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AMC’s tony Madison Avenue period piece “Mad Men” moved one step closer to making Emmy history as the most honored drama series on Thursday when it bagged a leading 17 noms, including its fifth best-series bid.

View Photo Gallery: The 2012 Emmy nominees were announced Thursday. “Mad Men” and “American Horror Story” lead the pack with 17 Emmy Award nominations each.

“Mad Men” has won the best-drama Emmy four consecutive years and is now tied with “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “The West Wing” for most wins in that category.

“Mad Men’s” 17 noms tied the tally of FX’s haunted house nightmare “American Horror Story.”

The FX anthology series pulled off this feat by not competing as a drama against “Mad Men.” After competing in the drama-series races at the Golden Globe Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards a few months ago, the decision makers behind “American Horror Story” decided the show is a miniseries for Emmy purposes — a strategy that had already paid off Thursday morning, including an acting nom for star Connie Britton.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: Taissa Farmiga “American Horror Story” (FX)

ABC’s “Modern Family,” two-time winner of the best comedy series competition, is that genre’s leader, with 14 noms, including one for best series. But girl power erupted like a rash in the comedy competition Thursday, including four noms to Hollywood’s new It Girl, Lena Dunham, who received acting, writing, and directing noms for her dark new coming of age HBO comedy, “Girls,” as well as a nom for the show itself.

For the first time, Fox’s singing competition “American Idol” – the country’s most popular non-football TV program – got cut out of the competition for best reality-competition series.

And yet, maybe the biggest surprise of Thursday morning’s reading of the nominees in the Emmy glam categories was — Betty White.

The wily nonagenarian — host of NBC’s “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” — has replaced “Survivor’s” host Jeff Probst in the race for best reality competition series host. This is no small feat, given that Probst has won this competition every year since the category was created.

Were “AHS” competing against “Mad Men” and ‘Downton” in the drama-series derby, it also would be facing HBO’s Prohibition era “Boardwalk Empire,” AMC’s teacher-turned-meth-dealer “Breaking Bad,” Showtime’s freshman espionage drama “Homeland,” and HBO’s swords-and-sex drama “Game of Thrones.”

”Downton Abbey” (AP)

According to the TV academy, its Primetime Awards Committee decided that it “considers [‘Downton’] to have transitioned from a stand-alone miniseries, ‘based on a single theme or story line, which is resolved within the piece’ — Rules Book, p. 122 — to a Drama Series, ‘in which the ongoing theme, storyline and main characters are presented under the same title and have continuity of production supervision’ — Rules Book, p. 119.”

We’ll give you a minute to digest that.

It may be small consolation for “Downton” and PBS, but the elegant soap is considered by many to have the best chance of toppling “Mad Men.”

“Modern Family” is considered by pundits to have a lock on the best-comedy category again thi year so Thursday’s nominations announcement may have been the Big Emmy Moment for “Girls” in that race, as well as fellow nominees “Veep” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as VPOTUS, “30 Rock,” and guy-centric comedies “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “The Big Bang Theory.”

“Modern Family” once again nearly ran the table in the supporting acting categories, including nods to cast members Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Ed O’Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet.

Lena Dunham of “Girls” (Ali Paige Goldstein/AP)

Only two newcomers made the best comedy actor race this year. Showtime’s “House of Lies” star Don Cheadle is among many respected film actors who have migrated to cable TV because they say it’s so hard to find good roles in the big effects/slacker comedy obsessed movie industry. Another newcomer, “Two and a Half Men’s” Jon Cryer, is six-times nominated (and one time winning) in the Emmy race for best comedy supporting actor. But this year the TV academy bestowed upon him a nom in the lead contest — the least they could do to acknowledge his having survived the Charlie Sheen years.

Cryer has a tough race ahead of him; that field also includes two-time winner Jim Parsons of “Big Bang Theory,” Larry David, Louis C.K., and “30 Rock’s” Alec Baldwin.

While “Mad Men” has been batting 1.000, its cast is still 0-for-however-many years each has been nominated. And this doesn’t look to be a good year for star Jon Hamm, who is facing particularly stiff competition this year. He’s in company with “newcomers” Damian Lewis of “Homeland,” and “Downton Abbey” patriarch Hugh Bonneville, as well as return nominees Steve Buscemi of “Boardwalk Empire,” and “Dexter’s” Michael C. Hall.

And, perhaps most formidably, “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, is back, after sitting out last year’s Emmys owing to his AMC show having not aired in the eligibility period. Cranston has won this derby every year he’s been eligible.

On the flip side, “House” star Hugh Laurie, who has never won an Emmy for his title role in that Fox doc drama, was not nominated for his last season.

Kathy Bates, on the other hand, will get one last at-bat for her work on NBC’s canceled “Harry’s Law.” She’s in the race for best drama actress — this time facing Claire Danes, who’s already won the Golden Globe Award and a Critics’ Choice TV Award for her “Homeland” role. Joining them are “Downton’s” Michelle Dockery, as well as “Damages’s” Glenn Close,” last year’s winner Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife,” and “Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss.

Will any variety series be nominated that can end “The Daily Show’s” nine-year winning streak? Jimmy Kimmel’s ABC show got its first nomination in this category Thursday, joining Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Saturday Night Live” — and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” The nomination of Maher’s show, revealed Thursday, caused a collective sign of relief to break out among Emmy wonks, who had worried he would be snubbed this year and not be able to further fuel his record losing streak.

The HBO late night show host been nominated for 27 Emmys since 1995 for various programs, as a performer, producer and writer, but has never won.

“Should I give a speech now?” a pajama-clad Jimmy Kimmel asked Thursday morning as he stood on stage at the TV academy’s theater. Kimmel had been a last minute fill-in to help read the names in the glam categories at the nomination ceremony. The ABC late night shot host agreed to step in late Wednesday when “Parks and Recreation’s” Nick Offerman bailed, citing bad weather on the East Coast.

Actress Kerry Washington (L) and TV host Jimmy Kimmel/ (Kevin Winter/GETTY IMAGES)

(After the ceremony wrapped, four minutes later, Kimmel cracked, “the Emmys should be spelled ‘M-E’, cause that what this is all about.” Kimmel also said that it was an honor to be nominated, but, when asked, said of his fellow competitors in the category, “I think they all stink. I don’t like any of them.”)

Incredibly, Betty White is nominated for two separate shows this year. White’s 90th birthday special on NBC landed a nomination, for best variety special. But it was her nom for best reality or reality-competition program host that caused a collective gasp at the TV academy’s theater during the glam category unveiling.

White replaces Jeff Probst, who has won the Emmy in this category every year since it was created — causing “Dancing with the Stars” host Tom Bergeron to start calling it The Jeff Probst Award.

Thursday morning, Bergeron tweeted: “Emmy Prediction: Probst will still find a way to win this thing!”

Besides Bergeron, who’s in the running again this year — and White — this race includes “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, “So You Think You Can Dance’s” Cat Deeley, and “The Amazing Race’s” Phil Keoghan.

Meanwhile, the big news in the running for best reality competition series is the dropping of “American Idol” to make room for NBC’s singing competish “The Voice.” Of course, it’s sort of academic, because nine-time winner “The Amazing Race” is back. Also in the running are “Dancing with the Stars,” “Project Runway,” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

In its bid for best miniseries or movie, “American Horror Story” is not going to have such a prance through the park as maybe hoped. HBO’s Sarah Palin story “Game Change” is nominated, as is HBO’s period biopic “Hemingway & Gelhorn,” BBC America’s cop drama “Luther,” PBS’s “Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia,” and History’s “Hatfields & McCoys,” which is the highest-rated entertainment telecast of all time on ad-supported cable.

Likewise, “AHS” star Britton, nominated in the longform acting category, faces serious star wattage in the form of Julianne Moore, who’s nommed for her uncanny transformation into the 2008 VPOTUS candidate in “Game Change.”

Other Hollywood luminaries competing here are Nicole Kidman, who played war correspondent Martha Gelhorn in “Hemingway & Gelhorn,” Emma Thompson, star of PBS’s “Masterpiece” production of “A Song of Lunch,” and Ashley Judd, who starred in ABC’s drama series “Missing” which was so short-lived they decided to call it a miniseries.

The star wattage was blinding in the best movie/mini actor competish. Nominees this year are Kevin Costner, who played “Devil” Hatfield in “Hatfield & McCoys” and Bill Paxton, who played his nemesis Randall McCoy. Other big screen stars in this category: Clive Owen, who was Ernest Hemingway to Kidman’s Gelhorn in that HBO biopic, Woody Harrelson as Steve Schmidt in “Game Change” and “Sherlocks’s” Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s starring in the upcoming umpteenth iteration of “Stark Trek.” They’re also joined by “Luther’s” Idris Elba.

Laden with “Hemington & Gelhorn’s” 15 noms, 12 for “Game Change’s” 12, “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones’s” 11 apiece, and “Girls’s” five, among others, premium cable network HBO led the network tally with 81 nods Thursday. But it was followed most closely by broadcaster CBS which copped 60 noms, spread across a wide landscape of traditional sitcoms, “The Good Wife” and a slew of Emmy-bait trophy shows and specials like “The Kennedy Center Honors.”

Meanwhile, the CBS co-owned broadcast network accrued no Emmy nominations. After the full list was released Thurdsay, CW tweeted, “Emmy nominations day! Or as we call it, Thursday.”

This year’s Primetime Emmy Awards Show will air Sunday, Sept. 23 on ABC.

See the list of nominees here.


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‘American Horror Story’: Its miniseries Emmy bid pays off