Power-and-blood fantasy saga Game of Thrones ruled the Emmy Award nominations Thursday with a leading 23 bids, including best drama, while a real-life epic of murder and celebrity, The People v. O.J. Simpson, was close behind with 22 nods.
Game of Thrones, which won a record 12 Emmys last fall including best drama, gets the chance to claim its second top award. Veep, last year's best comedy series winner, also will get another shot at holding office and, with 17 nominations, was the comedy leader.
Breakthrough nominations include a best comedy series nod for sophomore black-ish, which brought the African-American family sitcom back to network TV, with bids as well for its stars, Anthony Anderson — who helped announce the awards live on Thursday and read his show's name with glee — and his co-star Tracee Ellis Ross.
"I'm on cloud nine right now," Anderson said afterward. "When hope becomes reality, that's what it is. I was just a 9-year-old kid growing up in Compton, California, with a dream and this is the dream that I had."
They were among a number of black actors recognized by TV academy voters, who have started to keep pace with TV's growing diversity — in sharp contrast to moviedom's Academy Awards, which were slammed as "Oscars So White" this year.
Viola Davis, the How to Get Away with Murder star who last year became the first woman of color to win a best drama actress trophy, was nominated again. So was Empire star Taraji P. Henson.
Each of the major acting categories included at least one minority nominee. But there were no major nods for the stars of Fresh Off the Boat or other Asian-American actors, or for Latinos, which has been a recurrent Emmy pattern.
Networks have reason for concern as well. In the increasingly crowded TV universe, traditional broadcasts again lost Emmy ground to emerging platforms, including streaming services Netflix and Amazon, both of which boosted their tallies. Even HBO, which again earned the most bids led by "Game of Thrones," marked a retreat in what had been its ever-growing dominance: its haul dropped from 126 nods last year to 94 this time.
Game of Thrones and Mr. Robot will compete with Better Call Saul, Homeland, House of Cards, The Americans and Downton Abbey, the last a nod for its farewell season. But the final season of The Good Wife was not recognized, and star Julianna Margulies also was snubbed.
For Stephen Colbert, it was the inaugural season of his CBS late-night show that was overlooked, while network colleague James Corden earned a best variety talk series bid for his "Late Late Show."
Aziz Ansari received a lead comedy acting bid for his series Master of None, a first for an Indian-American actor, and the show received a best comedy series nomination. Rami Malek, of Egyptian descent, earned a top drama acting nod for his role as a renegade hacker in another freshman, Mr. Robot, which also will compete for drama honors.
The Americans, which gained in attention last season, also earned bids for its stars, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys.
Besides Russell, Davis and Henson, lead drama actress bids went to Claire Danes for Homeland and Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black.
Malek and Rhys will be competing with Kevin Spacey for House of Cards, Kyle Chandler for Bloodline, Bob Odenkirk for Better Call Saul and Liev Schreiber for Ray Donovan.
The ensemble cast of Game of Thrones found leading bids elusive. Peter Dinklage, named last year's best supporting actor, will defend his title, with a nod also going to Kit Harington, who plays fan favorite Jon Snow. Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Maisie Williams earned supporting actress bids in a year that the show's female characters gained the upper hand.
On the comedy side, Veep, black-ish and Master of None will tussle for the trophy with five-time champ Modern Family, Transparent, Silicon Valley and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
A top acting nod for Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays a U.S. vice president now elevated to the Oval Office, gives her the chance to score her fifth consecutive win and set a record.
She and Ross will be competing with Ellie Kemper in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Laurie Metcalf in Getting On, Amy Schumer in Inside Amy Schumer and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie.
Black-ish star Anderson, who got his second nod, will be competing with last year's winner, Jeffrey Tambor of Transparent, along with Ansari, Will Forte for The Last Man on Earth, William H. Macy for Shameless and Thomas Middleditch for Silicon Valley.
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which recounted the football legend's sensational, racially charged trial for the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, is a best limited series nominee and earned a number of acting awards for its cast's portrayal of well-known figures.
Lead nominations went to Cuba Gooding Jr. as Simpson, Courtney B. Vance as defense attorney Johnnie Cochran and Sarah Paulson as prosecutor Marcia Clark. Supporting bids were given to Sterling K. Brown as prosecutor Christopher Darden, David Schwimmer as Simpson friend Robert Kardashian — patriarch of the now-famous family — and John Travolta as defense attorney Robert Shapiro.
Gooding and Vance will compete with Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson in All The Way, Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (Masterpiece), Idris Elba in Luther and Tom Hiddleston in The Night Manager.
In a phone interview, Paulson said that despite joy over her recognition she was happiest to learn that Brown was nominated for his portrayal of Darden.
"I jumped up and down .... more about that than about my own," Paulson said. "I owe my performance whatever it is to him."
The 68th prime-time Emmy show will be broadcast live on ABC from 8-11 p.m. EDT on Sept. 18, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.