It was no surprise that Mad Men led the 2011 Emmy Nominations, which were announced earlier today. The AMC period drama drew 19 total nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series.

If Mad Men wins the top award in 2011, it will be the fourth consecutive year the show has taken the coveted honor - making it only the third show in Emmy history to win four consecutive Outstanding Drama trophies.

NBC's Hill Street Blues won the drama category from 1981-1984, and The West Wing won from 2000-2003.

Perhaps the chance to go down in Emmy history inspired AMC to take an unusual approach during screener season: Instead of sending just a handful of sample episodes to TV academy voters, the cable network mailed a full season of DVDs.

Maybe AMC felt that voters would be more inclined to look favorably on Mad Men if they were hooked on the show - as everyone knows that the best way to become obsessed with a series is to watch back-to-back episodes.

Or maybe it was a show of confidence - AMC letting voters know that every episode in the season was of Emmy-winning caliber, not just a few standouts.

According to the LA Times article that announced the contents of screener packages in June, AMC might be nervous about the potential competition from Boardwalk Empire, a critical darling and Golden Globe winner from HBO, the powerhouse cable network to which voters might feel indebted for the lukewarm Emmy spoils given The Sopranos and The Wire

The Sopranos won but two Outstanding Drama Emmys - one in 2004 and another in 2007, while The Wire - widely believed by many critics and viewers to be The Best Television Series, Ever - was notoriously snubbed by the Emmys: It received only two nominations in its total run, both for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series.

Boardwalk Empire followed behind Mad Men by only one nomination: The Scorcese-produced series earned 18 nominations, including (of course) Outstanding Drama Series, setting the stage for a heated competition come September 18.