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The Primetime Emmy Awards are known as television's biggest night, but before any of the statues can be handed out, there have to be nominees. Those nominees were announced in a ceremony held early Thursday and are, in broad strokes, completely surprising but exactly what most expected. There are the usual favorites (Mad Men), the shows new to the party (Homeland), and the nominations that leave some scratching their heads (American Horror Story). Here are some of the more interesting storylines going in to this year’s awards:
1. The Battle For Best Drama Series – When it comes to quality dramatic programming, viewers have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. The six shows nominated are all excellent, but ultimately this is a three way race between the vintage suits of Mad Men, aristocrats of Downton Abbey, and warriors of Game of Thrones. Mad Men seeks to take the category for the fifth year in a row, but this is the first year they've had to go up against Downton Abbey. They may have been able to hold off Game of Thrones last year, but can they hold off two powerhouse contenders?
2. Girls Crashes The Party – Critics may not have known what to make of Lena Dunham’s look at young adult women in the big city when it first debuted, but it’s clear they’ve come around. The show picked up five nominations, including Best Comedy, with two of those nominations going to Dunham for her acting and writing. Whether it can knock off Modern Family remains to be seen.
3. Louis C.K.’s Best Year Continues – Few comedians have had a year as good as the one Louis C.K. is having. His decision to sell his most recent comedy special directly to the fans changed the way comedians approach selling their material, and he is one of the first major figures to have figure out how to tour without tying himself to Ticketmaster. While his show Louie may not have gotten a nod for Best Comedy, C.K. did get individual nominations for acting, directing, and writing for his role in the series. He faces stiff competition in each category, but a win might be the perfect cap to a defining year in his life.
4. The Little Detective That Could – When the producers of Downton Abbey made the choice to slot the show in the “Drama” categories, it left the “Miniseries” categories wide open. While American Horror Story and Hatfields & McCoys may be the two series to gain the most from this, don’t count out Sherlock. This series from the BBC is arguably the best crime drama on TV, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on the cusp of superstardom, with featured roles in Star Trek 2 and The Hobbit, respectively, next year.
5. Colbert vs. Stewart 7 – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has won the Award for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy series for nine years. The show could sweep the decade with a win this year, but don’t count out The Colbert Report. It’s stolen a few wins in the Best Writing category before and has been nominated the last seven years. Could this be the year Colbert steps out Stewart’s shadow for good?