The two halfhours with dark (albeit differently dark) sensibilities each have distinct nomination possibilities, without being locks.
"Veep," which premieres Sunday, will certainly push Julia Louis-Dreyfus into the thick of lead comedy actress competition. From 2006-10, Louis-Dreyfus was nominated for five consecutive Emmys for "The New Adventures of Old Christine," winning in 2006. "Veep" can't draw the wide audience of the CBS comedy, but the prestige of being an HBO show won't hurt. If anything, she might be even more noticed by the Academy for this project.
Along with such freshman contenders as Zooey Deschanel ("New Girl") and Laura Dern ("Enlightened") Louis-Dreyfus is among the thesps in new roles who might cause trouble for 2011's lead comedy actress nominees, all of whom are back in the running this year: winner Melissa McCarthy ("Mike & Molly") and runners-up Edie Falco ("Nurse Jackie"), Tina Fey ("30 Rock"), Laura Linney ("The Big C"), Martha Plimpton ("Raising Hope") and Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation").
It's not as if those performers aren't every bit as good as they were last year, but the same passion might not exist for all of them this time around. It's even conceivable that last year's winner, McCarthy, might fall completely out of the nominations, especially given the lack of a "Bridesmaids" boost this year.
"Girls," whose premiere April 15 led to all kinds of Internet back-and-forth on its merits and meaning, offers its own lead comedy actress candidate in series creator-star Lena Dunham. Dunham might be at a disadvantage to Louis-Dreyfus in a couple of respects: a) if the show's setting and subject matter aren't exactly the typical Academy voter's cup of tea, and b) the perception, right or wrong, that Dunham is playing a version of herself.
The latter issue, however, hasn't exactly hurt someone like HBO-mate Larry David, who has received four lead comedy actor nominations for "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Plus, the level of buzz around "Girls" has at least kept the show from flying under the radar and made it more likely that a voter would at least sample it, which is all you can really ask at this point.
In supporting acting categories, "Veep" has a few plausible picks, with Tony Hale ("Arrested Development") and Anna Chlumsky (from series creator Armando Iannucci's "In the Loop") getting the most early attention. However, voters might decide that in the end, Louis-Dreyfus is the only cast member worthy to be an Emmy finalist, and in any case, the massive "Modern Family" ensemble serves as a major roadblock for any new entrants. A similar predicament faces Adam Driver, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and Allison Williams of "Girls."
Could either "Veep" or "Girls" make a run at a series nomination? The lack of unanimous praise for each might seem a hindrance, but there is vulnerability among last year's nominees, with appreciation for "Glee," "The Office" and "30 Rock" in various levels of decline. But in addition to "Girls" and "Veep," there is no shortage of plausible possibilities to replace them. It might be easier for the two HBO newbies to break through in the writing arena than in the series race.