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How Emmy's Controversial Category Choices Paid Off, and This Year's Other Trivia

According to the Emmy Awards ballot, True Detective isn't a miniseries, but Fargo and American Horror Story: Coven are. Orange is the New Black, Nurse Jackie and Shameless are comedies, even though there are frequently more tears than laughs on those shows. The debate over how to classify shows that defy classification ruffled plenty of feathers during this year's Emmy campaign season. Yet...

Michael Schneider

According to the Emmy Awards ballot, True Detective isn't a miniseries, but Fargoand American Horror Story: Coven are. Orange is the New Black, Nurse Jackie and Shameless are comedies, even though there are frequently more tears than laughs on those shows.

The debate over how to classify shows that defy classification ruffled plenty of feathers during this year's Emmy campaign season. Yet it didn't faze voters: Shameless executive producer John Wells' decision to move the Showtime series from drama to comedy categories paid off for star William H. Macy, who earned a nod for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, his first nomination for the show.

And despite gripes heard around the industry that True Detective shouldn't compete in the drama field, the show still landed 12 nominations — including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Actor nods for Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

"I think the rules work," says HBO Programming president Michael Lombardo. "People find the category that fits their intention. If they're wrong or people disagree, the Emmy voters will respond accordingly... It's hard for the Television Academy in an evolving, organic landscape to have rules that fit every possible permutation."

True Detective is considered a series because executive producer Nic Pizzolatto has a "created by" credit on the show. The TV Academy follows the lead of the Writers Guild of America, which makes that the distinguishing characteristic of a TV series vs. a miniseries or movie.

But anthology series can also request a move into the Emmy miniseries category (like American Horror Story and Fargo did), particularly if they have a cast and a storyline that won't continue into Season 2. "I'm glad there's that flexibility," Lombardo says.

Emmy Watch: As TV Splinters, Key Categories Get Squeezed

Critics argue that producers and stars are increasingly looking to game the system in order to land nominations. Actors find themselves sometimes downgrading their involvement in order to enter a certain category. Mad Men's Robert Morse, whose character Bertram Cooper has been seen throughout the show's run, nonetheless entered himself in the guest actor category this year and picked up a nod.

Several key Orange is the New Black supporting players decided to enter themselves in the guest actress category and also earned nods: Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox.

Here are more trivia nuggets and curiosities that came out of this year's nominations:

SHERLOCK VS. HOLMES: Sherlock co-stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will face off in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie category, but for different projects. Cumberbatch is up for playing the title character in Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece) while Freeman was nominated for his role on Fargo as Lester Nygaard. Freeman was also nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie category for playing John Watson on Sherlock.

AN ACTOR SHAKE-UP ON THE HORIZON: In two years, there's a chance there will be a complete turnover in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama category. Bryan Cranston has already wrapped up Breaking Bad, while Harrelson and McConaughey won't be back to True Detective. Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) have one last season to go, and it's also unclear yet whether Kevin Spacey and House of Cards will be back beyond next season.

BROADCAST BLUES: The commercial broadcast networks continue to see their hold slip in the major categories. Once again completely shut out in dramas, the broadcasters landed just two nominations in comedy (The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family), a new low. On the bright side, perennially overlooked The CW earned two nominations this year — doubling last year's one nod.

NO CHARACTER? NO PROBLEM: Fred Armisen (Portlandia) earned a nomination in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy race for playing "various characters." Saturday Night Live's Kate McKinnon landed a similar nod (her first ever), for "various characters," in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy category.

WHAT ABOUT JOAN: Joan Cusack, who's been with Shameless from the beginning, also continues to enter herself — and getting nominated — in "guest" categories for the show. Because Shameless switched to comedy this year, she becomes the first guest actress playing the same character in the same show to have consecutive nominations in drama and comedy series.

HOSTS WITH THE MOST: This is the second consecutive year both Louis C.K. and Melissa McCarthy earned nominations in the comedy guest actor and actress categories for hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live. Meanwhile, Glee's Jane Lynch landed two different nominations for her emcee skills: Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program (NBC's Hollywood Game Night) and Outstanding Narrator (Discovery's Penguins: Waddle All the Way).

NOMINATION KINGS: Watch your back, Louis C.K.: Anthony Bourdain is gunning for your title. The multi-hyphenate comedian couldn't top last year's whopping nine nominations. But his four nods this year are nothing to sniff at: Besides that SNL nod, he landed outstanding actor, directing and writing nominations for Louie. However, Bourdain's CNN series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown landed him nods for Outstanding Informational Series or Special and Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming; while he earned another in the Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program for ABC's The Taste.

SPOILER ALERT: Haven't watched Season 2 of House of Cards yet? Don't ask why Kate Mara is nominated as a guest drama actress.

HISTORY MAKING: As many have noted, Orange is the New Black's Cox is nominated as the first openly transgendered performer to earn an Emmy nomination. But the Academy notes that she is not the first openly transgendered person to earn the honor. That distinction goes to Chaz Bono, who was nominated as a producer in 2011 for the documentary Becoming Chaz.

CONSOLATION PRIZE: Jay Leno's Tonight Showfarewell was completely snubbed by Emmy voters, but his digital series Jay Leno's Garage landed another nomination in the Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program category (where his competitor includes good buddy Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.) Other long-running shows leaving the airwaves with minimal recognition include How I Met Your Mother(two noms).

ON STEP CLOSER TO AN EGOT: Unusual nominees include pop star Bruno Mars, whose Super Bowl halftime show was nominated in the Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program.

SOCIAL MEDIA RULES: Comedy Central's late night series @midnight somehow landed a spot in the Outstanding Interactive Program category (perhaps because of its popularity on Twitter), opposite online extensions of regular TV shows like The Voice and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Facebook and Instagram landed a nomination, along with HBO, for its Game of Thrones Premiere special in the Outstanding Interactive Program category.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: They're celebrating at the Hanks compound. Dad Tom Hanks earned a nod in the Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special category (for executive producing CNN's The Sixties: The Assassination of President Kennedy), while son Colin Hanks is nominated as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (FX's Fargo).

SECOND TIME'S THE CHARM: The original Carl Sagan series Cosmos, which aired on PBS, landed five nominations (and three wins) at the 1981 Emmy Awards. This year's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, airing on Fox and National Geographic Channel, earned 12 nominations.

KENNEDY RULES: National Geographic Channel's Killing Kennedylanded three nominations, while CNN's The Sixties: The Assassination of President Kennedy and PBS' JFK (American Experience) both got two. Also in the nostalgia column, CBS' The Beatles: The Night That Changed America earned six nominations.

MAKE IT AN EMMY HOME: In the battle between House Of shows, Netflix's House of Cards (13 nominations) trumps Showtime's House of Lies (two) and Lifetime's House of Versace(one).

MOST INAPPROPRIATE CATEGORY? Among the choices that voters are going to have to pick in the Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics category: The sweet and innocent "Merroway Cove," from Disney Channel's preschool series Sofia the First, vs. the hilariously dirty "Home for the Holiday (Twin Bed)" from Saturday Night Live.

MOST OBVIOUS EMMY NOMINATION? Discovery's Naked and Afraid, which must pixelate much of the screen for obvious reasons, landed a nomination in Outstanding Picture Editing for Reality Programming. (Honorable Mention: Fox's So You Think You Can Dance picking up four of the five Outstanding Choreography slots.)

NOMINATION CHAMPS: In the battle of the all-time most-nominated individuals, camera operator Hector Ramirez still leads with a record 72 nominations. Ramirez picked up a new nod in Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For a Series (for ABC's Dancing With the Stars). HBO exec Sheila Nevins is close behind, with 67 lifetime nods, including four this year. She earned two nominations in Outstanding Children's Program (for HBO's One Last Hug: Three Days At Grief Camp and Wynton Marsalis: A YoungArts Masterclass) as well as one for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special (HBO's Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert) and another in Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking (HBO's Life According to Sam). Nevins already has the most Emmys of any individual in history, with 25.

SHATTERED RECORD: FX's 45 nominations is a new record for a basic cable network (up from its previous high, 26, set last year). And no surprise, Netflix's 31 nods are a new high for a streaming service.

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