Netflix has nearly completed its drive to become the online equivalent of HBO courtesy of the Emmy academy. On Thursday the streaming video service earned 14 nominations for its original series, including nine for House of Cards, in the 65th Emmy Awards – a first in TV history.
The nomination haul vaults Netflix ahead of similar online services with original shows, simultaneously answering a potent question: Are original series created for streaming video online really considered television?
HBO, the channel that inspired Netflix's quality-first original series approach, received the most overall nominations by a long shot, with 108 total nods. FX's American Horror Story earned the most nominations for a single series, with 17 nominations overall. (Defining the show as a miniseries, changing storylines and setting every year, was the smartest move in recent Emmy history, pulling the series out of much more competitive categories.)
Netflix's success highlighted just how competitive the categories have become, adding Kevin Spacey from the service's House of Cards to Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville, Homeland's Damian Lewis, Mad Men's Jon Hamm and The Newsroom's Jeff Daniels as best drama actor nominees.
The best actress drama category fielded seven nominations, including newcomers Vera Farmiga from A&E's Bates Motel, Robin Wright from House of Cards, Connie Britton from ABC's Nashville and Kerry Washington from ABC's Scandal, joining Michelle Dockery from PBS' Downton Abbey, Claire Danes from Showtime's Homeland and Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss.
House of Cards' success seems to come at the cost of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, which was knocked out of the best drama nominations. Cards, which received nine nominations overall, instead joined Homeland, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad and Mad Men as nominees.
For best comedy, cable crowded onto turf often dominated by broadcast networks, as HBO's Girls, FX's Louie and HBO's Veep joined ABC's Modern Family, CBS' Big Bang Theory and NBC's 30 Rock. In fact, 30 Rock got a nice valentine from the Emmy academy for its final season, earning nods for stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.
Some cult favorites among critics were missing, including BBC America's Orphan Black, a series about clones in which the lead actress plays at least seven different parts in a story about a woman who discovers she is one of several different human clones created illegally. (How you don't nominate star Tatiana Maslany mystifies me.) Likewise, TNT's Southland, which ended its season this year with a blockbuster set of storylines, was snubbed. FX's The Americans, likely to be TV critics' choice as best series of the past season, also was left out. (My theory: Emmy voters, who work in television, often are too busy making TV to watch much of it.)
Diversity among nominees actually took a great leap forward and backward at once. Stars Washington and Don Cheadle (Showtime's House of Lies) are black actors nominated for great, starring roles in major series, but they nearly stand alone. Modern Family's Sofia Vergara is the only other non-white actor nominated for an Emmy in major drama, comedy and miniseries acting categories.
But overall, the nominations were a potent argument that the quality TV revolution is only getting started, exemplified by the instant success of a platform that was the home for old movies and ancient TV series just one year ago.
The Emmy awards will air at 8 p.m. Sept. 22 on CBS, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris (WTSP-Ch. 10, locally).