The critical and commercial success of HBO's prestige fantasy series Game of Thrones, based on the novels of George R. R. Martin and with a powerhouse array of talent in front of and behind the cameras, meant that the show's prominence in the list of nominees for the 63rd annual Emmy Awards was hardly unlooked-for. (The full list of nominations, with genre shows highlighted, is here.)
But there were some interesting and pleasant surprises further down the list of nominees, including the presence of two series that were summarily canceled at midseason, as well as some "friends of sci-fi" whose presence is worth noting.
In contrast with previous years, the 2010-2011 television season had relatively few high-profile space opera series -- which means that the special effects category, often in the past a sci-fi "ghetto" in which shows like Stargate Atlantis might chalk up a lone appearance, is more broadly representative this time around. Only two of the nods in that category are genre series.
The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards will be given out on Sunday, September 18.
The Preeminence of HBO
Game of Thrones garnered 13 nominations including outstanding drama series, as well as for supporting actor (drama) for Peter Dinklage, writing (drama series) for "Baelor" by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and direction (drama series) for "Winter Is Coming" by Tim van Patten.
Thrones's other nominations came in categories for special visual effects, costumes (series), stunt coordination, sound editing, casting (drama), hairstyling (single-camera), make-up (single-camera nonprosthetic), make-up (prosthetic), and main title design.
Peter Dinklage's nomination was expected. Van Patten, the days in which he was better known as an actor long behind him (he was Salami on The White Shadow), has racked up numerous Emmy nominations for his work on two other HBO series, The Sopranos and Sex and the City, and won last year as a co-producer on The Pacific. Benioff has received award nominations for his screenplay adaptation to The Kite Runner, but this is his and Weiss's first Emmy nod.
Meanwhile True Blood racked up four nominations, including outstanding guest actress (drama) for Alfre Woodard as Ruby Jean Reynolds. True Blood was also nominated for make-up (single-camera nonprosthetic), sound editing, and art direction (single camera), in the first two of which in competition with Game of Thrones.
Fun with Animation and Interactive Media
It was especially heartwarming to see the revived Futurama pick up two nominations, for outstanding animated program and for Maurice LaMarche in the category of outstanding voice-over performance. LaMarche, best known for his world-weary Orson Welles impersonation but a fantastically versatile talent, is long overdue for this kind of recognition -- he's been nominated twice for a primetime Emmy (for D.C. Follies back in 1989) and once for a daytime Emmy (for Pinky and the Brain), but has been cheated all three times. (He has won an Annie Award for Pinky.)
And having just reviewed the DVD for the marvelous Robot Chicken Star Wars III, it was great to see that special nominated for outstanding animated program. The regular Robot Chicken series was itself nominated for outstanding short-format animated program and for Seth Green's voice-over performance (where he'll be competing with LaMarche).
Disney's young-audiences live-action series Wizards of Waverly Place picked up two nominations for its final season -- for outstanding children's program and for cinematography (multi-camera).
And Fringe, otherwise undeservedly ignored by the academy, scored a nomination for Fox.com's Fringe Division.
Kudos for the Canceled
No fewer than three canceled sci-fi/fantasy series appeared on the list of Emmy nominations, like ghosts surprised to find themselves once more, briefly, among the living.
Stargate Universe, whose fans are still shaking their heads in disbelief at Syfy's truncation of the long-arc series at two seasons, was nominated for special visual effects. In that category this year, in addition to Game of Thrones and the horror series The Walking Dead, are the straight dramas as Boardwalk Empire and The Borgias.
Camelot, which failed to get renewed not too long ago, was nominated for Jeff and Mychael Danna's original main title theme music.
And most unexpectedly, NBC's The Cape, hurled into the gutter after only nine episodes, was nominated for prosthetic makeup -- I'm guessing this is particularly for the work on the henchman called Scales, which was pretty impressive.
Friends of the Family
Finally, a few noteworthy nominations tangential to the sci-fi/fantasy genre.
Big Bang Theory, whose characters love sci-fi, once again did very well -- five nominatios, including outstanding compedy and best actor (comedy) for two of its leads (Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki).
And Steven Moffat, currently the head writer on Doctor Who, was nominated for his screenplay for Sherlock (as broadcast on PBS's Masterpiece Theater). Sherlock itself picked up a total of four nominations.