Lena Dunham and Zooey Deschanel are among the fresh faces in this year's Emmy race.
"Mad Men" may be poised to win its record-breaking fifth Emmy for outstanding drama, but as Thursday's announcement of nominations indicated, this past season was really about madcap women.
"Girls" and "Veep," two new HBO sitcoms featuring heroines on the verge of a nervous breakdown, joined a list of Emmy veterans -- "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "30 Rock," "Modern Family," "The Big Bang Theory"-- to make one of the strongest slates of outstanding-comedy nominees in years.
Fox's "New Girl" didn't make that cut, but its star, Zooey Deschanel, snagged a nod for outstanding lead actress, a category so rich with talent that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences made room for seven nominees, which include "Girls" creator Lena Dunham and "Veep" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus along with Edie Falco ("Nurse Jackie"), Amy Poehler ("Parks & Recreation"), Tina Fey ("30 Rock") and last year's winner, Melissa McCarthy ("Mike & Molly").
Dunham, 26, also was recognized in the writing and directing categories.
Just how strong is the competition for TV's best comedic actress? Consider that Laura Linney ("The Big C"), Laura Dern ("Enlightened") and Patricia Heaton ("The Middle") -- slam dunks in most years -- were passed over.
Women didn't make quite as strong a mark in the drama category, which was dominated by macho-heavy series "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "Game of Thrones" and "Boardwalk Empire." But "Downton Abbey," where Maggie Smith's barbs can be just as deadly as a warrior's sword, did get recognized, as did "Homeland," whose star, Claire Danes, has a strong chance of collecting her second Emmy as best actress.
One notable absentee: CBS's "The Good Wife." This is also the first time in Emmy history that the commercial broadcast networks have been shut out of the drama category.
Jessica Lange is a favorite
If "Mad Men" wins, it will become the first drama ever to collect five awards for outstanding drama. It faces heavy competition from "Downton Abbey," which was victorious last year in the miniseries/movies category.
"Mad Men" collected a total of 17 nominations, as did the FX miniseries "American Horror Story." Minnesota native Jessica Lange was among "Story"s honorees and is considered the front-runner for supporting actress in a movie/miniseries. A two-time Oscar winner, Lange got an Emmy three years ago for "Grey Gardens."
"Abbey" and "Hatfields & McCoys," History Channel's first scripted program, each received 16 nominations. HBO's romantic drama "Hemingway & Gellhorn" earned 15 nominations, including nods for Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen.
If it was a particularly strong year for cable, it was a particularly poor one for diversity. Among the performers nominated for leading roles, the only people of color were Don Cheadle for the Showtime comedy "House of Lies" and Idris Elba for the BBC America miniseries "Luther."
The Emmys will air Sept. 23 on ABC with host Jimmy Kimmel, who showed up Thursday morning to announce the major nominees in his pajamas.
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