By Mary Milliken and Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television newcomers "True Detective," a crime drama from HBO, and "Orange is the New Black," a dark prison comedy from Netflix, racked up a dozen Emmy nominations each on Thursday in a challenge to stalwarts like "Breaking Bad" and "Modern Family."
Online streaming company Netflix Inc, the big disrupter of the Emmys last year, more than doubled its nominations for TV's highest honors to 31 this year. Its political thriller "House of Cards," which stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, earned 13 nods for its second season.
HBO's medieval thriller and fan favorite "Game of Thrones" received the most nominations - 19 - and pushed the premium cable service's overall nods to 99, the most of any network for the 14th year in a row.
While cable networks and Netflix fared well, the broadcast networks were once again shut out of the top competition, best drama. Last year's winner, AMC's gritty drug tale "Breaking Bad," will compete for its final season, along with the network's ad world drama "Mad Men," "House of Cards," PBS's British period drama "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones" and "True Detective."
"It's a horse race between 'True Detective' and 'Breaking Bad,'" said Cynthia Littleton, the TV editor-in-chief at trade publication Variety.
"Homeland," a big winner in its first year, failed to snag a nomination in the best drama category despite good reviews for the Showtime domestic-terrorism tale in its third season. Claire Danes, who has won best lead actress for a drama for the last two years, was nominated again.
FILM STARS SHINE
"True Detective," which follows a sadistic crime spree in rural Louisiana, earned best actor in a drama nominations for both Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, two of the biggest film stars to move into the thriving television industry.
The co-stars and friends will also do battle with last year's surprise winner, Jeff Daniels from "The Newsroom," as well as Spacey for his conniving congressman, Bryan Cranston for his final turn as the teacher-turned-drug dealer in "Breaking Bad," and Jon Hamm, who plays brooding ad man Don Draper in "Mad Men.
Hamm has been nominated seven times for his role in the series, which ends next year, but he has not won.
In another cross-over from film, FX's "Fargo" mini-series, based on the cult movie from the Coen brothers, notched up 18 nominations, including best actor in a mini-series nods for stars Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman.
In the TV movie category, HBO's "The Normal Heart," based on the true story of an early AIDS activist in New York City, earned 16 nods, including a best actor nomination for Mark Ruffalo and best supporting actress for Julia Roberts.
'QUALITY SELLS' FOR NETFLIX
Last year, Netflix received the first Emmy nominations for shows produced solely for the Internet.
The company has made original programming a priority to lure subscribers around the world, much like Time Warner Inc's HBO. It has also spurred competition from the likes of Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc, which has had less success with its own forays into TV production.
"There is such great television being made in the entire landscape of TV right now, but Netflix has an intense respect for the creative process, and they know that quality sells itself," "House of Cards" creator Beau Willimon told Reuters after the dawn nomination announcement. Netflix's second big bet is "Orange is the New Black," which is based on the real story of a woman who goes to prison on old drug charges. The nominations this year are for season one, although season two was made available all at once last month.
For the year's best comedy, "Orange is the New Black" will compete against ABC's "Modern Family," which won last year. Rounding out the competitors are political satire "Veep" and tech-world take-down "Silicon Valley," both from HBO; CBS nerd-fest "The Big Bang Theory"; and the irreverent comedy "Louie" from FX.
Among the new faces in the lead actress categories were Taylor Schilling as the imprisoned Piper Chapman in "Orange is the New Black" and Lizzy Caplan as sex researcher Virginia Johnson in "Masters of Sex."
"I am shocked and thrilled and shocked and really, really excited," said Caplan. "Champagne before 6 a.m. is OK, right?”
The 66th Emmy Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 25.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Patricia Reaney in New York)