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Cable leaving networks in the dust

    Jon Hamm plays ad executive Don Draper on "Mad Men." The show is making a bid at Emmy Awards history to win its fifth best drama series trophy.

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES » "Mad Men" is on the brink of making Emmy drama series history, Lena Dunham’s comedy "Girls" is the buzz du jour and both are on cable. As Thursday’s nominations proved, the gap between cable and the broadcast networks is stunningly wide and only getting wider.

Five out of six best drama series slots were claimed by cable shows, both premium and basic, with the sixth going to PBS. Networks, which had controlled the comedy genre last year, lost fully half of that turf to "Girls," "Veep" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," all on HBO.


How cable and the networks fared in racking up nominations for the 2012 Emmy Awards announced Thursday by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences:

81: HBO | 60: CBS | 58: PBS
51: NBC | 48: ABC | 34: AMC
26: FOX | 22: Showtime



The Emmy ceremony will air Sept. 23 with Jimmy Kimmel as host.



The lone nomination for "Hawaii Five-0" went to stunt coordinator Jeff Cadiente, who received his second Emmy nomination in the outstanding stunt coordination category for the Oct. 3 episode, "Kame’e," which featured a sky-diving scene over Mokuleia.


Not a single actor in a network drama series earned a lead or supporting bid for September’s Emmy Awards.

Cable channels offer so much awards-caliber programming that even theatrical films, increasingly dependent on action films and adolescent comedies, can look shabby in comparison.

"A lot of what’s happening on cable TV, you’d be hard pressed to see that happen in a studio film," said Don Cheadle, whose performance in Showtime’s "House of Lies" earned him a best comedy actor bid. "Right now one of the most difficult things to put together are movies which have interesting content and adult themes."

For writers and actors who want to pursue creative work, that leaves independent films or the expanding number of cable channels willing to invest in ambitious scripted projects.

Lena Dunham, who made a splash with her indie film "Tiny Furniture," breathed life into the TV sitcom with "Girls," a darkly comedic coming-of-age New York story on HBO. It received a best comedy nod and acting, writing and directing nominations for her.

She described the experience of premiering the much buzzed-about "Girls" as "this feeling of finding your audience in this incredibly clear, beautiful way and being shocked that people were connecting to what I was doing and being amazed by the level of debate it was starting."

"Girls" is HBO’s "current spin on ‘Sex and the City,’ which was a strong past Emmy favorite," said Tom O’Neil, editor of the Gold Derby awards website. He called Dunham the current "toast of Hollywood."

History Channel moved into scripted fare in a big way (after backing away from airing the controversial "The Kennedys") with its "Hatfields & McCoys," starring Kevin Costner, which earned solid reviews and spectacular ratings during the spring and 16 nods Thursday.

The miniseries was the most watched entertainment telecast ever on basic cable, drawing about 13 million each for its first two parts and hitting a high of 14.3 million for its third chapter. The best the networks had to offer that week: NBC’s "America’s Got Talent," was seen by 11.5 million people.

Networks increasingly rely on talent contests and sports, programming that invites live viewing and means fewer people will record the airings and skip commercials. News magazines, relatively cheap to produce, have been another broadcast staple.

Scripted series, whether drama or comedy, tend to be formulaic — which certainly doesn’t mean unpopular. CBS is the most watched network on the strength of crime dramas including "NCIS," "CSI" and their spinoffs.

But innovation is coming from shows like "Mad Men," which earned a leading 17 Emmy nominations and the chance to earn its fifth best drama award and set a record as the most honored drama in television history.

The shows it’s currently tied with and could leave behind: the broadcast dramas "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and "The West Wing," which once represented the best of TV.

"I always use ‘L.A. Law’ as an example," said "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner. "If you went to pitch ‘L.A. Law’ to NBC right now, you’d end up on Showtime."

Other leading nominees for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards include the elegant British-born soap opera "Downton Abbey," which earned 16 bids, and the movie "Hemingway & Gellhorn" with 15.

The network standout: the clever and popular "Modern Family," honored as best comedy series for the past two years, which was the sitcom leader with 14 bids and practically ran the table in supporting actor nods.


Drama series
"Boardwalk Empire," HBO; "Breaking Bad," AMC; "Downton Abbey," PBS; "Game of Thrones," HBO; "Homeland," Showtime; "Mad Men," AMC

Comedy series
"The Big Bang Theory," CBS; "Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO; "Girls," HBO; "Modern Family," ABC; "30 Rock," NBC; "Veep," HBO

Miniseries or made-for-TV movie
"American Horror Story," FX Networks; "Game Change," HBO; "Hatfields & McCoys," History; "Hemingway & Gellhorn," HBO; "Luther," BBC America; "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (Masterpiece)," PBS

Actor, drama series
Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire," HBO; Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad," AMC; Michael C. Hall, "Dexter," Showtime; Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey," PBS; Damian Lewis, "Homeland," Showtime; Jon Hamm, "Mad Men," AMC

Actress, drama series
Glenn Close, "Damages," DirecTV; Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey," PBS; Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife," CBS; Kathy Bates, "Harry’s Law," NBC; Claire Danes, "Homeland," Showtime; Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men," AMC

Supporting actor, drama series
Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad," AMC; Giancarlo Esposito, "Breaking Bad," AMC; Brendan Coyle, "Downton Abbey," PBS; Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey," PBS; Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones," HBO; Jared Harris, "Mad Men," AMC

Supporting actress, drama series
Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad," AMC; Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey," PBS; Joanne Froggatt, "Downton Abbey," PBS; Archie Panjabi, "The Good Wife," CBS; Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife," CBS; Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men," AMC

Actor, comedy series
Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory," CBS; Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," HBO; Don Cheadle, "House of Lies," Showtime; Louis C.K., "Louie," FX Networks; Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock," NBC; Jon Cryer, "Two and a Half Men," CBS

Actress, comedy series
Lena Dunham, "Girls," HBO: Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly," CBS; Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl," Fox; Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie," Showtime; "Parks and Recreation," NBC; Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation," NBC; Tina Fey, "30 Rock," NBC; Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep, HBO

Supporting actor, comedy series
Ed O’Neill, "Modern Family," ABC; Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "Modern Family," ABC; Ty Burrell, "Modern Family," ABC; Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family," ABC; Max Greenfield, "New Girl," Fox; Bill Hader, "Saturday Night Live," NBC

Supporting actress, comedy series
Mayim Bialik, "The Big Bang Theory," CBS; Kathryn Joosten, "Desperate Housewives," ABC; Julie Bowen, "Modern Family," ABC; Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family," ABC; Merritt Wever, "Nurse Jackie," Showtime; Kristen Wiig, "Saturday Night Live," NBC

Actor, miniseries or movie
Woody Harrelson, "Game Change," HBO; Kevin Costner, "Hatfields & McCoys," History; Bill Paxton, "Hatfields & McCoys," History; Clive Owen, "Hemingway & Gellhorn," HBO; Idris Elba, "Luther," BBC America; Benedict Cumberbatch, "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (Masterpiece)," PBS

Actress, miniseries or movie
Connie Britton, "American Horror Story," FX Networks; Julianne Moore, "Game Change," HBO; Nicole Kidman, "Hemingway & Gellhorn," HBO; Ashley Judd, "Missing," ABC; Emma Thompson, "The Song of Lunch (Masterpiece), PBS

Supporting actor, miniseries or movie
Denis O’Hare, "American Horror Story," FX Networks; Ed Harris, "Game Change," HBO; Tom Berenger, "Hatfields & McCoys," History; David Strathairn, "Hemingway & Gellhorn," HBO; Martin Freeman, "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (Masterpiece)," PBS

Supporting actress, miniseries or movie
Frances Conroy, "American Horror Story," FX Networks; Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story," FX Networks; Sarah Paulson, "Game Change," HBO; Mare Winningham, "Hatfields & McCoys," History; Judy Davis, "Page Eight (Masterpiece)," PBS

Reality program
"Antiques Roadshow," PBS; "Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution," ABC; "MythBusters," Discovery Channel; "Shark Tank," ABC; "Undercover Boss," CBS; "Who Do You Think You Are?" NBC

Reality-competition program
"The Amazing Race," CBS; "Dancing with the Stars," ABC; "Project Runway," Lifetime; "So You Think You Can Dance," Fox; "Top Chef," Bravo; "The Voice," NBC

Variety, music or comedy series
"The Colbert Report," Comedy Central; "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Comedy Central; "Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC; "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," NBC; "Real Time With Bill Maher," HBO; "Saturday Night Live," NBC

Children’s program
"Degrassi," TeenNick; "Good Luck Charlie," Disney Channel; "iCarly," Nickelodeon; "Victorious," Nickelodeon; "Wizards Of Waverly Place," Disney Channel


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