Cable 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.
"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."
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."
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.
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)
Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Lead actor in a comedy series
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock (NBC)
Lead actor in a drama series
Hugh Laurie, House (Fox)
Lead actor in a miniseries or movie
Ralph Fiennes, Bernard and Doris (HBO)
Lead actress in a comedy series
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine (CBS)
Tina Fey, 30 Rock (NBC)
Lead actress in a drama series
Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Svu (NBC)
Lead actress in a miniseries or movie
Susan Sarandon, Bernard and Doris (HBO)
Phylicia Rashad, A Raisin in the Sun (ABC)
Supporting actor in a comedy series
Supporting actor in a drama series
Supporting actor in a miniseries or movie
Supporting actress in a comedy series
Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Supporting actress in a drama series
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
Supporting actress in a miniseries or movie
Alfre Woodard, Pictures of Hollis Woods (CBS)
Audra McDonald, A Raisin in the Sun (ABC)
Guest actor in a comedy series
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
Robin Williams, Law & Order: Svu (NBC)
Oliver Platt, Nip/Tuck (FX)
Guest actress in a comedy series
Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives (ABC)
Carrie Fisher, 30 Rock (NBC)
Edie Falco, 30 Rock (NBC)
Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock (NBC)
Guest actress in a drama series
Cynthia Nixon, Law & Order: Svu (NBC)
Sharon Gless, Nip/Tuck (FX)
Individual performance in a variety or music program
Jon Stewart, 80th Annual Academy Awards (ABC)
Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live (NBC)
Host for a reality or reality-competition program
Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal (NBC)
Directing for a comedy series
Flight of the Conchords -- Sally Returns; James Bobin, director
30 Rock -- Rosemary's Baby; Michael Engler, director
Directing for a drama series
House -- House's Head; Greg Yaitanes, 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. »
- By Nellie Andreeva
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