Record-breaking fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” made a storming comeback Thursday to Hollywood’s awards circuit after a year off, dominating this year’s Emmy nominations with a whopping 22 nods.
The smash hit HBO show, which returns for a shortened eighth and final season next year, will vie once again for the coveted best drama series prize, several acting trophies and a slew of technical awards.
The show about noble families vying for the Iron Throne faces tough competition from perennial favorite comedy sketch show “Saturday Night Live” and HBO stablemate “Westworld” with 21 nominations each.
The Television Academy’s 22,000-plus members spent two weeks in June sifting through more than 9,000 entries to choose nominees for the Emmys, the small-screen equivalent of the Oscars.
“The continued growth of the industry has provided opportunities for acclaimed new programs to emerge, while allowing last season’s breakthrough programs to thrive,” said academy chairman Hayma Washington.
In fact, many critics argue that it hasn’t been a vintage year for television, with very few new shows making waves — instead, perennial favorites were recognized for having delivered yet another year of quality.
The Emmys recognize programs shown in the year to May 31, meaning some of the usual heavy hitters — from “Better Call Saul” to “House of Cards” and “Veep” — are absent this time around.
With women’s rights advocates angry over President Donald Trump’s nomination of an ultra-conservative judge to serve on the Supreme Court, a show about a fictional nightmarish America run by a totalitarian regime is an early favorite to steal the thunder of “Thrones.”
Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” scored 20 nominations — seven better than last year — and is an early favorite to repeat as the winner for best drama in September.
Another big story on Thursday was Netflix ending a 17-year winning streak by HBO. The streamer led the nominations with 112, while HBO scored 108. Adrift in third was NBC with 78 nods.