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Netflix joins the Emmy club

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By Todd Leopold

Remember Netflix, that little video rental outfit that sent you DVDs via the U.S. mail? The one whose red envelopes would arrive with dulling regularity and sit near your television for months on end as you attempted to catch up on your DVR recordings?

It's playing with the big boys now.

Netflix is, of course, no longer just a DVD rental service. It also streams movies and TV series -- including its own.

On Thursday morning, Netflix received the ultimate recognition. One of the company's original series, "House of Cards," was nominated for best drama for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. Another, "Arrested Development," received a nod for actor Jason Bateman. A third, "Hemlock Grove," got two nominations.

"House of Cards" is going up against veterans such as "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland" for Emmy's most prestigious award. The series earned nine nominations overall, including lead acting nods for Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

The broadcast networks may want to take notes. Not a single show on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or the CW was nominated for best drama, though network sitcoms such as "The Big Bang Theory," "Modern Family" and the now-defunct "30 Rock" were nominated for best comedy along with HBO's "Girls" and "Veep" and FX's "Louie."

It's a trend that's been developing for years, as the broadcast networks have opted for franchising ("NCIS," "CSI," "Law & Order") and reboots ("Hawaii Five-O") over the complex, often serialized dramas that the cable networks have used to get publicity and establish a foothold in the medium. Nevertheless, it's surprising that such hits as "Scandal," "The Good Wife," "Once Upon a Time" and "Person of Interest" failed to earn enough support to nudge their way into the category.

Original programming was a major gamble for Netflix, which had noticed how people had started "binge-watching" shows such as "Breaking Bad" -- watching entire seasons of popular series in one or two gulps. The service invested $100 million in "House of Cards," based on a British series from the 1990s.

The bet paid off with increased subscriptions and a huge amount of media coverage -- coverage that was multiplied when Netflix decided to put "Arrested Development" back into production. Despite its cult following and major critical success, "Development" had been canceled after just three seasons on Fox in the early 2000s. (Creator Mitch Hurwitz had famously begged TV audiences to watch his low-rated show after it won a best comedy Emmy in 2004.)

Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer said, "We are overwhelmed with 14 nominations and honored by a warm welcome which corroborates what we have always believed, that great television is great television regardless of where, when and how it is enjoyed."

Of course, "Arrested Development" supporters can argue the show still gets no respect. The show didn't get a nomination for best comedy, though star Bateman did get a nod for best actor in a comedy. The show got three nominations overall.

"American Horror Story: Asylum," the follow-up to the well-received "American Horror Story," led all programming with 17 nominations, followed by HBO's "Game of Thrones" with 16 and "Saturday Night Live" with 15. (The HBO movie "Behind the Candelabra" also got 15 nominations.) Perennial Emmy leaders "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" also did well, nabbing 13 and 12 nominations, respectively.

"The Amazing Race" was nominated for best reality competition show for the 11th consecutive year. The show has won the category every year except 2010, when "Top Chef" -- also up in the category -- won.

"Behind the Candelabra" earned nominations for best TV movie or miniseries. Both lead actors, Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, earned nominations for their performances as Liberace and Liberace's partner, Scott Thorsen.

HBO's "Phil Spector" did well, with nominations for stars Al Pacino, Helen Mirren and the film itself.

"Downton Abbey," PBS' juggernaut about an early 20th-century group of fraying British aristocrats, earned 12 nominations, including lead actor recognition for Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" are up for outstanding variety series.

"Honored to be nominated for an Emmy this morning," said Jimmy Fallon, who scored a nod for his "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." "Takes the sting away from being snubbed by the ESPYs last night."

There were a handful of surprises. Vera Farmiga picked up a best actress-drama nomination for "Bates Motel," the A&E series based on characters from "Psycho." Betty White -- now 91 and more popular than ever -- received a nomination for hosting her comedy-reality show, "Betty White's Off Their Rockers." "Mad Men's" Elisabeth Moss was nominated for both that show and the miniseries "Top of the Lake."

And "Scandal's" Kerry Washington -- rising quickly on the chatter of her much-talked-about series -- received a best actress-drama nomination.

HBO led all networks with a whopping 108 nominations. NBC and CBS tied for second; both got 53.

And Netflix, though down the list, got 14. With the service rolling out more series -- "Orange Is the New Black" just got started, and another season of "House of Cards" is on the way -- expect many more in the future.

The Emmys will be broadcast Sunday, September 22. The show will air on CBS.

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