations in the major categories were announced early Thursday by Parsons, Chandra Wilson -- nominated for her supporting role on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" -- and ATAS chairman John Shaffner.

Other highlights from the supporting actor and actress categories include noms for this year's Emmy host, Neil Patrick Harris, nominated for his role on "Mother"; first noms for Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer of "30 Rock" and Rose Byrne for FX's "Damages"; and "Saturday Night Live's" Kristen Wiig, nominated alongside former "SNL" castmate Amy Poehler.

Notably missing from the supporting comedy actor category is three-time Emmy winner Jeremy Piven of "Entourage." The HBO comedy is repped in the category by Kevin Dillon.

The 61st Primetime Emmy Awards will be held Sept. 20 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS. They will be preceded by the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony Sept. 12, which will be hosted by Kathy Griffin, nominated for her Bravo series "My Life on the D-List" and her special, "She'll Cut a Bitch."

The nominations in top categories are on the next page.

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Nominations for the 61st Primetime Emmys:

Outstanding comedy series

Family Guy
Flight of the Conchords
How I Met Your Mother
The Office
30 Rock

Drama series

Big Love
Breaking Bad
Mad Men

Lead actor in a comedy series

Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Steve Carell, The Office
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

Lead actor in a drama series

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Simon Baker, The Mentalist

Lead actress in a comedy series

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Toni Collette, United States of Tara
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Lead actress in a drama series

Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Glenn Close, Damages
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace

Supporting actor in a comedy series

Kevin Dillon, Entourage
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Rainn Wilson, The Office
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men

Supporting actor in a drama series

William Shatner, Boston Legal
Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
William Hurt, Damages
Michael Emerson, Lost
John Slattery, Mad Men

Supporting actress in a comedy series

Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
Kristin Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds

Supporting actress in a drama series

Rose Byrne, Damages
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
Hope Davis, In Treatment
Cherry Jones, 24

Variety, music or comedy series

The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Late Show With David Letterman
Real Time With Bill Maher
Saturday Night Live

Variety, music or comedy special

Chris Rock -- Kill the Messenger
Kathy Griffin: She'll Cut a Bitch
The Kennedy Center Honors
Ricky Gervais: Out of England -- The Stand-Up Special
Will Ferrell: You're Welcome America

Reality program

Antiques Roadshow
Dirty Jobs
Dog Whisperer
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List

Reality competition program

The Amazing Race
American Idol
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway
Top Chef

Host for a reality or reality-competition program

Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars
Heidi Klum, Project Runway
Jeff Probst, Survivor
Padma Lakshmi (host) and Tom Colicchio (co-host), Top Chef


Generation Kill
Little Dorrit

Made for television movie

Coco Chanel
Grey Gardens
Into the Storm
Prayers for Bobby
Taking Chance

For a complete list of Emmy nominees, click here.