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Cable Shines in Emmy Spotlight

Cable networks held up relatively well against their broadcast bretheren as the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations were unveiled last Thursday (July 10).

While HBO’s number of nominations dropped by nine from 2013, its 99 nods — buoyed by 19 for its most popular show, Game of Thrones, plus 16 for telefilm The Normal Heart and a dozen for True Detective — it still more than doubled next-nearest competitor, CBS, which tallied 47 nominations.

Like all of the broadcast networks, Black Rock saw its total fall from year-ago levels.

FX, boosted by 18 nominations for Fargo and 17 for “Coven,” the latest iteration of its American Horror Story franchise, was the prime Primetime Emmy gainer, picking up 19 more nods than last year for a total of 45. That’s the most ever for a basic-cable network, pushing it to fourth overall for the 2014 class, one behind third-place NBC and ahead of fifth-place ABC. PBS was sixth with 34 nods.

Behind second-year drama House of Cards at 13 nods and rookie comedy Orange Is the New Black’s 12, streaming service Netflix continues to make waves among traditional providers and in Tinseltown, notching 31 nods, 17 more than a year ago, to finish seventh overall. Netflix’s rise lifted the Academy’s broadband tally overall to 39, with AOL and and six other broadband programmers picking up one nod apiece. Conspicuous by their absence: Amazon and Hulu.

AMC ranked eighth, accumulating 26 nominations, 16 of which emanated from the final season of Breaking Bad, the most for any basic-cable drama series.

Showtime garnered 24, seven fewer than in 2013, to finish ninth. However, the premium programmer had an industry-best 11 actor nominations, including a halfdozen among the major acting categories.

Comedy Central completed the top 10 with a network-record 21 nods, five more than in 2013.

Fox was 11th with 18 nominations, a total that would have reached 30, if the Television Academy had credited it with the 12 for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which instead wound up in National Geographic Channel’s camp.

Among the burning Emmy questions following the announcement of the nominations on July 10: Will AMC’s Breaking Bad’s finale season repeat as the outstanding drama? Can ABC’s Modern Family make it five comedy series wins in a row? And are Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards ready to break through?

Breaking Bad’s concluding campaign would have to top HBO’s True Detective and Game of Thrones, as well as Netflix’s House of Cards. Moreover, Vince Gilligan’s final turns of the Walter White saga would have to surpass AMC stablemate and four-time winner Mad Men — which earned its seventh consecutive best-series nomination as part of its cable-drama-record 105 nods over the years — and PBS’s Downton Abbey.

For its part, Modern Family is looking to match the 1994-98 run of NBC’s Frasier with a comedy category five-peat of its own. CBS’s Big Bang Theory is in the hunt again, along with FX’s Louie and Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black. HBO’s Veep and rookie Silicon Valley are also vying for the best-comedy statue.

The best drama actor nominees are topped by last year’s winner, Jeff Daniels in HBO’s The Newsroom. He will look to hold off the fellow HBO duo of True Detective’s Woody Harrelson and Oscarwinner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), who is looking for an Oscar- Emmy double. The nominations mark the first time a cable network has three players in this major category.

Kevin Spacey earned a second nomination for House of Cards. Three-time winner Bryan Cranston is in the running to add a fourth Emmy in his final turn as Breaking Bad’s high-school chemistry teacherturned-criminal Walter White, along with perennial contender, Jon Hamm as Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men.

In the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series category, Claire Danes could score a third consecutive statue for her work as Carrie Mathison on Showtime’s Homeland. The premium network also has another nominee with Lizzy Caplan for her portrayal of Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex. Julianna Margulies for CBS’s The Good Wife and Kerry Washington for ABC’s Scandal are broadcast’s hopes here, while PBS and Netflix are represented by Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey and Robin Wright in House of Cards, respectively.

On the comedy side, Showtime matched HBO’s three drama actor nominations with its own trio: Matt LeBlanc for Episodes, Don Cheadle for House of Lies, and William H. Macy for Shameless, which was shifted to this genre after previously being deemed a drama. Louis C.K. is also in the running, for FX’s Louie, as is Ricky Gervais, for Netflix’s Derek. They all will be looking to unseat Jim Parsons, who has taken home three Emmys for his role as Dr. Sheldon Cooper on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, including last year’s statue.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus could duplicate Danes’s drama bid with a comedy actress three-peat for HBO’s Veep. Her competition: Lena Dunham for HBO’s Girls; Melissa McCarthy for CBS’s Mike & Molly; Edie Falco for Showtime’s Nurse Jackie; Taylor Schilling for Orange Is the New Black; and Amy Poehler for NBC’s Parks and Recreation.

With the movies and miniseries categories divided again after three years of togetherness, cable captured more nominations and stands to add more statues.

This being the Emmys, the nominations had a fair share of omissions. Former drama winner Showtime’s Homeland and CBS’s revitalized The Good Wife didn’t make the Academy’s drama nod.

TV’s top new show, NBC’s The Blacklist, and its star, three-time Emmy-winner James Spader, were blanked, while AMC’s zombie show, The Walking Dead, basic-cable’s top entry and 18-to-49 king, only managed a pair of nominations for outstanding special visual effects and outstanding sound editing.

This year’s 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, with Seth Meyers scheduled to host, is set for Monday, Aug. 25, on NBC, before the new TV season starts. Because the network enjoys big audiences for pro football on Sunday nights, NBC slotted the program for a Monday in August, among the earliest dates since the show moved from May and June during the 1970s.

Since then, the Emmy telecast has typically aired on a Sunday night in September, allowing the networks to promote new and returning shows before a large national audience. Last year’s Sept. 22 show on CBS averaged 17.6 million viewers, its top total in eight years.