LOS ANGELES — HBO’s “Game of Thrones” slashed its way to a record-setting 32 Emmy nominations Tuesday for its eighth and final season, leading HBO back to dominance over Netflix, the streaming service that bumped it last year from atop the increasingly crowded television heap.
The bloodthirsty saga's total eclipsed the all-time series record of 27 nods earned by "NYPD Blue" in 1994.
If "Game of Thrones" successfully defends it best drama series title and claims a fourth trophy, it will join the quartet of most-honored dramas that includes "Hill Street Blues," ''L.A. Law," ''The West Wing" and "Mad Men."
The Emmy voters' acclaim stands in sharp contrast to fan reaction to the show's last hurrah, which included howls of laughter for a to-go coffee cup inadvertently included in one scene and a finale that detractors called unsatisfying. But the show's ratings never faltered for the series based on George R.R. Martin's novels, setting new highs for HBO.
A wealth of recognition for the cast and guest stars , including the show's only previous winner, Peter Dinklage with three awards, helped "Game of Thrones" add to its already record haul of nominations, now at 161 total.
Series star Emilia Clarke's decision to seek a best actress nomination after a series of supporting actress bids paid off. She's competing in a category that's notable for its diversity, including past winner Viola Davis for "How to Get Away with Murder" and repeat nominee Sandra Oh for "Killing Eve," who has another chance to become the first actress of Asian descent to win the trophy. She lost last year to Claire Foy for Netflix's "The Crown."
Two actors of color, Billy Porter for "Pose" and previous winner Sterling K. Brown for "This Is Us," earned drama series nods.
The rest of the drama series field includes "Better Call Saul," ''Bodyguard," ''Killing Eve," ''Ozark," ''Pose," ''Succession" and, as the only network entry, "This is Us." Mandy Moore, who plays the NBC drama's matriarch, earned her first best actress nod, with fellow cast member Chris Sullivan earning his first nod, for supporting actor.
Last year's best comedy series, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," led the comedy pack with 20 bids, including for its star and defending champion Rachel Brosnahan.
"I'm at the dog park this morning with my four children and started getting a lot of texts and phone calls all at once. I'm so excited to learn that the 'Maisel' family has been invited back to the party. This category is ridiculous. I can't believe I get to be a part of anything with these amazing women," Brosnahan told The Associated Press .
She'll vie with Emmy record-holder Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Veep," who didn't compete in last year's awards because her breast cancer treatment delayed production of the political satire. Louis-Dreyfus, who with Cloris Leachman shares the record for most Emmys won by a performer, eight, has a shot at solo glory if she wins again.
The final season of "Veep" received nine nominations, including a best supporting actress bid for Anna Chlumsky.
"I'm feeling really jazzed. It might be the coffee I just had. But this feels so much sweeter because it's the last time around for this show," she said.
There was no warm and fuzzy goodbye for "The Big Bang Theory," the long-running sitcom that failed to capture a best comedy nod or any for its actors. The show has company in other hit sitcoms of the past: Neither "Friends" nor "Frasier" were nominated for best series for their final year, both in 2004.
TV academy members' out-with-the-old approach created openings for a number of buzzy comedy newcomers and their stars and creators, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge's "Fleabag" and Natasha Lyonne's "Russian Doll." Other best comedy contenders include "Barry," which won acting trophies last year for Bill Hader and Henry Winkler, and sole network entry "The Good Place."
A surprising entry : the quirky "Schitt's Creek," which received its first best comedy series nomination for its penultimate season and bids for stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara.
Other top nominees include the nuclear disaster miniseries "Chernobyl" with 19 nominations and "Saturday Night Live," which drew on Robert De Niro's talents to play Robert Mueller last season, with 18. "When They See Us," the miniseries that dramatized the Central Park Five case and its aftermath, received 16 bids.
"Thank you to the real men for inviting me to tell their story," tweeted Ava DuVernay, executive producer of "When They See Us."
The leading miniseries nominee is "Fosse/Verdon," the biopic about dancer Gwen Verdon and choreographer Bob Fosse that earned 17 bids, including the first Emmy nominations for stars Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell.
There was a significant drop in diversity among this year's group of nominees compared to 2018, when more than a third of the 101 nominees in acting categories were ethnic minorities. This year, the figure was less than a quarter, with diversity especially absent in comedy.
Just two of the 26 acting nominees were people of color — Anthony Anderson for "black-ish" and Don Cheadle for "Black Monday" — and three of the four categories had only white nominees.
Categories dominated by the overwhelmingly white "Game of Thrones" were also short on inclusion , including supporting actress in a drama — zero nominees — and supporting drama actor, with only Giancarlo Esposito of "Better Call Saul" receiving a nomination.
In the overall tally contest among outlets, HBO received a whopping 137 nominations Tuesday, riding the dragon wings of "Game of Thrones" and the big tallies for "Chernobyl" and "Barry." Netflix, which last year ended HBO's 17-year reign to win the most Emmy nominations, was bumped to second this year with 117. Amazon's Prime Video was second to Netflix among streamers with 47 nominations.
Broadcast networks, steadily eclipsed by the rise of cable and now streaming, were far behind, with NBC getting 58 nods to top CBS' 43, ABC's 26 and Fox's 18.
The 71st Emmy Awards will air Sept. 22 on Fox, with the host yet to be announced.
AP Entertainment writers Andrew Dalton and Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report.