Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson, L) visits Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard, R) to claim her share of the company on “Empire.” CR: Chuck Hodes/FOX

Big news: The Emmy Award nominations are Thursday morning, and rejoice, because they will be announced at 11:20 a.m. ET/8:20 a.m. PT instead of 8:20 a.m. ET/5:20 a.m. PT!

(Crickets)

Okay, maybe it’s only a big deal to sleep-deprived reporters who cover the nominations every year; plus, you know, the actual showbiz types who wake up at the crack of dawn to find out if they’re nominated. But it’s understandable if the Emmy nominations aren’t on everyone’s radar. After all, it’s known as the awards show that nominates the same shows and actors over and over and over and over again.

[Emmy nominations and the fierce strategy behind choosing a category]

However, this year, we advise you to pay attention — there are many signs that the nominations (which precede the Sept. 20 show, hosted by Andy Samberg) might actually be pretty interesting. We’ll go even further and say exciting. Here are five reasons why:

1) An influx of critically-acclaimed new shows and actors.

Amazon’s “Transparent,” Fox’s “Empire,” CW’s “Jane the Virgin”: Three shows that made big waves last TV season, and now, they have their first chance to be nominated. The Golden Globes already got a jump on things by giving big honors to “Transparent” (best comedy; best comedy actor for Jeffrey Tambor) and “Jane the Virgin” (best comedy actress for Gina Rodriguez). History-making “Empire” wasn’t eligible for the Golden Globes, but we don’t even want to know what will happen if Taraji P. Henson doesn’t get a drama actress nomination for her groundbreaking portrayal of Cookie.

Plus, now that “Breaking Bad” is over and has cleared the way for some new drama nominees, look out for less critically-loved but Golden Globe favorites “The Affair” and “How to Get Away With Murder” to get some attention, particularly with actors Dominic West, Ruth Wilson and Viola Davis, respectively. On the comedy side, Netflix’s Tina Fey series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” should also make a splash.

Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" is Netflix's latest comedy series. (Netflix)

2) New rules that make things a little less infuriating.

Uzo Aduba is phenomenal and heartbreaking as Crazy Eyes in “Orange is the New Black” — still, um, why did she win as Guest Actress in a Comedy last year when she’s in nearly every episode? Loopholes like that trip up viewers and voters every year, and frankly just look silly. Finally, the TV Academy addressed the issue: This year, to qualify as a “guest star,” an actor or actress can’t be in more than half of the season’s episodes.

Another new rule that will keep things fair in the always-contentious drama vs. comedy debate: Now, half-hour shows are automatically considered comedies, while hour-long shows are instantly in the drama category, so you won’t have “Orange is the New Black” trying to sneak in as a comedy. (Although hour-long “Shameless,” “Jane the Virgin” and “Glee” appealed their decisions, and the academy ruled they can compete as comedies.)

3) More choices for best series.

The academy also expanded the race for best program, so now there will be seven options in the best drama and best comedy categories. Sure, we’ll obviously have the usual suspects for each (“Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “Downton Abbey,” “Modern Family,” “Veep”) but there may be some wild cards. Particularly because “True Detective” and “Breaking Bad,” which took up room in the drama race last year, aren’t even eligible this time around.

John Oliver and Amy Schumer at the Time 100 gala. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) John Oliver and Amy Schumer at the Time 100 gala. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

4) Potential acceptance speeches from John Oliver and Amy Schumer.

Another new twist: The academy split “best variety series” into two different categories: “talk show” and “sketch.” That means that HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and Comedy Central’s “Inside Amy Schumer,” two of the buzziest series from the past year, don’t even have to compete against each other — and both are basically locks to be nominated.

5) Another big farewell from David Letterman.

You know what David Letterman hates? Award shows. Doesn’t matter: Although “Late Show” was shut out of the variety series category last year, there’s little chance the academy will let him walk off into the retirement sunset without giving him a nod for his final season. And an even smaller chance they’ll let him off the hook without a win.

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