With the inclusion of the much-binged on Netflix original series "House of Cards" to Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards nominations list, the stage has been set for a showdown never before witnessed at the annual television love fest.
The addition of the Internet-based streaming provider means a third contender has now been added to what was previously a two horse race for viewing supremacy: the major free-to-air broadcasters (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and PBS) versus the cable networks (HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX et al.).
If that's not enough to have viewers tuning in to see host Neil Patrick Harris ably shepherd winners, losers and special segments across the stage at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles Sunday, there's also slew of highly-contested categories that may see past Emmy records tumbling when the envelopes are finally prised open.
An outstanding drama series win for "Mad Men," which recently ended its penultimate season on AMC amid griping from fans and critics over its darker than usual tone, would be a record-setting fifth, granting the show more trophies than other series in this category in Emmy history. The 1960s-set drama currently sits alongside fellow four-time winners "Hill Street Blues," ''L.A. Law" and "The West Wing."
But if Netflix's "House of Cards" takes the drama series Emmy it will be the first to do so without the aid of a traditional TV set. The limited-episode series chronicling the voracious ambition of a Washington D.C. power couple played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright garnered nine nominations in total, including acting nods for both leads.
It's certainly not a shoe-in for "House of Cards" or "Mad Men" (12 nominations in total). They face stiff competition from fellow nominees "Breaking Bad" (13 nominations), "Downton Abbey" (12), "Game of Thrones" (17) and last year's winner "Homeland" (11).
"Homeland" is also the series to beat in the dramatic acting categories with the show's leads Claire Danes and Damian Lewis both winning in 2012. This year Danes is up against Wright, Connie Britton ("Nashville"), Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men"), Michelle Dockery ("Downton Abbey"), Vera Farmiga ("Bates Motel") and Kerry Washington ("Scandal").
For Washington, a win would be one for the record books: Washington would be the first African-American winner for best actress in a drama. Cicely Tyson was the last African-American nominee for her role in 1995's "Sweet Justice."
Lewis will compete with Spacey, Hugh Bonneville ("Downton Abbey"), Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad"), Jeff Daniels ("The Newsroom") and Jon Hamm ("Mad Men"). It's the sixth nomination in this category for always-the-bridesmaid Hamm, who is yet to win for his portrayal of "Mad Men's" mercurial, philandering ad-man Don Draper.
Already a three-time Emmy winner in the category for his portrayal of meth-maestro Walter White in the AMC's "Breaking Bad," another win for Cranston would place him on the top rung beside "Hill Street Blue's" Dennis Franz, currently the only actor to have achieved four trophies.
Aiming to have the last laughs in the comedy races are "Veep's" Julia Louis-Dreyfus and "30 Rock."
The beloved TV show about the behind-the-scenes goings-on at a not-so-beloved TV show, NBC's "30 Rock" is up for outstanding comedy series (it has won the category three times in the past) having ended a successful seven season run in January. Among its 13 nominations Sunday are nods to Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin (lead acting in comedy series), Jane Krakowski (supporting actress/comedy) and Elaine Stritch (guest actress/comedy).
Trying to keep "30 Rock" from a comedy series win are ABC's "Modern Family" (coming off three consecutive wins in this category and holding 12 nominations in total), CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" (8 nominations and currently the most-watched comedy in the world), FX's "Louis" (6), HBO's much-discussed "Girls" (5) and "Veep" (5).
A win for "Modern Family" would place it alongside four-time winners "All in the Family" and "Cheers." The only program to go one higher is "Frazier," which recorded five wins during its 11 season run.
With a lead actress in a comedy nod for her portrayal of Vice President Selena Gomez on "Veep," Louis-Dreyfus matched Lucille Ball's 14 career Emmy nominations. Louis-Dreyfus has now been nominated twice for "Veep" (one win), seven times for "Seinfeld" (one win) and five for "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (one win).
Competition will be fierce for Louis-Dreyfus, who'll compete with "Enlightened's" Laura Dern, Lena Dunham of "Girls," "Nurse Jackie's" Edie Falco, Amy Poehler of "Parks and Recreation" and "30 Rock" favorite Tina Fey. If you take notice of the pundits, it may just be fourth-time lucky for Louis-Dreyfus.
"30 Rock" star and new talk-show host Alec Baldwin is once again nominated for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series. A win Sunday will be the third for Baldwin in this category. Also nominated are "Arrested Development's" Jason Bateman, Louis C.K. of "Louis," "The Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons, "House of Lies'" Jon Cheadle, and Matt LeBlanc for "Episodes." Last year's winner, "Two and a Half Men's" Jon Cryer, was not nominated.
Hoping to knock "The Amazing Race" off the outstanding reality-competition series pedestal (the global phenomenon from CBS has won the category nine times since 2001) is "The Voice."
NBC's hit talent show with the big red chairs and superstar vocal coaches is a ratings winner but must out-groove ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," unstitch "Project Runway" from Lifetime, ensure Bravo's "Top Chef" remains undercooked, and ultimately outpace "The Amazing Race" to win the Emmy.
The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards will air live on Sunday Sept. 22 at 8e/5p on CBS.