Game of Thrones roared back onto the Emmy battlefield, topping nominations with 22 bids but with a formidable opponent in last year’s winner The Handmaid’s Tale, while a streaming platform made history by earning the most bids for the first time.
Netflix’s 112 nominations took away the front-runner title that HBO held since 2001, giving cable and broadcast networks more reason to fear their future in viewers as well as honors. HBO is no piker: It claimed 108 bids.
Game of Thrones helped boost the premium cable service’s total and became the most-nominated series of all time, with its 129 nods topping the 124 nominations earned by ER.
Donald Glover’s Atlanta was the top comedy series nominee the with 16 bids, poised to take advantage of the absence this time around of three-time winner Veep. Atlanta will face newcomers including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Glow and Barry. Others in the category include black-ish, Silicon Valley, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
The newbie comedies aced out long-time Emmy favorite Modern Family, a five-time winner and perennial nominee since it debuted in 2009 on ABC. Its absence leaves just one network contender for best comedy, ABC’s black-ish, which also earned nods for Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, who noted his urban California roots.
“Being a kid from Compton, one could only dream of moments like this, so it’s truly a humbling experience right now,” Anderson said.
The short-lived revival of Roseanne, canceled because of star Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet, drew only one major nomination, a supporting actress nod for Laurie Metcalf. Another revival, Will & Grace, got Emmy love for nominees Megan Mullally and Molly Shannon but the main stars and series itself were snubbed.
Killing Eve star Sandra Oh made history of her own, becoming the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for lead acting honors in a drama series. Oh had earned five supporting bids for Grey’s Anatomy.
The late Anthony Bourdain’s CNN series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, received a nomination in the category for best information series or special, which also includes shows with Leah Remini and David Letterman.
Among the notable first-time nominees: Issa Rae for Insecure, Darren Criss, Ricky Martin, Penelope Cruz and Edgar Ramirez for The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Tiffany Haddish for Saturday Night Live, Letitia Wright for Black Museum (Black Mirror) and John Legend for Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.
If Legend wins, he’ll join the rarified club of “EGOT” performers who’ve won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
Saturday Night Live, riding high with its relentless pillorying of the Trump administration, was rewarded with 21 nods.
HBO’s fantasy dragons-and-swords saga is a two-time best drama winner that sat out the last year’s awards because of its production schedule. Although it’s up for top series honors, it drew only three supporting actor bids for cast members Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage.
The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian sci-fi series that claimed top drama honors last year, drew 20 bids, including one for last year’s best actress winner, Elisabeth Moss, and supporting bids for Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, Yvonne Strahovski and Joseph Fiennes.
“The reaction is beyond what you hoped, but in some ways it’s a testament to the alchemy that comes from a lot of people working together and putting their best work into it,” said Handmaid’s series executive producer Bruce Miller. “Everybody from the composer to the makeup people to everyone, so it’s such a team effort. That’s the wonderful thing about being recognized.
Other drama series contenders are Westworld, with an impressive 21 nods; The Americans, nominated for its final season and with nods for stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys; The Crown, Stranger Things and This Is Us from NBC, the only broadcast show to make the cut.
Shawn Levy, a producer of Stranger Things, got the good news after landing in New York following weeks of directing season three episodes in Georgia.
“We not only faced the burden of expectation given the show’s popularity, but we did want to top ourselves, we did not want to repeat ourselves,” he said. “Our deepest fear was complacency.”
Competing with Moss, Oh and Russell for lead drama actress are Claire Foy for The Crown, Tatiana Maslay of Orphan Black and Evan Rachel Wood of Westworld.
Rhys will be up against last year’s winner, Sterling K. Brown for This Is Us, along with his castmate Milo Ventimiglia; Jason Bateman for ‘Ozark’ and Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright for Westworld.
Brown is also nominated for guest actor for Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
The Emmys ceremony airs September 17 with Colin Jost and Michael Che of Saturday Night Live as hosts.