Emmy Nominations: Netflix Changes the Game, Big Stars Go Small Screen

Emmy Nominees

The 2013 Emmy Awards will go down as a pivotal chapter in the history of television and the ongoing splintering of entertainment. House of Cards, the acclaimed Netflix political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robyn Wright, is the first online series to be nominated for a major award (it received a nod for Best Drama as well as in eight other categories).

Arrested Development, a show dumped by Fox back in 2006 despite a cult-like fan base, was resurrected by the online streaming service this spring and has garnered three nominations, including a Best Actor nod for its star Jason Bateman.

In 2008, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences changed the rules to add the Internet as an eligible Emmy platform. There have been online shows nominated before (Web Therapy and 30 Rock: The Webisodes in 2012), but these were under the short-form category.

House of Cards’ competition includes Breaking Bad (AMC), Downton Abbey (PBS), Game of Thrones (HBO), Homeland (Showtime), and Mad Men (AMC). Not surprisingly, four of the five shows in this category are cable network series—a platform we’ve come to expect for groundbreaking dramas. However, not so long ago, this was in fact a novelty. It wasn’t until the 1990s when HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show, The Sopranos, and Sex and the City became huge ratings and cultural mammoths, did cable television become a premiere space for quality TV viewing, and the Academy had no choice but to recognize them for it.

And the other big story? The sheer number of A-list, big screen actors who have made the willing leap to the small screen. The Lead Actor in a Mini Series or Movie category includes Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace feature the major studios all infamously passed on, and Al Pacino in Phil Spector (the film also won a nomination for Helen Mirren for Lead Actress).

Along with Spacey, stars like Kerry Washington (Scandal), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), Claire Danes (Homeland), and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) are all flourishing in serial television without a worry about the stigma that once came with the move from the silver screen. Is this a wake-up call to the big studios who have forgone riskier and smaller character-driven stories in favour of blockbusters tricked out with CGI wizardry and rehashed franchises that are more likely to ring in overseas ticket sales?

It is telling that so many actors at the pinnacle of their careers (a time when they can ultimately pick and choose their projects) are choosing television? As Spacey explained in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last year, “The most interesting plots, the most interesting characters, they are on TV.”

And in a few years, they may very well be online, too.

The awards air September 22 on CBS with Neil Patrick Harris taking on the hosting duties.

Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad (AMC)
Downton Abbey (PBS)
Game Of Thrones (HBO)
Homeland (Showtime)
House Of Cards (Netflix)
Mad Men (AMC)

Outstanding Comedy Series
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Girls (HBO)
Louie (FX Networks)
Modern Family (ABC)
30 Rock (NBC)
Veep (HBO)

Outstanding Lead actor in a Drama
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, Breaking Bad (AMC)
Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham, Downton Abbey (PBS)
Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, Homeland (Showtime)
Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood, House Of Cards (Netflix)
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Mad Men (AMC)
Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, The Newsroom (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama
Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates, Bates Motel (A&E)
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley, Downton Abbey (PBS)
Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, Homeland (Showtime)
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood, House Of Cards (Netflix)
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson, Mad Men (AMC)
Connie Britton as Rayna James, Nashville (ABC)
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, Scandal (ABC)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy
Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, Arrested Development (Netflix)
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc, Episodes (Showtime)
Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan, House Of Lies (Showtime)
Louis C.K. as Louie, Louie (FX Networks)
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock (NBC)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy
Laura Dern as Amy, Enlightened (HBO)
Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath, Girls (HBO)
Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton, Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Parks And Recreation (NBC)
Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, 30 Rock (NBC)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, Veep (HBO)

Outstanding Miniseries
American Horror Story: Asylum (FX Networks)
Behind The Candelabra (HBO)
The Bible (HISTORY)
Phil Spector (HBO)
Political Animals (USA)
Top Of The Lake (Sundance Channel)

See the full list of nominations