Cable is aces for Primetime Emmys
'Mad Men,' '30 Rock' top series nominationsCable networks shattered Emmy's glass ceiling Thursday.
After no other cable network besides HBO had ever been able to break into the best series categories, three cablers -- AMC, FX and Showtime -- made their debut among the nominees in the top fields at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards.
In doing so, they also broke their previous Emmy nom records, as did Bravo and Sci Fi Channel.
Cable's breakthrough performance also comes just as the broadcast networks are reeling from a tough season, scarred by the effects of the writers strike.
AMC's period drama "Mad Men" landed 16 nominations, including best drama series and best lead actor for star Jon Hamm.
In the drama series category, it was joined by FX's "Damages" and Showtime's "Dexter."
"Not only is this an incredible affirmation of everything we've done on the show, it's part of a shattering of the network TV monopoly," "Mad Men" creator/executive producer Matthew Weiner said.
"The TV academy and its members finally recognized cable television in an unprecedented way," "Damages" co-creator/exec producer Todd Kessler said. "What I hope it ultimately means is that more shows and more people will embrace opportunities away from network TV -- and hopefully network TV will reflect, in terms of content and storytelling, what's going on in other areas of television."
Also nominated for best drama series are ABC's "Lost," which returns to the category after a two-year absence coming off one of its strongest seasons, along with ABC's "Boston Legal" and Fox's "House."
Missing the cut were ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," whose snub is even more surprising because the category was expanded to six series this year, and NBC's critical darling "Friday Night Lights."
The Peacock's "30 Rock" led the series field with 17 noms, including best comedy series and lead acting honors for Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.
The show's tally is the largest ever for a comedy series in a single year, surpassing the 16 for HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" in 1997.
In the comedy series category, defending champ "30 Rock" will face 2006 winner "The Office" and HBO's "Entourage" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." CBS' "Two and a Half Men" is the lone representative of the multicamera sitcom genre in the category dominated by single-camera half-hours.
Toon "Family Guy's" quest to make history with a best comedy series nomination came up short after making the list of 10 finalists. (It still landed a nom in an animated program category.) Also absent from the comedy series category: ABC's much-lauded freshman "Pushing Daisies."
Overall, HBO miniseries "John Adams" was the most-nominated program with 23 mentions, including best miniseries and lead acting noms for Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney.
Not surprisingly, HBO bagged the most nominations among all the networks, 85, followed by ABC with 76 and CBS with 51.
As strong a presence as cable had in the best series categories, its dominance in the lead drama acting categories was even more impressive.
Four actors on cable series -- Hamm, Michael C. Hall of "Dexter," Bryan Cranston of AMC's "Breaking Bad" and Gabriel Byrne of HBO's "In Treatment" -- made the list, joined by returning contenders James Spader of "Boston Legal" and Hugh Laurie of "House."
On the distaff side, Glenn Close of "Damages," Holly Hunter of TNT's "Saving Grace" and Kyra Sedgwick of TNT's "The Closer" are facing the past two winners in the category: Sally Field of ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" and Mariska Hargitay of NBC's "Law & Order: SVU."
In the lead comedy actress category, Fey -- who won the Golden Globe in January for her starring role on "30 Rock" -- will compete against past winners Julia Louis-Dreyfus of CBS' "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and America Ferrera of ABC's "Ugly Betty," along with Mary-Louise Parker for Showtime's "Weeds" and Christina Applegate for ABC's freshman comedy "Samantha Who?"
Notably missing are the ladies of Wisteria Lane as ABC's "Desperate Housewives" was shut out of the top categories.
In the lead actor in a comedy series field, Steve Carell will have his third shot at an Emmy for his role on "The Office." He is going up against three-time winner Tony Shalhoub of USA's "Monk," Baldwin, Charlie Sheen of "Two and a Half Men" and Lee Pace of "Pushing Daisies."
While new cable series were red-hot, freshmen broadcast series barely registered this go-round, with just a handful of acting nominations. Last year, three rookies -- "30 Rock," "Ugly Betty" and NBC's "Heroes" -- earned best series noms; "30 Rock" won.
But this past season, freshmen series were heavily impacted by the writers strike, and many of them, including "Pushing Daisies," didn't produce more episodes beyond their short fall runs.
The work stoppage affected all broadcast series, which produced fewer episodes, and the long winter drought of originals might have steered viewers, including TV academy members, to cable.
Louis-Dreyfus said it was a "huge relief" to get nominated because the show shot only 10 episodes because of the strike.
"I thought any chance of getting any nomination was slim for that reason," she said.
Coincidence or not, all of the broadcast series that landed in the top categories aired original episodes in the spring.
"House" almost didn't, as Fox originally opted not to order more originals after the strike. It eventually did, and one of these extra episodes yielded a nom for director Greg Yaitanes.
While there might have been some impact from the strike, the recognition for cable mostly is a reflection of its creative strides in the past few years, said "House" creator/exec producer David Shore.
"With the gains they've made, it's long overdue," he said. "The way for us to keep up is by trying to do as good television as we can."
Additionally, the tally of some cable networks, including Showtime, may have been boosted by their decisions to stream episodes or full seasons on the Web for TV academy members.
Nominees in the top categories were announced at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences by Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris and academy chairman John Shaffner.
The Emmy ceremony will be held Sept. 21 from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles and broadcast on ABC.
Ray Richmond contributed to this report.
A list of nominees is on the next page.
A list of nominees follows:
Outstanding drama series
Boston Legal (ABC)
Mad Men (AMC)
Outstanding comedy series
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
The Office (NBC)
30 Rock (NBC)
Two and a Half Men (CBS)
The Andromeda Strain (A&E)
John Adams (HBO)
Tin Man (Sci Fi Channel)
Outstanding made-for-television movie
Bernard and Doris (HBO)
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale (HBO)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Lifetime)
A Raisin in the Sun (ABC)
Outstanding variety, music or comedy series
The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
Late Show With David Letterman (CBS)
Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Lead actor in a comedy series
Tony Shalhoub, Monk (USA)
Steve Carell, The Office (NBC)
Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock (NBC)
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Lead actor in a drama series
James Spader, Boston Legal (ABC)
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (AMC)
Michael C. Hall, Dexter (Showtime)
Hugh Laurie, House (Fox)
Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment (HBO)
Jon Hamm, Mad Men (AMC)
Lead actor in a miniseries or movie
Ralph Fiennes, Bernard and Doris (HBO)
Ricky Gervais, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale (HBO)
Paul Giamatti, John Adams (HBO)
Kevin Spacey, Recount (HBO)
Tom Wilkinson, Recount (HBO)
Lead actress in a comedy series
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who? (ABC)
Tina Fey, 30 Rock (NBC)
America Ferrera, Ugly Betty (ABC)
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds (Showtime)
Lead actress in a drama series
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer (TNT)
Glenn Close, Damages (FX)
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Holly Hunter, Saving Grace (TNT)
Lead actress in a miniseries or movie
Catherine Keener, An American Crime (Showtime)
Susan Sarandon, Bernard and Doris (HBO)
Judi Dench, Cranford (PBS)
Laura Linney, John Adams (HBO)
Phylicia Rashad, A Raisin in the Sun (ABC)
Supporting actor in a comedy series
Jeremy Piven, Entourage (HBO)
Kevin Dillon, Entourage (HBO)
Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Rainn Wilson, The Office (NBC)
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Supporting actor in a drama series
William Shatner, Boston Legal (ABC)
Ted Danson, Damages (FX)
Zeljko Ivanek, Damages (FX)
Michael Emerson, Lost (ABC)
John Slattery, Mad Men (AMC)
Supporting actor in a miniseries or movie
David Morse, John Adams (HBO)
Stephen Dillane, John Adams (HBO)
Tom Wilkinson, John Adams (HBO)
Denis Leary, Recount (HBO)
Bob Balaban, Recount (HBO)
Supporting actress in a comedy series
Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Jean Smart, Samantha Who? (ABC)
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty (ABC)
Supporting actress in a drama series
Candice Bergen, Boston Legal (ABC)
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Dianne Wiest, In Treatment (HBO)
Supporting actress in a miniseries or movie
Eileen Atkins, Cranford (PBS)
Ashley Jensen, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale (HBO)
Alfre Woodard, Pictures of Hollis Woods (CBS)
Audra McDonald, A Raisin in the Sun (ABC)
Laura Dern, Recount (HBO)
Guest actor in a comedy series
Shelley Berman, Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Rip Torn, 30 Rock (NBC)
Will Arnett, 30 Rock (NBC)
Steve Buscemi, 30 Rock (NBC)
Tim Conway, 30 Rock (NBC)
Guest actor in a drama series
Stanley Tucci, ER (NBC)
Glynn Turman, In Treatment (HBO)
Robin Williams, Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Robert Morse, Mad Men (AMC)
Oliver Platt, Nip/Tuck (FX)
Charles Durning, Rescue Me (FX)
Guest actress in a comedy series
Polly Bergen, Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Sarah Silverman, Monk (USA)
Carrie Fisher, 30 Rock (NBC)
Edie Falco, 30 Rock (NBC)
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock (NBC)
Guest actress in a drama series
Ellen Burstyn, Big Love (HBO)
Diahann Carroll, Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Cynthia Nixon, Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Anjelica Huston, Medium (NBC)
Sharon Gless, Nip/Tuck (FX)
Individual performance in a variety or music program
Jon Stewart, 80th Annual Academy Awards (ABC)
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
David Letterman, Late Show With David Letterman (CBS)
Don Rickles, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (HBO)
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Host for a reality or reality-competition program
Ryan Seacrest, American Idol (Fox)
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal (NBC)
Heidi Klum, Project Runway (Bravo)
Jeff Probst, Survivor (CBS)
Directing for a comedy series
Entourage -- No Cannes Do; Dan Attias, director
Flight of the Conchords -- Sally Returns; James Bobin, director
The Office -- Money (Parts 1 & 2); Paul Lieberstein, director
The Office -- Goodbye, Toby; Paul Feig, director
Pushing Daisies -- Pie-Lette; Barry Sonnenfeld, director
30 Rock -- Rosemary's Baby; Michael Engler, director
Directing for a drama series
Boston Legal -- The Mighty Rogues; Arlene Sanford, director
Breaking Bad -- Pilot; Vince Gilligan, director
Damages -- Pilot; Allen Coulter, director
House -- House's Head; Greg Yaitanes, director
Mad Men -- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Pilot); Alan Taylor, director
Outstanding animated program (less than one hour)
Creature Comforts America (CBS)
King of the Hill (Fox)
Robot Chicken (Cartoon Network)
SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon)
The Simpsons (Fox)
Outstanding animated program (one hour or more)
Blue Harvest (Fox)
Imaginationland (Comedy Central)
Justice League: The New Frontier (Warner Bros. on Demand)
Click here for a complete list of nominees.