"Breaking Bad" actor Aaron Paul and "How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris (subbing in for Kate Mara) were up bright and early (5:40 a.m. Los Angeles time, to be exact) to announce the nominations for the 2013 Emmy Awards. More than just honoring excellence in television, the nominees reflect the shifting landscape of the television industry, as quality television disperses not only from networks to cable and premium channels, but on to new distribution models entirely with the rise of online streaming company Netflix.
Netflix is here to stay
With nine nominations for its original series "House of Cards" and three for its reboot of "Arrested Development," Netflix has earned the mainstream cred to make it a big player in the television industry. "House of Cards" was honored not just in acting categories (as it was with Critics Choice nominations earlier this year), but also claimed a spot in the crème de le crème category, outstanding drama. It has already been picked up for a second season, and with the "Arrested Development" nominations for lead actor (for Jason Bateman), directing and editing, talk about another season of that comedy will surely grow.
Outstanding drama is looking as stodgy as ever
Speaking of outstanding drama, aside from the "House of Cards" nomination – which many were expecting anyway – the category included the cable and premium dramas that were considered safe bets: "Breaking Bad," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland" and "Mad Men," all of which have been nominated before. Critics will be disappointed that the Emmy voters didn't take a risk on newcomers like FX's "The Americans" or Sundance Channel's "Rectify," particularly since "Downton Abbey" and "Homeland" (last year's winner) had lackluster seasons this year.
Comedy on the other hand…
There were some mild surprises in the comedy categories, with the Emmy nominations shedding a light on some of the more unconventional – challenging, even – comedies on television. FX's "Louie" reined in six nominations, including in the best comedy category, which critics have been clamoring about for years. Unfortunately its inclusion crowded out "Parks and Recreation." The best comedy on network television did not get the outstanding comedy nomination it deserves. (The once brilliant but not as great "30 Rock" got an honorary nomination for its swan song season). HBO's beloved but recently canceled "Enlightened " also got some recognition, with Laura Dern earning a nod for lead actress.
Women lead the way on network dramas
No male actor in a drama nominee category came from a network television show. Rather, network TV's female stars are carrying the weight. Kerry Washington's nomination got "Scandal" the attention it deserves for being not only racially and politically groundbreaking, but just plain fun. Connie Britton, the best part of the underrated "Nashville" also got a nod. Both shows, notably, also boast female showrunners. Christine Baranski also got a supporting actress nomination for "The Good Wife," another female-centric show and a standout network drama that got four other nominations.
The Miniseries/Movie categories show just how television is challenging the movie industry
The outstanding miniseries and movies category – in its variety of offerings – shows just how television is becoming a meatier alternative to the big screen, and a place to experiment as well. "Political Animals" was a six-episode special that was considered to be picked up for a full series but didn't get the audience it deserved. "American Horror Story" also made its way into the category by letting each of its seasons be a standalone story (the FX show led the overall nomination count with 17). The Showtime dramedy "The Big C" finished its solid four-season run with a shortened final season called "The Hereafter" that earned Laura Linney lead actress in a miniseries consideration. Meanwhile "Behind the Candelabra" was originally conceived as a feature film, but according to director Steven Soderbergh was considered "too gay" for movie studios. After a Cannes Film Festival debut, it premiered to record ratings on HBO, so it's no surprise a sweep through the best miniseries/movie categories, with a total of 15 nominations, was to follow.
The Emmy Awards will air Sept. 21 on CBS.