LOS ANGELES - Satire-heavy 30 Rock and 1960s drama Mad Men will defend their 2007 Emmy awards against a broad field of contenders for television's highest honors -- including irreverent cartoon series Family Guy.
NBC's 30 Rock picked up a leading 22 primetime nominations season on Thursday, including best comedy, best actress for its star and creator Tina Fey, and best actor for Alec Baldwin who all took home Emmys last year.
But in a list that reflected the move of some of TV's best writers to cable channels, last year's winner Mad Men on AMC seized 16 nominations, including best drama, best actor and four of the five picks for writing. Another AMC show, Breaking Bad, was also among the drama and best actor nods.
Mad Men creator Matt Weiner told Reuters that his writing staff worked hard to take the characters to deeper human levels each season. We don't repeat ourselves, which every season gets a lot harder, he said. You try to bring in new stuff and in a weird way, we're getting better at it all the time.
The number of nominations was expanded this year, allowing new contenders like the HBO polygamy series Big Love, AMC's Breaking Bad, CBS comedy How I Met your Mother and HBO's Flight of the Conchords to grab a piece of the Emmy action in a contest often criticized for getting stale.
Comedy Family Guy -- rescued by fans from cancellation in 2005 -- became the first animated series to be nominated for a primetime comedy Emmy since The Flintstones in 1961.
There is so much good work, we have really recognized the diversity on television today, said John Shaffner, chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, which gives out the Emmys.
Among networks, cable channel HBO lead with 99 nominations, while Showtime had 29 and AMC 23. Broadcaster NBC earned 67 nominations, followed by ABC (55), CBS (49) and Fox (42).
OUT WITH OLD, IN WITH NEW
The Academy said 41 of the 83 nominations for comedy and drama programs for the June 2008-May 2009 season were different from the previous year. But the fresh faces meant some old favorites were snubbed.
Kiefer Sutherland of 24 got a single miniseries acting nomination for Fox's 24: Redemption special, while Katherine Heigl of Grey's Anatomy (ABC) got nothing despite supporting actress recognition for co-stars Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson.
HBO's vampire series True Blood was also left out, despite a Golden Globe win for its young star Anna Paquin.
But Australian actor Simon Baker of the new CBS crime show The Mentalist got his first best actor Emmy nomination, while Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory and Toni Collette of Showtime's United States of Tara were other fresh faces.
HBO's made-for-TV movie Grey Gardens, about two eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, got 17 nominations.
American Idol (Fox), Dancing with the Stars (ABC), The Amazing Race (CBS), Project Runway' (Bravo) and Top Chef (Bravo) won nods in their reality TV category.
Mad Men will compete against legal drama Damages on FX, serial killer series Dexter of Showtime, Fox medical show House and ABC's Lost. Along with 30 Rock, comedy series nominations included HBO's Entourage, NBC's The Office and Weeds from Showtime.
Bryan Cranston will hope to repeat his best actor win last year for his role as a teacher turned drug dealer in Breaking Bad. Jon Hamm of Mad Men, doctor Hugh Laurie of House, Michael C. Hall for Dexter and Gabriel Byrne from In Treatment also are in the running.
Glenn Close, who plays a lawyer in Damages, detective Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer, Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters), Holly Hunter (Saving Grace) and Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) will compete in the best drama actress category.
The 61st Primetime Emmys will be handed out in Los Angeles on September 20 in a ceremony hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, who picked up his second Emmy nod for How I Met Your Mother.
(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte)