This year's Emmy Award nominations are full of the expected honorees, but they also include a few dark horses. The Post's Emily Yahr has four things you should know about in this pack of nominees. (Nicki DeMarco, Tom LeGro and Emily Yahr/The Washington Post)

The Television Academy announced the 2014 Emmy Award nominations Thursday morning. There were snubs and big winners, but  “True Detective” delivered the biggest surprise and “Orange is the New Black’s” Laverne Cox  made history.  The total list of nominees is here.

Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender woman to be nominated for an Emmy. She was nominated for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series for her role in “Orange is the New Black.” She’s has attracted unprecedented media attention this year. She landed the cover of Time magazine and plans to publish her memoir in 2015.

The Post’s Emily Yahr explains how “True Detective” took a gamble by entering the outstanding drama category.

A bold move by “True Detective” paid off – the HBO crime noir series, which made news when it was submitted as a drama instead of a miniseries, scored a best drama series nod at the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations on Thursday morning.  

The Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson vehicle (both veterans landed nods for lead actor in a drama) was nominated in the fiercely competitive category alongside the predictable regulars: “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “House of Cards” “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones.

“True Detective’s” nomination eliminated “Homeland,” usually a regular in the outstanding drama category, Yahr goes on to explain.

Which show did “True Detective” knock off the best drama series list? That would be 2012 winner “Homeland.” The Showtime terrorism nailbiter got bumped after a roundly criticized season – however, star Claire Danes did pick up a nod for best actress in a drama. She was joined by Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey,” Robin Wright of “House of Cards” and Kerry Washington of “Scandal.” Julianna Margulies jumped back into the mix after an especially emotional season of “The Good Wife,” while Lizzy Caplan picked up her first nom for Showtime freshman series “Masters of Sex.”

Although “True Detective” gambled and got a best drama nomination, it didn’t receive the most nominations. That throne goes to HBO’s other blockbuster — “Game of Thrones” — which raked in 19.

Speaking of HBO’s fantasy epic, “Game of Thrones” landed the most nominations with 19. That was followed by a big day for FX: Newcomer “Fargo,” based on the movie, picked up 18 nominations by submitting as a miniseries; in the same category, the network’s gorefest, “American Horror Story: Coven,” nabbed 17 nods. The final season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and HBO television movie “The Normal Heart,” about the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, tied for fourth place with 16 nominations each.

But as usual, there were a few snubs. BBC America’s “Orphan Black” was left out of any nominations. Most people expected Tatiana Maslany to be nominated for lead actress in a drama. But that was no surprise to Yahr and those who know the Emmys. The Emmys don’t do quirky, often skip over lesser known channels and as much as people love “Orphan Black,” not a lot of people watch it.

* The Emmys don’t do “quirky.” At the end of it all, no matter how many Netflix shows get nominated, the Emmy Awards are still about as by-the-book as you can get. Eccentric, cult-favorite shows are simply not on the radar of many voters (which encompasses 18,000 “television professionals” across the industry), especially in the glam categories. Every year, it’s generally the same thing: Prestige cable/Netflix shows along with the mainstream, reputable network hits — though less in recent years — and veteran actors. 

* Unless you carry a new hit show, it’s nearly impossible to break into the lead actress in a drama category. Unfortunately, “Orphan Black” doesn’t really qualify as a “hit,” no matter how much its viewers love it. (Exception: If you’re a veteran actor beloved by Emmy voters, such as Kathy Bates. That’s why she got a nod for “Harry’s Law.”)

Not even FX’s “The Americans,” which Post TV critic Hank Stuever says is the best drama on television, could muster up a nomination.

For the first time ever, reality shows were eligible for three categories: outstanding reality-competition program,  outstanding structured reality program and outstanding unstructured reality program. 

Yep – the “Real Housewives” franchise is absolutely eligible for an Emmy. As you may have guessed by some of the titles above, the list of potential nominees for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program is pretty incredible. The best part: By virtue of the fact that all non-competition reality shows are now divided into two lists – and the more “reputable” ones are over in the “structured” category – the odds just got a whole lot better for, say, the Kardashians to take home an Emmy.

— Emily Yahr

Despite topping the ratings, “The Kardashians” and “The Real Housewives” were not nominated for an Emmy. The academy went for safer bets like  “Alaska: Last Frontier,” “Deadliest Catch,” “Flipping Out,” “Million Dollar Listing,” “Wahlburgers”  and “Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan.”

Not surprisingly, the stars of the series that were nominated celebrated on twitter.


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