Wiczyk believes the nominations are evidence of the "excellence of the show" and the effectiveness of the "campaign Netflix is running."

Emmy campaigns matter, especially when the overall level of excellence is as high as it is in the Best Drama category this year.

Last year's winner, "Homeland," is nominated again, and Showtime is going all out to get votes for the series that last year finally brought the premium cable channel some long-sought parity with HBO when it swept the top drama awards with wins by Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and the series itself.

The win by "Homeland" denied "Mad Men" a record-breaking fifth Emmy as best drama, and AMC is pulling out all the stops to make it happen this year. And if any show is going to beat out "Mad Men," the channel wants it to be "Breaking Bad," which is sure to have a lot of support by nature of its run ending this month. "Breaking Bad" is the Hollywood favorite.

But no one could be more tired of hearing about Netflix and "House of Cards" than HBO, which has "Game of Thrones" in the hunt, and twice as many nominations as anyone else — but not half the buzz of Netflix.

And then, there's "Downton Abbey," the series that brought PBS back from the ratings dead — if only temporarily.

"‘House of Cards' and Netflix have already won by nature of the nominations and how quickly they've managed to be on the same stage with such outstanding drama series," TV historian Robert J. Thompson says.

"Look at the history of pay cable," he explains. "HBO started in 1972, and it broke through in the Emmys probably in 2000 when James Gandolfini won as best actor in drama. … That's a long time. But this is really Netflix's first major try at original scripted programming, and it is instantly recognized alongside such great dramas. That's enough. Winning might almost be too much. People might be angry if it beats ‘Breaking Bad' on its first try."

Despite such stiff competition, "House of Cards" has a "serious shot" at winning as best drama, says O'Neil, one of Hollywood's top awards handicappers.

"It looks very much like a past winner in this category -- ‘The West Wing' -- except that it stars anti-heroes instead of heroes," he says.

Nor does there appear to be any bloc voting against "House of Cards," according to O'Neil, despite the challenge its success poses to some of the indutsry powers that be.

A win by "House of Cards" at the Emmys would also burnish Baltimore's reputation as a place for TV productions to find Emmy gold.

Baltimore-made "Veep," an HBO comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as vice president of the United States, could also be one of the night's major story lines if Dreyfus repeats as best actress in a comedy and the series wins as best comedy. This is "Veep's" first nomination as best comedy, while Louis-Dreyfus is a favorite to win her fourth Emmy.

Best-drama and best-comedy Emmys for two shows about Washington but made in Baltimore would be a compelling story line, wouldn't it? And both shows feature a withering critique of life behind closed doors in our nation's capital at a time when the politicians of the Potomac are held in particularly low esteem by the rest of the country.

Washington's misery is Baltimore's TV glory on Emmy night.

Yeah, I like that story line a lot.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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