Emmy nominations analysis: ‘Game of Thrones’ up, ‘Modern Family’ down

At the Oscars, there are key categories that indicate strength and weakness for various contenders for Best Picture. To an extent, the same is true for programs at the Emmys, so now that the 2015 nominations have been announced, we have a clearer idea of what shows may have the edge in top categories.

Determining which actors will win is another story altogether. Winners in those races are determined by voters judging individual sample episodes, and this time, the voting process has been opened up beyond the small judging panels of years past. There were lots of pleasant surprises and head-scratchers under the old system. How will things change this year?

So what shows are up and what shows are down after these Emmy nominations? Let’s consider how some top contenders fared. And to see the complete list of nominations, click here.

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Game of Thrones
“Thrones” earned an all-time high 19 nominations last year, but this year it managed to outdo even that massive total. It leads all programs with a whopping 24 bids, and it’s represented in all key fields that usually indicate strong support for a win: two nominations for directing, one for writing, two for editing, one for casting and four for acting. This may now be our frontrunner for Best Drama Series.

We were wringing our hands before nominations were announced: would the TV academy embrace Amazon Prime as fully as they did Netflix in recent years? Would they vote for a comedy that skews dramatic? Yes and yes. “Transparent” is the most nominated new series of the year with 11 bids, and the most nominated comedy. Those include important citations for writing, directing, casting and editing. And the surprise nomination for Gaby Hoffmann in the Comedy Supporting Actress race (over her better-known co-star Judith Light) further demonstrates that the TV academy really did watch the show and really did love it.

Olive Kitteridge
HBO’s miniseries earned 13 nominations despite lacking the kinds of lavish production values that often help pad a show’s nominations total. Its haul includes key bids for writing, directing, casting and editing. It earned the expected acting nominations for leads Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins and supporting actor Bill Murray, but it also had enough support to reap Zoe Kazan a surprise bid for Movie/Limited Supporting Actress. “Kitteridge” is as strong as ever.

American Crime
ABC’s anthology series is still an underdog against “Olive Kitteridge,” but despite struggling in the ratings, it greatly exceeded our expectations in the nominations. It earned 10 bids, including writing, casting and editing. It also earned three acting nominations we weren’t anticipating, for Timothy Hutton, Richard Cabral and Regina King.

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Modern Family
Six nominations is great news for most shows, but not for “Modern Family.” The five-time defending champ for Best Comedy Series is hoping to set a new record with a sixth victory, but that may be difficult given its snubs in crucial categories. Jesse Tyler Ferguson was dropped from Comedy Supporting Actor after five straight bids, but far more dire is the fact that the series is absent from both writing and directing races for the first time ever. The last show to win Best Comedy without a nomination in at least one of those categories was “Friends” in 2002. It’s not looking good.

Orange is the New Black
Netflix’s prison dramedy was one of last year’s most nominated shows when it competed as a comedy, but it wasn’t served well by the TV academy’s decision to move it to the dramatic field. It earned only four nominations: Drama Series, Drama Supporting Actress (Uzo Aduba), Drama Guest Actor (Pablo Schreiber) and Drama Casting. That lack of broad support will be difficult to overcome.

House of Cards
The political drama certainly had a strong showing with 11 nominations (same as last year). The good news is that voters are still paying attention, as indicated by first-time nominations for supporting actor Michael Kelly and guest actress Rachel Brosnahan. The bad news is that it was dropped from both Drama Writing and Drama Directing, where it had competed for the past two years. That could be a fatal blow for “Cards.” It now must try to follow in the footsteps of “The Practice,” which managed a Best Drama win without writing or directing nods way back in 1999.

Top 10 Emmy nominations snubs: Jim Parsons, ‘Empire,’ ‘Jane the Virgin,’ ‘Outlander’ …


Mad Men
AMC’s period drama has won four Emmys for Best Drama Series, but it has slid in recent years and hasn’t won a single award since 2011. But this year it made a comeback, earning 11 nominations (up from eight last year), including casting, editing, two bids for writing and a return nod for lead actress Elisabeth Moss, who was snubbed last year. But those significant gains pale in comparison to the dominance of “Game of Thrones,” which has more than double “Mad Men’s” nominations and is represented in all key categories, including Drama Directing, where “Mad Men” is absent.

It earned nine nominations last year, and it has nine nominations again this year. That includes a first-ever bid for directing to go along with its return nominations for casting, writing and acting (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale and Anna Chlumsky are all back from last year). But even though it didn’t gain any significant ground this year, it may yet have the support it needs to win, especially given “Modern Family’s” shortfall.

Silicon Valley
HBO’s tech-industry comedy improved in its sophomore season with seven nominations (up from five last year), and it contends for writing, directing and twice for editing. That’s very good news. But there’s a chink in its armor: the TV academy still didn’t show any love for its actors. Thomas Middleditch was left out of Best Comedy Actor despite seven nominees in that race, and T.J. Miller missed out on Comedy Supporting Actor despite winning that award at Critics’ Choice. The glass is half empty or half full, depending on how you look at it.

American Horror Story Freak Show
“Horror Story” has been among the top nominees every single year, and this year it did even better than usual: 19 nominations, up from the 17 it received in each of its first three seasons. But while it excelled with six acting nominations and bids for casting and directing, it was snubbed in the writing and editing categories. That combined with the TV academy’s usual bias against genre programming means “Freak Show” may yet struggle to win the top category.

Will “Modern Family” win a record sixth time as Best Comedy Series? Make your predictions for that category below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Average Gold Derby users just like YOU turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. Your picks influence our User racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.

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