By Bob Tourtellotte - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Drama "Downton Abbey" and thriller "American Horror Story" earned the favor of Emmy award voters on Thursday, joining a list of past favorites including "Mad Men" and "Modern Family" among nominees for the top US television honors.
Advertising show "Mad Men," last year's winner for best TV drama, was nominated in 17 categories, as was miniseries "American Horror Story" to lead the pack of shows, TV movies and miniseries in the hunt for awards when they are given out in September. British drama "Downton Abbey" earned 16 nods.
Joining "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey" in the best drama category are psychological thriller "Homeland," medieval period piece "Game of Thrones" and past favorites "Boardwalk Empire" and "Breaking Bad."
In the comedy arena, "Modern Family," which like "Mad Men" won best TV show in its genre last year, pulled in 14 nominations including best TV comedy. It will compete in that arena against newcomers "Girls" and "Veep," as well as "The Big Bang Theory," "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "30 Rock."
"If you look at the acting categories, both comedy and drama, half of the nominees in the acting categories are first time nominees, so it really is a changing of the guard and that's very exciting for our business," Bruce Rosenblum, chairman of Emmy organizer the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, told Reuters.
First-time nominees include Lena Dunham in "Girls," who was nominated for best actress in a TV comedy, alongside another newcomer Zooey Deschanel in "New Girl." They are joined by Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "Veep," Amy Poehler in "Parks and Recreation," last year's winner Melissa McCarthy for "Mike & Molly" and Edie Falco for "Nurse Jackie."
Nominees for best actor in a comedy included the 2011 winner Jim Parsons for "Big Bang Theory," along with newcomers Louis C.K. in "Louie" and Don Cheadle with "House of Lies," and veterans Larry David for "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Alec Baldwin in "30 Rock," and Jon Cryer for "Two And a Half Men."
Drama categories saw several series place both lead actors and actresses among nominees. Thriller "Homeland" put Claire Danes in the race for best actress and Damian Lewis in the hunt for best actor, while "Mad Men" scored nominations for Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm in lead categories and "Downtown Abbey" earned nods for Michelle Dockery and Hugh Bonneville.
The dramatic actresses were joined by Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife," Kathy Bates in "Harry's Law" and Glenn Close for "Damages." Best drama actor nominees also included 2011 winner Steve Buscemi in "Boardwalk Empire," Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad" and Michael C. Hall in "Dexter.
Outstanding TV miniseries or movie nominees were led by macabre thriller "American Horror Story" and historical drama "Hatfields & McCoys," which earned 16 nominations overall. Those two were joined by "Hemingway & Gellhorn," "Luther," "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia" and political TV movie "Game Change."
Cable TV's HBO was again the leading network with 81 overall nominations, followed by CBS with 60, PBS with 58, NBC with 51, ABC with 48 and AMC with 34.
The Emmys are the top TV awards in the United States given out by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. This year's Emmy Awards will take place on September 23 and be broadcast on the ABC television network.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy and Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Vicki Allen)