Analysis: HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Leads Emmy Noms With 24

HBO’s Game of Thrones led all nominees by a long shot in Thursday morning’s Emmy nominations with 24 total nominations, including outstanding drama series. Running second with 19 nominations was FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show.

HBO also led all networks by far in total nominations with 126. The next closest network was ABC with 42, followed by NBC and CBS tied with 41, FX with 38, Fox with 35 and Netflix with 34.

That number alone makes Game of Thrones the lead horse in the outstanding drama series race, likely followed by AMC’s Mad Men, which closed out its celebrated eight-year run this spring and earned a total of 11 nominations, tying Netflix's House of Cards and Amazon's Transparent.

Also nominated as outstanding drama were PBS’ Downton Abbey, Showtime’s Homeland and Netflix’s House of Cards. Homeland managed to make a rare return to the elite list, after being passed over last year for a season many considered weak.

Newcomers to this category are AMC’s Better Call Saul, picking up where AMC’s Breaking Bad left off, and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which was forced to move into the drama category this year under the Television Academy’s new rules.

Left off of this list are Fox’s supernova Empire, which scored one nomination among the major categories with Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson nominated for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for playing the show’s fierce lead, Cookie. Henson is likely the frontrunner among the lead drama actresses. Henson’s Oscar-nominated co-star Terrence Howard, however, was not included on this year’s list of leading men. Overall, Empire nabbed 3 nominations.

Many TV critics are also bemoaning the lack of nominations for FX’s The Americans and for its stars, Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. The show, which won a Peabody Award this year and is on many critics “best-of” lists, claimed two nominations: one for Margo Martingale for outstanding guest actress in a drama and another for outstanding writing.

AMC’s The Walking Dead, another of television’s highest-rated show, claimed four nominations overall but was once again nowhere to be found in the major categories. And Showtime's The Affair, which surprised the TV industry by winning the Golden Globe, was nowhere to be found with no nominations.

Comedies were also a mix of old and new with ABC’s five-time winner Modern Family queued up to go for a record-setting six series wins. While Modern Family was again nominated, nods for its cast dropped off with only previous winners Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen nominated as outstanding comedy supporting actor and actress, respectively.

Other veterans in the category were FX’s Louie, NBC’s Parks & Recreation in its final season, HBO’s Silicon Valley and HBO’s Veep.

Newcomers to the comedy field were Amazon’s Golden Globe-winner Transparent, with stars Jeffrey Tambor, Bradley Whitfield and Gaby Hoffman all nominated in acting categories and 11 overall nominations, and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which scored nods across most of the acting categories except in the big one: outstanding actress in a comedy.

Overall, Modern Family grabbed 6 nominations to Transparent’s 11, setting up a real battle between those two shows as Transparent goes for the upset. Kimmy Schmidt and Silicon Valley also outscored Modern Family in total nominations with seven each.

A huge miss on comedy lists is CBS' The Big Bang Theory, which isn't mentioned among the outstanding comedies. Also not getting nominated is the show's four-time winner, Jim Parsons. Mayim Bialik did score her fourth supporting comedy actress nod for her role as Amy Farrah Fowler. The CW's Jane the Virgin, for which Gina Rodriguez won the Golden Globe, was also shut  out. 

Mad Men’s Jon Hamm received two nominations this year: his eighth consecutive nomination for Mad Men, and a surprise nomination for his guest turn in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Joining Hamm from the Mad Men cast are Elisabeth Moss on the lead drama actress list, and Christina Hendricks as supporting drama actress.

With Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston no longer in contention and Hamm summing up eight years of work on the critically acclaimed drama that changed AMC’s brand, Hamm has to be considered the front-runner.

Other nominees among the leading men were returning nominees House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey and Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels, who won this category in 2013. Newcomers are Bloodline’s Kyle Chandler, who won the Emmy for Friday Night Lights in 2011, Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk and Ray Donovan’s Liev Schrieber.

Besides Henson and Moss, Homeland’s two-time winner Claire Danes and House of Cards’ Robin Wright also were nominated as outstanding lead actress in a drama. As expected, How to Get Away with Murder’s Viola Davis joined the category. A surprise and welcome entry is Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, who plays scores of characters in the BBC America drama, and for whose nomination critics have been calling for years.

Not nominated this year was last year’s winner The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies, Masters of Sex’s Lizzy Caplan or Scandal’s Kerry Washington.

Lead actors in a comedy included returning nominees Louie’s Louie CK, House of Lies’ Don Cheadle, Episodes’ Matt LeBlanc and Shameless’ William H. Macy. Newcomers are Black-ish’s Anthony Anderson, Last Man on Earth’s Will Forte and likely frontrunner, Transparent’s Golden Globe-winner Jeffrey Tambor. Tambor stars as an older man undergoing a transition to a woman, a topic that’s in the zeitgeist with Caitlyn Jenner on Wednesday night accepting the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at this year’s ESPYs.

Veep’s three-time winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus was again nominated for outstanding lead actress in a comedy, followed by Nurse Jackie’s Edie Falco, who won this category in 2010 and has been nominated six times for this role. Parks & Rec’s star Amy Poehler grabbed her sixth nomination for her starring role in that show and her 14th overall nomination. Also nominated were The Comeback’s Lisa Kudrow.

New additions to the category were red-hot Amy Schumer for Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer and Lily Tomlin for her empathetic turn on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

Not included on this list were Girls’ Lena Dunham, and that series also missed a nomination in the outstanding comedy category, and Ellie Kemper, who plays the title role in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Also missing is Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy, whose movie career continues to blossom, and Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling, although her co-star, this morning’s Emmy co-hostess Uzo Aduba, was nominated in the supporting category.

This year, the acting categories guarantee lots of diversity, with many actors of color being nominated.

The 67th Annual Emmy Awards will air on Fox on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8 pm/5 pm ET/PT, and will be hosted by Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andy Samberg. The Creative Arts Awards will be handed out on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and be broadcast on Saturday, Sept. 19 on FXX. Don Mischler will executive producer the Emmys for the 13th consecutive year.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997 - September 2002.