Dark fantasy Game of Thrones and '60s-set drama Mad Men  are in the running for the best drama award at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.

Celebrity hosts Melissa McCarthy and Joshua Jackson announced the 2011 nominees in North Hollywood on Thursday morning.

 Emmy nominations count
 Mildred Pierce, 21
 Mad Men, 19
 Boardwalk Empire, 18
 Modern Family, 17
 Saturday Night Live, 16
 Game of Thrones, 13
 30 Rock, 13
 Glee, 12
Downton Abbey, 11
Too Big to Fail, 11
American Idol, 10
 The Kennedys, 10

Mad Men, which focuses on a set of characters working in New York's ad industry, has won the best drama honours  for the past three years and goes into the Emmy race with 19 nominations, including acting nods for Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss.

Game of Thrones, aired on HBO, is in its first season and is a departure in the drama category, which usually does not annoint genre series. The series, based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, has earned recognition for its casting, direction and writing as well as special effects.

The competition for best drama also includes mob series Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Friday Night Lights and The Good Wife.

The Kennedys, Pillars of the Earth

Canadian co-production Pillars of the Earth and Canadian-made series The Kennedys were among the nominees for best mini-series.

Pillars of the Earth, a mini-series starring Canadian actors such as Alison Pill, Donald Sutherland and Gordon Pinsent that aired on CBC, is based on the Ken Follett historical novel about the building of the great cathedrals of Britain. It has seven nominations.

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Greg Kinnear portrays John F. Kennedy in a scene from The Kennedys. The series bagged 10 nominations. (ReelzChannel/Associated Press)

The Kennedys, produced by Montreal's Muse production house, had a rough run on U.S. TV after being rejected by the U.S. History Channel amid accusations of inaccuracy and poor production values. The drama about the Kennedy family eventually aired on the ReelzChannel cable network in the U.S. as well as History in Canada.

But the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences appears to have enjoyed the series, and its members have nominated it in 10 categories.

As well, The Kennedys  racked up acting nominations for stars Greg Kinnear, who played Jack Kennedy, and the B.C.-born Barry Pepper, who played Bobby Kennedy.

A 'vindication'

Montreal-based producer Michael Prupas called The Kennedys nomination "a tremendous vindication."

"There's been a lot of very, very negative comment about the show that has come from people who had an axe to grind as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Prupas said he doesn't know what mini-series to root for as Muse Entertainment also was a junior producer on Pillars of The Earth, which was led by Germany's Tandem Communications, with post-production handled in Montreal.

Also in the running for best mini-series is Too Big to Fail, Cinema Verité and Mildred Pierce, starring Kate Winslet, which has a leading 21 Emmy nominations.

This may be the year that Hamm gets his Emmy for his well-regarded role as Don Draper  in Mad Men. The actor has lost out in past Emmy races to Bryan Cranston, who plays the drug-peddling chemistry teacher in Breaking Bad.

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Jon Hamm portrays Don Draper in Mad Men. This could be his year to take home the Emmy. (AMC/Associated Press)

But Breaking Bad took a hiatus this year, and Hamm is again nominated for best actor, vying for the honour with Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire, Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan and Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House.

Edie Falco, who won best actress in a comedy last year for Nurse Jackie, this year again faces competition from Tina Fey in 30 Rock and Amy Poehler in Parks And Recreation.

Canadian nominees

Canadian co-production The Borgias has six nominations, including one for best direction, while long-running teen series Degrassi has a nod for best children's program.

Michael J. Fox, the Vancouver-based actor best known for Family Ties, is up for best guest actor for a turn in The Good Wife.

Canadian Christopher Plummer is nominated for best voice-over for Moguls & Movie Stars, a documentary series on American movie history.

Host of the awards is Jane Lynch, who won a best supporting actress Emmy last year for her role in Glee.

In the comedy category, nominees include 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Glee, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation and The Office, with Steve Carell in the running for best comedy lead actor in his final season in the series.

The awards ceremony is set for Sept. 18 in Los Angeles.