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'Mad Men,' 'American Horror Story' lead Emmy nods

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel, right, reacts alongside fellow presenter Kerry Washington after "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" was nominated for Outstanding Variety Series during the nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)Comedian Jimmy Kimmel, right, reacts alongside fellow presenter Kerry Washington after "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" was nominated for Outstanding Variety Series during the nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "Mad Men," a piercingly bleak portrait of a 1960s American anti-hero, earned a leading 17 Emmy nominations Thursday and the chance to set a new record as the most-honored drama in television history.

AMC's "Mad Men," which has won four best drama series trophies and is tied with "Hill Street Blues," ''L.A. Law" and "The West Wing," received a fifth bid in the category.

"It's insane. I can't believe it," said "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner. "I can't believe we are on the air. I can't believe that people don't call AMC A&E anymore. I'm so proud of the network."

In this publicity photo released by AMC, Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson is shown in Episode 11, Season 5, of "Mad Men." Moss was nominated for an Emmy award on Thursday, July 19, 2012 for outstanding actress in a drama series for her role as Peggy Olson. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/AMC, Jordin Althaus)In this publicity photo released by AMC, Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson is shown in Episode 11, Season 5, of "Mad Men." Moss was nominated for an Emmy award on Thursday, July 19, 2012 for outstanding actress in a drama series for her role as Peggy Olson. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/AMC, Jordin Althaus)

The miniseries "American Horror Story," a nightmarish saga about a haunted house, received a matching 17 awards, including an acting nod for star Connie Britton.

Other leading nominees include the elegant British-born soap opera "Downton Abbey," which earned 16 bids, and two miniseries, "Hatfields & McCoys," with 16, and "Hemingway & Gellhorn" with 15.

"Modern Family," honored as best comedy series for the past two years, was the sitcom leader with 14 bids and practically ran the table in supporting actor nods, but the comedy realm also saw an infusion of girl power.

This undated image released by FX shows Connie Britton in a scene from "American Horror Story." On Thursday, July 19, 2012 "American Horror Story" received 17 Emmy nominations including a nomination for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/FX, Mike Ansell)This undated image released by FX shows Connie Britton in a scene from "American Horror Story." On Thursday, July 19, 2012 "American Horror Story" received 17 Emmy nominations including a nomination for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/FX, Mike Ansell)

Breakout comedies with women at their center — in fashion after the box-office success of "Bridesmaids" — proved alluring to Emmy voters.

"Girls," creator-star Lena Dunham's darkly comedic coming-of-age New York story, received a best comedy nod and acting, writing and directing nominations for her. Zooey Deschanel's offbeat charm in "New Girl" earned her an acting bid.

"I have had the shriekiest morning of my life," said Dunham, as she arrived on set in New York to shoot the second season of "Girls." ''I literally feel like I got asked to the prom and engaged and told I was going to the moon all in one day. Not to be too dramatic."

This publicity photo released by HBO, shows the creator and star, Lena Dunham, of the HBO TV series, "Girls." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding comedy series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC.(AP Photo/HBO, Ali Paige Goldstein)This publicity photo released by HBO, shows the creator and star, Lena Dunham, of the HBO TV series, "Girls." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding comedy series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC.(AP Photo/HBO, Ali Paige Goldstein)

"I jumped around in my bed and I ran down the hall that's in my apartment building that's not even part of my house without my pants on," she said.

"Girls" is HBO's "current spin on 'Sex and the City,' which was a strong past Emmy favorite," said Tom O'Neil, editor of the Gold Derby awards website. He called Dunham the current "toast of Hollywood."

Melissa McCarthy, who appeared in "Bridesmaids," has a chance to repeat last year's victory as best comedy actress winner for "Mike & Molly."

In this publicity photo released by Showtime, actress, Claire Danes, as Carrie Mathison is shown in Episode 10, of "Homeland." Danes was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding actress in a drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012, for her role as Carrie Mathison on "Homeland." The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/Showtime, Kent Smith)In this publicity photo released by Showtime, actress, Claire Danes, as Carrie Mathison is shown in Episode 10, of "Homeland." Danes was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding actress in a drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012, for her role as Carrie Mathison on "Homeland." The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/Showtime, Kent Smith)

Emmy darling Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with past wins for "Seinfeld" and "New Adventures of Old Christine," earned an acting nod for "Veep," which received a best comedy nomination.

Betty White, 90, brought her veteran brand of female empowerment to the nominations, earning two bids — best reality series host nod for "Betty White's Off Their Rockers" and best variety special for "Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America's Golden Girl."

White may have banished someone else from the best reality show host category: A no-show this time was perennial winner Jeff Probst of "Survivor."

In this publicity photo released by FOX, "New Girl" cast from left, Lamorne Morris, Jake Johnson, Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone are shown. The second season of "New Girl" premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25 with an all new episode airing at (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) and the season premiere episode airing at (9:00-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Newcomers "Girls" and "New Girl" are vying for honors in the comedy series for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards. Nominations are announced Thursday, July 19, 2012. (AP Photo/FOX, Dewey Nicks)In this publicity photo released by FOX, "New Girl" cast from left, Lamorne Morris, Jake Johnson, Zooey Deschanel, Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone are shown. The second season of "New Girl" premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25 with an all new episode airing at (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) and the season premiere episode airing at (9:00-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Newcomers "Girls" and "New Girl" are vying for honors in the comedy series for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards. Nominations are announced Thursday, July 19, 2012. (AP Photo/FOX, Dewey Nicks)

Top nominations were announced by Kerry Washington of "Scandal" and by Jimmy Kimmel, who will host the awards and who filled in Thursday for Nick Offerman of "Parks and Recreation," held up by weather-related travel delays on the East Coast.

"This is a sex dream, isn't it?" joked Kimmel, ABC's late-night host, who arrived on stage at the TV academy dressed in pajamas. "Jimmy Kimmel Live" was nominated in the variety category.

The Emmy ceremony is scheduled to air on ABC on Sept. 23.

FILE - In this file photo released by PBS, Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, left, and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary are shown in a scene from the second season on "Downton Abbey." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE, File)FILE - In this file photo released by PBS, Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, left, and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary are shown in a scene from the second season on "Downton Abbey." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE, File)

Academy voters paid tribute to the late Kathryn Joosten, who received a supporting actress bid for her role as Wisteria Lane neighbor Karen McClusky in "Desperate Housewives." Joosten, who had won two Emmys for the role, died in June of lung cancer.

The show's other stars failed to make the Emmy cut for its eighth and final season. Hugh Laurie, whose show "House" also wrapped after eight years, didn't get a last shot at winning a trophy for his cranky Dr. House.

This image released by AMC shows Bryan Cranston as Walter White, left, and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in a scene from the season 5 premiere of "Breaking Bad." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/AMC, Ursula Coyote)This image released by AMC shows Bryan Cranston as Walter White, left, and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in a scene from the season 5 premiere of "Breaking Bad." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/AMC, Ursula Coyote)

"American Idol," TV's top-rated non-sports show, was shut out of the best reality series contest for the first time in its 11-year history, although Ryan Seacrest was nominated as host. Its biggest competition in the reality-singing category, "The Voice," did get a nod. Adding to the sting, "Idol" has seen its audience steadily erode and is searching for judges to replace Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

Competition for "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey" includes national security drama "Homeland," prohibition-era crime saga "Boardwalk Empire," teacher-turned-drugmaker tale "Breaking Bad" and the elaborate fantasy "Game of Thrones," based on George R.R. Martin's novels.

FILE - In this publicity file photo provided by HBO, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, left, and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, are shown in a scene from HBO's "Game of Thrones." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/HBO, Paul Schiraldi, File)FILE - In this publicity file photo provided by HBO, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, left, and Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, are shown in a scene from HBO's "Game of Thrones." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding drama series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/HBO, Paul Schiraldi, File)

"Downton Abbey," which has earned ratings and buzz for PBS, was named best miniseries last year but was switched to the drama category this time around. The TV academy's prime-time awards committee decided its continuing story line made it a series.

"American Horror Story" decided to move to the miniseries category after competing as a drama series in the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.

Besides "Modern Family," ''Girls" and "Veep," comedy series nominees include "The Big Bang Theory," ''30 Rock" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

In this publicity photo released by ABC, Rico Rodriguez, left, and Sofia Vergara are shown in a scene from “Modern Family." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding comedy series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/ABC, Peter “Hopper” Stone)In this publicity photo released by ABC, Rico Rodriguez, left, and Sofia Vergara are shown in a scene from “Modern Family." The program was nominated for an Emmy award for outstanding comedy series on Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (AP Photo/ABC, Peter “Hopper” Stone)

Big-screen stars who have a shot at the small-screen trophy for their TV movie work include Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman for "Hemingway & Gellhorn," about the tumultuous romance of Ernest Hemingway and journalist Martha Gellhorn, Julianne Moore for her portrayal of Sarah Palin in "Game Change" and Kevin Costner for "Hatfields & McCoys."

Rising British star Benedict Cumberbatch won a bid for his contemporary "Sherlock" portrayal. "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia" earned 13 bids as a "Masterpiece" movie on PBS.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel arrives onstage wearing pajamas and slippers before announcing the nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)Comedian Jimmy Kimmel arrives onstage wearing pajamas and slippers before announcing the nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 19, 2012. The 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented Sept. 23 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Kimmel and airing live on ABC. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

"Mad Men" star Jon Hamm, who hasn't shared in his show's string of wins, will have his fifth shot at a lead actor Emmy. Bryan Cranston, the "Breaking Bad" star who denied Hamm the award three times before, was nominated again for his role as a teacher with cancer who gets embroiled in drug trafficking.

"Our show is like stinky cheese," Cranston said. "You have to develop a taste for it."

Also nominated were Steve Buscemi for "Boardwalk Empire," Michael C. Hall for "Dexter," Hugh Bonneville for "Downton Abbey" and Damian Lewis for "Homeland."

Buscemi found out he'd earned a nomination on a day he was scheduled to go to the "Boardwalk Empire" set. "I'm glad I'm working today so I get a chance to see everybody, so that the nominations are still fresh. I think it will lift everybody's spirits today," he said.

In the actress category, last year's winner Julianna Margulies of "The Good Wife" is joined by Moss, Claire Danes for "Homeland," Glenn Close for "Damages," Michelle Dockery of "Downton Abbey" and Kathy Bates of "Harry's Law."

On the comedy side, Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" got a bid and the chance for a third victory. Also nominated were Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock," Louis C.K. of "Louie," Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men," Don Cheadle of "House of Lies" and Larry David of "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Among lead comedy actresses, McCarthy is joined by Dunham, Deschanel, Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation," Edie Falco of "Nurse Jackie" and Tina Fey of "30 Rock."

The ensemble cast of "Modern Family" cleaned up in the supporting comedy categories, with Ed O'Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet capturing four of the six slots and actresses Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara showing the flag for the women.

Max Greenfield, who plays Schmidt on "New Girl," won a nomination for best supporting actor in a comedy and was already thinking of the awards ceremony.

"Zooey and I are coordinating outfits right now," he said. "We're trying to figure out what we're gonna wear. We obviously don't wanna wear the same thing. Can you imagine how embarrassing that would be?"

HBO had a leading 81 nominations, while CBS had the highest network total with 60. PBS received 58 nods, followed by NBC with 51, ABC with 48, AMC with 34, Fox with 26 and Showtime with 22.

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AP Entertainment Writers Jake Coyle in New York and Derrik J. Lang and Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.