Cast member Kate Winslet arrives at the premiere of the HBO Miniseries "Mildred Pierce" in New York City March 21, 2011.[Photo/Agencies]
LOS ANGELES - "Mad Men," the sharply observed drama of a changing 1960s America, captured 19 Emmy nominationsThursday to lead the series pack, with the melodramatic miniseries "Mildred Pierce" starring Kate Winslet grabbing a top 21 bids.
"Mad Men" has a chance to repeat for a fourth consecutive year as best drama. "Modern Family," last year's top comedy series, was the most-nominated sitcom with 17 bids.
Other leading contenders include the Prohibition-era drama "Boardwalk Empire" with 18 nominations, "Saturday Night Live" with 16 and 13 bids each for the sex-and-swords fantasy "Game of Thrones" and the sitcom "30 Rock."
"OK, keep it together," a surprised nominations co-announcer Melissa McCarthy said when she realized she was a nominee for her sitcom "Mike &Molly."
It's been a sweet year already for McCarthy, the one-time "Gilmore Girls" cast member who's drawn critical raves for her turn in the box office hit "Bridesmaids."
The controversial miniseries "The Kennedys," which was dropped by the History channel and given a second chance by the lesser-known ReelzChannel, received 10 nominations, including best miniseries and acting bids for Greg Kinnear as President John F. Kennedy, Barry Pepper as Robert Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson as family patriarch Joe Kennedy.
Familiar faces have a chance to claim — or reclaim — Emmys, including last year's lead comedy actress winner Edie Falco of "Nurse Jackie" and Jim Parsons, best actorfor a comedy for "The Big Bang Theory." Both were nominated this year, with Parsons' co-star Johnny Galecki earning his first bid for the show.
"Project Runway" was nominated in the reality category for the seventh consecutive year and host Heidi Klum got the happy news while filming an upcoming episode. The show has never won, but Klum said getting nominated proved it is still relevant.
"What I always say when I talk to my designers, 'One day you're in and the next day you're out — as quick as that.' There's always great new shows that come in, and they can kick you off just as easy as you came on. Therefore, we're very happy to be nominated again."
Jon Hamm received his fourth lead acting bid for "Mad Men," and this time the competitor who denied him the award three times before isn't in the category. Bryan Cranston and "Breaking Bad" weren't eligible for this year's awards because the series took a break between seasons.
Hamm's new competition includes Steve Buscemi, who received a Golden Globe for his performance as an Atlantic City political boss in "Boardwalk Empire."
Steve Carell earned a best comedy actor nomination for his final season of "The Office," his last chance to win an Emmy statuette for his role as TV's most clueless boss.
Matt LeBlanc, best known for his role as Joey in "Friends," received a lead comedy actor bid for playing a screen version of himself in the satiric show business series "Episodes."
"I knew I was on some prediction lists and stuff like that, but it's not the kind of thing you expect," he said by phone. "You just work hard. If you get recognized for it, that's great, but if not, it's OK, too."
And proving that the Betty White phenomenon still has legs: The 89-year-old wonder nabbed a best supporting actress bid for the sitcom "Hot in Cleveland." If she wins, it would be her eighth Emmy.
"I am so thrilled. How lucky can an old broad be?" she said by phone a few minutes after her agent woke her. "I wasn't even thinking about the nominations because I didn't even think there was a chance."
There were fresh faces as well, including best drama actress nominee Mireille Enos of "The Killing" and best drama actor Timothy Olyphant of "Justified."
Kyra Sedgwick of "The Closer," last year's best drama actress winner, found herself closed out of the category this year.
"Glee" stars Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison failed to repeat their acting nods, but Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch got second consecutive nominations and there was Emmy love to spare for "Glee" guest actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Kristin Chenoweth and Dot-Marie Jones.
Chenoweth was fast asleep when her manager called with the news and didn't want to predict her chances of winning: "I'm sure people will be speculating, but honestly, I have zero idea. I consider the nomination the win and an excuse to put on a cute dress."
Lynch, who was a winner last year for her role as an obsessive cheerleading coach, is hosting this year's Emmy ceremony. The awards air Sept. 18 on Fox.
Ed O'Neill, who was snubbed last year for "Modern Family," this year received a supporting actor bid for his role as the family chief. His co-star, Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cameron, was nominated as a supporting actor and tweeted that he was in Belgium and so his reaction would be in Flemish: "wauw!" the message began.
Conan O'Brien's switch to TBS after a bitter departure from NBC didn't hurt him in the nominations: "Conan" earned a bid for best variety, music or comedy series and will compete with, among others, perennial winner "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." A writing nomination also went to "Conan."
NBC's late-night pick, Jay Leno, was snubbed in the categories, as was CBS' David Letterman.
"Sarah Palin's Alaska" was submitted by TLC in four categories, including best reality series and cinematography, and was blanked. Shows that made the reality series cut include "Hoarders" and "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List."
Two Oscar winners, Winslet and Melissa Leo, have a chance to score an Emmy for "Mildred Pierce." Leo, who also appears in the New Orleans drama "Treme," received a supporting actress bid for the miniseries.
Emmy voters have a chance to flaunt their risk-taking side with "Game of Thrones," given the usual resistance to rewarding genre shows such as fantasy or science fiction.
The series based on the George R.R. Martin novels scored a best drama nod but only a single acting bid, for Peter Dinklage in a supporting role.
Other best drama contenders besides "Game" and "Mad Men" are "Boardwalk Empire," ''Dexter," ''Friday Night Lights" and "The Good Wife."
"Modern Family" is competing with "The Big Bang Theory," ''Glee," ''The Office," ''Parks and Recreation" and "30 Rock" for the best comedy crown.
The nominations, which were announced by McCarthy and Joshua Jackson of "Fringe" at the Academy of Television Arts &Sciences," sets up a clash in a new category that combines the previously separate movies and miniseries.
The contenders besides "Mildred Pierce" and "The Kennedys" are "Cinema Verite," ''Downton Abbey," ''The Pillars of the Earth" and "Too Big to Fail," about the 2008 U.S. fiscal crisis. Snubbed in the category was the new incarnation of "Upstairs Downstairs," which found its turf poached by the other British class drama, "Downtown Abbey."
"Let's all dress like Mildred Pierce for the Emmys," Mindy Kaling of "The Office" joked in a tweet about the mid-20th century drama based on the James M. Cain novel.
Besides Bates and Enos, other best drama series actress nominees are Connie Britton for "Friday Night Lights," Mariska Hargitay for "Law &Order: Special Victims Unit," Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife" and Elisabeth Moss for "Mad Men."
Hamm, who plays the darkly conflicted Don Draper in "Mad Men," is competing in the lead drama actor category with Buscemi, Olyphant, Kyle Chandler of "Friday Night Lights," Michael C. Hall of "Dexter" and Hugh Laurie of "House" — who has yet to receive a trophy after five previous nominations.
On the comedy side, McCarthy and Falco will be vying for best comedy series actress with Laura Linney of "The Big C," Martha Plimpton of "Raising Hope," Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation" and Tina Fey of "30 Rock."
Louis C.K. of "Louie" and Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock" are nominated for best actor in a comedy along with Parsons, Carell, Galecki and LeBlanc.
"American Idol," which has yet to win in the reality-competition category, is competing with "The Amazing Race," ''Dancing With the Stars," ''Project Runway," ''So You Think You Can Dance" and last year's winner "Top Chef."