The race for Emmy gold heated up Thursday, as the nominations for the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards were revealed from the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood.

The nominees by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences were announced by “Scandal” actress Kerry Washington and a pajama-clad Jimmy Kimmel, a last minute replacement for “Parks and Recreation” star Nick Offerman.

Kimmel, who will host the Sept. 23 Emmy ceremony on CTV, stepped in for Offerman after the actor was delayed on the East Coast by bad weather.

As expected, the HBO drama “Mad Men” leads the pack in this year’s race, earning 17 Emmy nominations including one for Best Drama.

The 1960s saga about cynical ad executive Don Draper has won four Outstanding Drama Series trophies to date, to tie it with “The West Wing,” “L.A. Law” and “Hill Street Blues.” Thursday’s announcement gives the HBO hit an opportunity to set a new record as the most-honoured drama in television history.

That chance, however, failed to impress Toronto Star television critic Rob Salem.

“‘Mad Men’ is a wonderful show, but four times is enough,” Salem told CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday from Los Angeles.

Other shows vying for top drama honours include “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game Of Thrones” and “Homeland.”

The miniseries "American Horror story," a nightmarish saga about a haunted house, also received 17 Emmy nominations including an acting nod for star Connie Britton.

The elegant PBS series “Downton Abbey” and the miniseries, “Hatfields & McCoys” fell just shy of this year’s front-runners, earning 16 nominations apiece.

“Hemingway & Gellhorn,” the HBO drama starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen, also impressed Emmy voters, scooping up 15 nominations.

Other double-digit nominees included “Saturday Night Live,” which received 14 Emmy nods, “30 Rock,” “Breaking Bad,” Masterpiece’s “Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia” (13 each), “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game Change” (12 each) and Game of Thrones” (11).

None of these nominations were surprising. The number of nods earned by HBO, however, highlighted the growing power of cable-produced shows in today’s entertainment industry.

HBO heads into the 2012 Emmy race with 81 nominations. CBS picked up 60 nods, followed by PBS with 58 nominations.

HBO’s strong showing also signaled a growing gap in the industry between the number of quality shows produced by traditional television networks and those generated by their cable counterparts.

“Networks have to wake up,” said Salem.

“They need to realize that they can do quality over the quantity of episodes,” he said.

Many cable-made television shows have helped several actors earn Emmy nominations.

As expected, perennial favourite Jon Hamm received a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a dramatic series.

Other nominees included Damian Lewis from “Homeland,” Hugh Bonneville from ““Downton Abbey”, Michael C. Hall from “Dexter”, Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad,” and Steve Buscemi from “Boardwarlk Empires.”

Big Hollywood names were also among the list of nominees for Outstanding Actress in a dramatic series. That list included “Harry’s Law” star Kathy Bates, “Homeland’s” Claire Danes, “Damages’” Glenn Close, “The Good Wife’s” Julianna Margulies, “Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss and “Downton Abbey’s” Michelle Dockery.

The comedy “Modern Family" also returned, as expected, to pick up a hefty haul of Emmy nominations.

Honoured as the best comedy series for the past two years, “Modern Family” was the sitcom leader with 14 Emmy nominations.

“It’s just such a uniformly fabulous show,” said Salem, who cast his bets on another win for “Modern Family” in 2012.

“The Big Bang Theory,” “30 Rock” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” also snagged nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series, as did HBO’s fledgling Emmy competitors “Veep” and the “Sex and the City”-like “Girls.”

“‘Girls’ was a surprise. I hated it,” said Salem.

“Girls” star Lena Dunham also earned a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a comedy series, as did “Mike & Molly” star Melissa McCarthy, “New Girl’s” Zooey Deschanel, “30 Rock’s” Tina Fey and “Nurse Jackie’s” Edie Falco.

“Parks and Recreation” star Amy Poehler also nabbed a nomination, making her Salem’s favourite contender in this year’s race.

“She stands a good chance to win,” said Salem.

Stars vying for Outstanding Lead Actor in a comedy series included Jim Parsons from “The Big Bang Theory,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Larry David, “30 Rock’s” Alec Baldwin,” “House of Lies” star Don Cheadle, “Louie’s” Louis C.K. and “Two and a Half Men’s” Jon Cryer.

Canadian content was also among this year’s Emmy nominees.

CTV’s popular teen drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation” earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding children’s programming.

Actor Michael J. Fox scored his second consecutive Emmy nod for Outstanding Guest Actor in the drama, “The Good Wife,” as well as a nomination for his guest appearance on the HBO comedy series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Brampton, Ont. actor Will Arnett scooped up his fourth nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in the comedy series, “30 Rock.”

Finally, Toronto-born “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels also received a nomination, as did Toronto voice actor Maurice LaMarche for his voice-over performance on the animated TV show, “Futurama.”