Netflix heads into the Emmy race with 14 nominations, better than all but a handful of networks. Credit the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences' 2008 rule change that allowed full-length broadband and digital shows to be nominated in the same categories as broadcast and TV programs.
Modi Wiczyk, whose production company MRC is behind House of Cards, says he warned director David Fincher and stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright before shooting that the TV Academy might not rush to recognize a show on Netflix. "The awards were secondary to actually feeling strongly about the work and the audience," he says. "To get this recognition is a huge bonus."
Network and cable execs seemed resigned to allowing digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon into the game, even if it means making an already tight race more crowded. But Downton Abbey exec producer Gareth Neame warns that the broadcast networks, in particular, risk being further marginalized by TV's most esteemed award. "If these awards are really the domain of cable and new platforms, the danger to network TV becomes an interesting question," he says.
Here are more trivia nuggets and curiosities that came out of this year's nominations:
REAL PEOPLE: In the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie category, Benedict Cumberbatch is the only nominee to play a fictional character (Christopher Tietjens, in Parade's End). He's up against Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, as Liberace and Scott Thorson in Behind the Candelabra; Toby Jones, as Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl; and Al Pacino, as Phil Spector in Phil Spector. On the flip side, in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie category, only Helen Mirren (as Linda Kenney-Baden) in Phil Spector played an actual person.
THE SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE BLESSING: Once upon a time, guesting on Law & Order was a quick ticket to an Emmy nomination. Now it's hosting Saturday Night Live. Justin Timberlake, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Louis C.K. all received guest actor in a comedy series nominations. And they're even going up against a couple of SNL alums: Will Forte (30 Rock) and Molly Shannon (Enlightened).
FROM DRAMA TO COMEDY: Two of this year's guest actor/actress in a drama nominees will boast their own comedies this fall. Michael J. Fox, nominated for The Good Wife, stars in NBC's new The Michael J. Fox Show, while Margo Martindale, nominated for The Americans, is on CBS' upcoming sitcom The Millers.
FAREWELL: Greg Daniels' The Office finale earned him a outstanding comedy writing nomination; he'll face off against two of 30 Rock's final episodes: "Hogcock!" (written by Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock) and "Last Lunch" (written by Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield).
WHERE ARE THE PILOT DIRECTORS? In some years, pilot episodes dominate the outstanding directing categories — after all, those episodes usually boast bigger budgets and big-name helmers. But this year, only House of Cards' first episode (directed by David Fincher) made the grade, going up against episodes of established dramas Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey and Homeland.
BEYONCE'S COMEDY COMPETITION: In the unusual "Outstanding Special Class — Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs" category, comedy entries Between Two Ferns (FunnyOrDie.com), Burning Love (Yahoo.com), Childrens Hospital (Adult Swim), The Daily Show Correspondents Explain (TheDailyShow.com) and 30 Rock: The Webisodes (NBC.com) go up against... the Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show Starring Beyonce (CBS).
THE CW LIVES: The TV Academy remembered The CW this year, after completely shutting out the broadcast network last year. Of course, it landed just one nomination: The Nikita episode "Aftermath" was recognizing in the Outstanding Sound Editing category. But hey, it's a start!
THE MAN OF A THOUSAND VOICES: Robot Chicken's Seth Green's nomination in the Outstanding Voice-Over Performance category may be the first time anyone has ever been nominated all at once for portraying Aquaman, Batman, Nerd, Abin Sur, Martian Manhunter, Robin and Green Arrow. (Those were all, of course, for the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special.)
MULTI-MULTI-MULTI-MULTI-HYPHENATE: Truly a renaissance man, Louis C.K. once again transcended categories like no one else in history. This year he was nominated for lead actor, directing and writing in a comedy series, all for Louie; as guest actor for his stint as host on Saturday Night Live; and in directing, writing and picture editing for a variety special for his Louis C.K.: Oh My God. For those keeping track, that's seven nominations across three different projects.
QUIT YOUR DAY JOB: Louis C.K.'s not the only one moonlighting. Uber-producer Mark Burnett scored nominations for his reality hits The Voice and Shark Tank in addition to his History miniseries The Bible. Anthony Bourdain was nominated for both ABC's The Taste and CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. And among other nominees doing something different, American Horror Story: Asylum executive producer Ryan Murphy received a nomination in the Outstanding Main Title Design category (along with others). Famed feature director Danny Boyle, who directed the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, also received a nomination for Outstanding Art Direction.
PERMANENT EMMY CHAMP: Will anyone ever catch Saturday Night Live? The show grabbed 15 nominations, its second-best tally ever, topped only by 2011's 16 nods. SNL, which has benefited from rule changes (allowing more nominees to enter the traditional acting categories) and its lengthy history, is now up 171 nominations over the course of its run. ER is still No. 2, with 124.
FINALLY SUNNY: The waiting's the hardest part. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia wins the distinction of this year's first-time show nominee that waited the longest to be honored. Sunny was first eligible for an Emmy in 2006, but just scored a nomination, for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program, this year.
REDFORD'S LONG WAIT: Speaking of waiting a long time, Robert Redford picked up his second nomination — 50 years after his first and only one. In 1963, Redford was nominated as supporting actor in Premiere (Presented by Fred Astaire). Now, he's nominated as an executive producer on All the President's Men Revisited in the documentary or nonfiction special category.
RATINGS AND EMMYS DON'T MIX: The year's top-rated show among adults 18-49, AMC's The Walking Dead, earned just one nomination. The year's most-watched show among total viewers, CBS' NCIS, also landed just one nomination.
THE TWO-HEADED HOST: Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn were nominated as a team in the Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program, the first time that category has had such an entry. Klum was nominated by herself in 2010, 2009 and 2008.
THE EMMY NOMINATION KING: Hector Ramirez is still champ. The cameraman picked up three more nods, putting his lifetime tally at 71, more than anyone else in history. This year he scored as a cameraman on Dancing with the Stars, in the category for Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For a Series, and as a cameraman on The Kennedy Center Honors and The Oscars, both for Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Miniseries, Movie or Special. But right behind him is HBO's documentary boss, Sheila Nevins, who earned four more nominations this year, for a grand total of 63. Nevins still has the most Emmys ever won by an individual, with 23. Those HBO shelves must be jam-packed.