LOS ANGELES - "Mad Men," a piercingly bleak portrait of a 1960s Ameri-can anti-hero, earned a leading 17 Emmy nominations Thursday and the chance to set a new record as the most-honored drama in television history.
AMC's "Mad Men," which has won four best drama series trophies and is tied with "Hill Street Blues," ''L.A. Law" and "The West Wing," received a fifth bid in the category.
The miniseries "American Horror Story," a nightmarish saga about a haunted house, received a matching 17 awards, including an acting nod for star Connie Britton.
Other leading nominees include the elegant British-born soap opera "Downton Abbey," which earned 16 bids, and two miniseries, "Hatfields & McCoys," with 16, and "Hemingway & Gellhorn" with 15.
"Modern Family," honored as best comedy series for the past two years, was the sitcom leader with 14 bids and practically ran the table in supporting actor nods, but the comedy realm also saw an infusion of girl power.
Breakout comedies with women at their center - in fashion after the box-office success of "Bridesmaids" - proved alluring to Emmy voters.
"Girls," creator-star Lena Dunham's darkly comedic coming-of-age New York story, received a best comedy nod and acting, writing and directing nominations for her. Zooey Deschanel's offbeat charm in "New Girl" earned her an acting bid.
Melissa McCarthy has a chance to repeat last year's victory as best comedy actress winner for "Mike & Molly."
Emmy darling Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with past wins for "Sein-feld" and "New Adventures of Old Christine," earned an acting nod for "Veep," which received a best comedy nomination.
Betty White, 90, brought her veteran brand of female empowerment to the nominations, earning two bids - best reality series host nod for "Betty White's Off Their Rockers" and best variety special for "Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America's Golden Girl."
Top nominations were announced by Kerry Washington of "Scandal" and by Jimmy Kim-mel, who will host the awards.
The Emmy ceremony is scheduled to air on ABC on Sept. 23.
Academy voters paid tribute to the late Kathryn Joosten, who received a supporting actress bid for her role as Wisteria Lane neighbor Karen McClusky in "Desperate Housewives." Joosten, who had won two Emmys for the role, died in June of lung cancer.
"American Idol," TV's top-rated non-sports show, was shut out of the best reality series contest for the first time in its 11-year history, although Ryan Seacrest was nominated as host. Its biggest competition in the reality-singing category, "The Voice," did get a nod.
Competition for "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey" includes national security drama "Home-land," prohibition-era crime saga "Boardwalk Empire," teacher-turned-drugmaker tale "Breaking Bad" and the elaborate fantasy "Game of Thrones," based on George R.R. Martin's novels.
"Downton Abbey," which has earned ratings and buzz for PBS, was named best miniseries last year but was switched to the drama category this time around. The TV academy's prime-time awards committee decided its continuing story line made it a series.
"American Horror Story" decided to move to the miniseries category after competing as a drama series in the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.
Besides "Modern Family," "Girls" and "Veep," comedy series nominees include "The Big Bang Theory," "30 Rock" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Big-screen stars who have a shot at the small-screen trophy for their TV movie work include Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman for "Hemingway & Gellhorn," about the tumultuous romance of Ernest Hemingway and journalist Martha Gellhorn, Julianne Moore for her portrayal of Sarah Palin in "Game Change" and Kevin Costner for "Hatfields & McCoys."
Rising British star Benedict Cumberbatch won a bid for his contemporary "Sherlock" portrayal. "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia" earned 13 bids as a "Masterpiece" movie on PBS.
HBO had a leading 81 nominations, while CBS had the highest network total with 60. PBS received 58 nods, followed by NBC with 51, ABC with 48, AMC with 34, Fox with 26 and Showtime with 22.
AP Entertainment Writers Jake Coyle in New York and Derrik J. Lang and Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.