Tina Fey's acclaimed NBC sitcom 30 Rock led all shows and made history with a record 22 nominations. But outside of that network triumph, cable TV once again dominated the prime-time Emmy award nominations in most major categories.
Premium cable channel HBO led the field with a total of 99 nominations, while NBC finished a distant second with 67. HBO ran away from the pack with its superiority in movies and miniseries.
Grey Gardens, a film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange as two eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, earned 17 nominations alone. Taking Chance and Generation Kill, two socially conscious productions related to the conflict in Iraq, combined for another 21. One of the nominations for Generation Kill went to Baltimore writer-producer David Simon.
In an effort to widen the field, the Emmys increased the number of nominees in major categories this year; there were seven each for best drama and best comedy. Cable swamped the networks in the most prestigious category of outstanding drama.
Two of the top drama series nominations went to cable channel AMC for Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Mad Men, which made history in 2008 as the first basic cable channel to win as best drama, ran up 16 nominations Thursday - second only to 30 Rock in the number of Emmys for any series.
And in a case of network excellence meets cable greatness, Hamm also was nominated for a guest-starring role on 30 Rock.
Other cable nominees in the realm of best drama are HBO's Big Love, Showtime's Dexter and FX's Damages.
The lone network nominees for best drama are ABC's Lost and Fox's House.
All in all, it is a most impressive group, though some folks are sure to be arguing about the snub for the final seasons of FX's The Shield and the Syfy channel's Battlestar Galactica. HBO's True Blood, which is emerging as the channel's first Sunday hit since The Sopranos, also was overlooked.
Among the biggest surprises were those in the category of best comedy, where HBO's Flight of the Conchords and Fox's Family Guy were among those earning nominations.
Conchords is mainly thought of as an off-beat niche program, while Family Guy is only the second animated comedy to ever be nominated. The first was The Flintstones in 1961. Since it lost that year, Family Guy could be the first animated series to ever win the Emmy for best comedy.
It will, though, have a daunting uphill struggle against 30 Rock, which won last year and again brought some much-needed prestige back to network TV with its record setting performance Thursday.
In addition to the nod as best comedy series, Fey's sitcom about a fictional TV show picked up nominations for best comedy actress for Fey and best comedy actor for Alec Baldwin.
Competing against 30 Rock, Family Guy and Conchords for the best comedy trophy will be NBC's The Office, Showtime's Weeds, HBO's Entourage and the CBS series How I Met Your Mother.
Besides Baldwin, the contenders for best lead actor in a comedy are Steve Carrell (The Office), Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Charlie Sheen (Two and Half Men) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory).
Parsons served as co-host of the Emmy nominations announcement show yesterday along with Chandra Wilson, who also picked up a nomination - for her dramatic supporting work in Grey's Anatomy.
Besides Fey, best-actress nominees in comedy are Christina Applegate (Samantha Who?), Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silver man Program), Mary Louise-Parker (Weeds), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Ad ventures of Old Christine) and Toni Collette (The United States of Tara).
Another of the prestigious categories is best lead actor in a drama series. Competing against Mad Men's Hamm are last year's winner, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad,) Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Laurie (House), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment) and Simon Baker (The Mentalist).
Along with Mad Men's Moss, the nominees for lead actress in a drama series are Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), last year's winner, Glenn Close (Damages), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Holly Hunter (Saving Grace). All but Field and Hargitay are in cable series.
HBO ran the table on movies and miniseries. Grey Gardens scored 17 nominations - tying the record for the most Emmy nominations for a made-for-TV movie. Other big winners for HBO were the movies Taking Chance, with 10 nominations, and Into the Storm, with 14.
Generation Kill, which was adapted and executive-produced in part by Simon and Ed Burns, was nominated as best mini-series. Simon received his solo nomination in the category of best writing for a movie, miniseries or dramatic special for an episode of the seven-part series titled Bomb in the Garden.
Based on the book of the same title by Evan Wright, the film chronicles what Wright saw as a reporter embedded with the Marines' 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at the start of the conflict in Iraq in 2003.
Another writer with Baltimore ties, Robin Veith, was nominated for the second year in a row for her work on Mad Men. Veith, who was raised in Baltimore but now lives in Los Angeles, is a staff writer on the series about Madison Avenue in the 1960s.
The Emmy voters also took notice of a longtime TV actress by posthumously nominating Farrah Fawcett in the category of outstanding nonfiction special for Farrah's Story, the NBC documentary she made with friend, Alana Stewart, about her battle with cancer. Fawcett died last month at age 62.
The 61st annual Prime Time Emmy Awards telecast will air Sept. 20 on CBS with Neil Patrick Harris as host.