"Game of Thrones," HBO's epic fantasy saga, led the way with 19 nominations, including one for best drama, as Emmy award voters on Thursday recognized the standout shows and performances from an extraordinary year of television.

Other top nominees included two offbeat miniseries from FX: "Fargo" with 18 bids and "American Horror Story: Coven" with 17. "The Normal Heart," an HBO film set in the early days of the AIDS crisis, earned 16 nominations, while "Breaking Bad" also received 16 bids for its final season, including best drama and a best actor nod for Bryan Cranston.

Meanwhile, the streaming service Netflix continued to make major Emmy inroads. Its moody political thriller "House of Cards" will compete for best-drama honors for the second straight year. Netflix also has a major contender on the comedy side with the buzzy "Orange Is the New Black." The women's prison saga earned 12 nods, including one for best comedy and one for its star Taylor Schilling.

The most intriguing race looks to be in the best drama series category, where "Game of Thrones" will vie with defending champ "Breaking Bad," HBO's highly acclaimed crime series "True Detective" and "House of Cards." Other nominees include four-time winner "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey."


Advertisement

In the best comedy series race, this could be the year that four-time winner "Modern Family" finally falls as "Orange Is the New Black" figures to generate major heat. Other nominees in the category include veterans "The Big Bang Theory," "Louie" and "Veep," along with newcomer "Silicon Valley."

The 66th prime-time Emmy Awards ceremony will have plenty of big-screen star power. As expected, this year's Academy Awards best-actor winner Matthew McConaughey is up for best actor in a drama series for his stunning performance in "True Detective." Also up for Emmys are Chiwetel Ejiofor, an Oscar nominee this year for "12 Years a Slave," and past Oscar winner Julia Roberts. In addition, Woody Harrelson is in contention for a best-actor Emmy against his "True Detective" co-star McConaughey.

As usual, the Emmy nominations featured a number of glaring oversights. Chief among them: the extraordinary CBS legal drama "The Good Wife." Though series star Julianna Margulies did receive recognition in the best-actress category, the show itself was not nominated. This despite one of the season's most-talked about story lines -- the stunning death of a major character -- and a highly aggressive CBS promotional campaign that trumpeted the fact that "The Good Wife" churns out 22 episodes, compared to only seven for "Mad Men" and eight for "True Detective."

The omission of "The Good Wife" means that, for the second straight year, no show from a major broadcast network is included in the field for best drama.

Other prominent snubs included Tatiana Maslany, the actress who plays multiple roles in BBC's clone conspiracy drama "Orphan Black." Despite fervent support from critics and fans, Emmy voters chose to ignore her for a second straight year.

Also overlooked were highly acclaimed dramas such as "Masters of Sex" from Showtime and "The Americans" from FX. Many industry observers had figured that one or both shows might make the field, possibly displacing "Downton Abbey" and/or "Mad Men."

Still, the Emmy competition does have its share of exciting fresh blood. "Silicon Valley," Mike Judge's hilariously quirky tale of computer nerds chasing their dreams in the high-tech mecca, managed to become that rare freshman show that breaks into the best comedy competition. Lizzy Caplan ("Masters of Sex") is a highly welcome newbie in the best drama actress race, and all the love for "Fargo" -- one of the year's absolute gems -- is gratifying.

Going into the nomination announcements, much of the talk was pegged to the way networks were playing loose with the category assignments. HBO, for example, basically threw down the gauntlet by placing "True Detective" in the best drama competition instead of the less prestigious miniseries category. And Netflix raised eyebrows by pushing "Orange Is the New Black" as a comedy, despite the show's dramatic overtones. It will be interesting to see if the voters agree.

The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards will air Monday, Aug. 25, on NBC, with Seth Meyers serving as host. The ceremony, traditionally held on Sunday, was moved to avoid a conflict with NBC's "Sunday Night Football."

Contact Chuck Barney at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney, or Twitter.com/chuckbarney