Emily Yahr (c) 2014, The Washington Post. A bold move by “True Detective” paid off — the HBO crime noir series, which made news when it was submitted as a drama instead of a miniseries, scored a best drama series nod at the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations on Thursday morning.
The Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson vehicle (both veterans landed nods for lead actor in a drama) was nominated in the fiercely competitive category alongside the predictable regulars: “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “House of Cards” “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones.”
Speaking of HBO’s fantasy epic, “Game of Thrones” landed the most nominations with 19. That was followed by a big day for FX newcomer “Fargo,” based on the movie, picked up 18 nominations by submitting as a miniseries; in the same category, the network’s gorefest, “American Horror Story: Coven,” nabbed 17 nods. The final season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and HBO television movie “The Normal Heart,” about the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, tied for fourth place with 16 nominations each.
Which show did “True Detective” knock off the best drama series list? That would be 2012 winner “Homeland.” The Showtime terrorism nailbiter got bumped after a roundly criticized season — however, star Claire Danes did pick up a nod for best actress in a drama. She was joined by Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey,” Robin Wright of “House of Cards” and Kerry Washington of “Scandal.” Julianna Margulies jumped back into the mix after an especially emotional season of “The Good Wife,” while Lizzy Caplan picked up her first nom for Showtime freshman series “Masters of Sex.”
While McConaughey and Harrelson represent “True Detective” on the lead actor in a drama list, the frontrunner is undoubtedly Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” for his performance during the show’s riveting final season, during which the saga of teacher-turned-meth-kingpin Walter White morphed from cult favorite to full-blown cultural phenomenon. Perennial nominee Jon Hamm was nominated for the seventh straight time for “Mad Men,” along with scenery-chewer Kevin Spacey on “House of Cards” and last year’s surprise winner, “The Newsroom” star Jeff Daniels.
Over on the comedy side, HBO’s Mike Judge “Silicon Valley” — a satirical send-up of tech and startup culture — landed a surprise nomination in the best comedy category, against heavyweight “Modern Family,” which has never lost on Emmys night. (If the ABC sitcom takes home the gold for its fifth consecutive year, it will tie “Fraiser” for the most comedy series wins in history.)
Also up for best comedy: Academy favorites “Veep,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Louie,” in addition to Netflix critically-acclaimed women’s prison series “Orange Is the New Black.”
The latter is not a surprising nomination, but it will make people wonder whether the show — which has more than its share of horrifying storylines and violence — truly is a comedy. Either way, the choice to avoid the drama category was a smart one — Taylor Schilling and Kate Mulgrew both picked up acting nominations for lead and supporting, respectively. Plus, Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox all got nods in the guest actress in a comedy category, which means Cox (who is transgender in real life as well as on the show) makes history as the first trangender person to be nominated for an acting Emmy.
Alongside Schilling for lead actress in a comedy, “Mike & Molly” star Melissa McCarthy is back on the list, with Lena Dunham of “Girls,” Amy Poehler of “Parks and Recreation,” and the unstoppable Edie Falco of “Nurse Jackie.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has won in the category the last two years, also got a nod and would seem to be the favorite yet again.
Ricky Gervais — whom Hollywood loves to hate — scored a mildly surprising nod in the lead actor in a comedy category for his work on Netflix’s “Derek,” joining Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory” (who notched his third win last year), Don Cheadle of “House of Lies,” Matt LeBlanc of “Episodes” and Louis C.K. of “Louie.” And “Shameless,” which was granted special permission to switch from the drama to comedy category this year, scored a nomination for its lead, William H. Macy.
There was a shake-up over in reality TV side of things. For the first time since the category was created, “American Idol” stalwart Ryan Seacrest didn’t get a nomination for best reality show competition host. He was swapped in favor of Jane Lynch of “Hollywood Game Night,” who is up against the usuals: Tom Bergeron (“Dancing With the Stars”); Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum (“Project Runway”); and Cat Deeley (“So You Think You Can Dance”). Rounding out the category are Anthony Bourdain (“The Taste”) and, of course, Betty White (“Betty White’s Off Their Rocker.”)
As always there were enough snubs to make certain TV viewers furious. Among the top offenses was the exclusion of Tatiana Maslany, the Candian actress who plays a stunning nine different characters on BBC America’s sci-fi thriller “Orphan Black.” Other complaints included the lack of love for “The Americans,” the FX spy drama that only landed one nomination for guest star Margo Martindale; and CBS’ “The Good Wife” not appearing in the best drama category, despite its strongest season ever.