- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Mad Men,” the sharply observed drama of a changing 1960s America, captured 19 Emmy nominations Thursday to lead the series pack, with the melodramatic miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” starring Kate Winslet, grabbing a top 21 bids.

“Mad Men” has a chance to repeat for a fourth consecutive year as best drama. “Modern Family,” last year’s top comedy series, was the most-nominated sitcom with 17 bids.

Other leading nominees include the Prohibition-era drama “Boardwalk Empire” with 18 nominations; “Saturday Night Live” with 16; and, with 13 bids each, the sex-and-swords fantasy “Game of Thrones” and the sitcom “30 Rock.”

“OK, keep it together,” a surprised nominations co-announcer Melissa McCarthy said when she realized she was a nominee for her sitcom, “Mike & Molly.”

The controversial miniseries “The Kennedys,” which was dropped by the History channel and given a second chance by the lesser-known ReelzChannel, received 10 nominations, including best miniseries and acting bids for Greg Kinnear as President John F. Kennedy, Barry Pepper as Robert Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson as family patriarch Joe Kennedy.

Familiar faces have a chance to claim — or reclaim — Emmys, including last year’s lead-comedy-actress winner Edie Falco of “Nurse Jackie” and Jim Parsons, best actor in a comedy for “The Big Bang Theory.” Both were nominated this year.

Jon Hamm received his fourth lead-acting bid for “Mad Men,” and this time the competitor who denied him the award three times before isn’t in the category. Bryan Cranston and “Breaking Bad” weren’t eligible for this year’s awards because the series took a break between seasons.

Mr. Hamm’s new competition includes Steve Buscemi, who received a Golden Globe for his performance as an Atlantic City political boss in “Boardwalk Empire.”

Steve Carell earned a best-comedy-actor nomination for his final season of “The Office,” his last chance to win an Emmy statuette for his role as TV’s most clueless boss.

Matt LeBlanc, best known for his role as Joey in “Friends,” received a lead-comedy-actor bid for playing a screen version of himself in the satiric show-business series “Episodes.”

And proving that the Betty White phenomenon still has legs: The 89-year-old wonder nabbed a best-supporting-actress bid for the sitcom “Hot in Cleveland.” If she wins, it would be her eighth Emmy.

“I am so thrilled. How lucky can an old broad be?” she said by phone a few minutes after her agent woke her with the news. “I wasn’t even thinking about the nominations because I didn’t even think there was a chance.”

There were fresh faces as well, including best-drama-actress nominee Mireille Enos of “The Killing” and best drama actor Timothy Olyphant of “Justified.”

Kyra Sedgwick of “The Closer,” last year’s best-drama-actress winner, found herself closed out of the category this year.

Ed O’Neill, who was snubbed last year for “Modern Family,” this year received a supporting-actor bid for his role as patriarch in the comedy.

Two Oscar winners, Miss Winslet and Melissa Leo, have a chance to score an Emmy for “Mildred Pierce.” Miss Leo, who also appears in the New Orleans drama “Treme,” received a supporting-actress bid for the miniseries.

Emmy voters have a chance to flaunt their risk-taking side with “Game of Thrones,” given the usual resistance to rewarding genre shows such as fantasy or science fiction.

The series, based on the George R.R. Martin novels, scored a best-drama nod but only a single acting bid, for Peter Dinklage in a supporting role.

Other best-drama contenders besides “Game” and “Mad Men” are “Boardwalk Empire,” ”Dexter,” ”Friday Night Lights” and “The Good Wife.”

“Modern Family” is competing with “The Big Bang Theory,” ”Glee,” ‘'The Office,” ”Parks and Recreation” and “30 Rock” for the best-comedy crown.

The nominations, which were announced by Miss McCarthy and Joshua Jackson of “Fringe” at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, sets up a clash in a new category that combines the previously separate movies and miniseries.

The contenders besides “Mildred Pierce” and “The Kennedys” are “Cinema Verite,” ”Downton Abbey,” ”The Pillars of the Earth” and “Too Big to Fail,” about the 2008 U.S. fiscal crisis. Snubbed in the category was the new incarnation of “Upstairs Downstairs,” which found its turf poached by the other British class drama, “Downton Abbey.”

“Let’s all dress like Mildred Pierce for the Emmys,” Mindy Kaling of “The Office” joked in a tweet about the mid-20th-century drama based on the James M. Cain novel.

In addition to Miss Enos, best-drama-series actress contenders are Kathy Bates for “Harry’s Law,” Connie Britton for “Friday Night Lights,” Mariska Hargitay for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Julianna Margulies for “The Good Wife” and Elisabeth Moss for “Mad Men.”

Mr. Hamm, who plays the darkly conflicted Don Draper in “Mad Men,” is competing in the lead-drama-actor category with Mr. Buscemi, Mr. Olyphant, Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights,” Michael C. Hall of “Dexter” and Hugh Laurie of “House” — who has yet to receive a trophy in five previous nods.

Associated Press entertainment writer Derrik J. Lang contributed to this report.