Can Emmy newcomer Jimmy Kimmel beat nine-time champ Jon Stewart?

Is Emmy newcomer Jimmy Kimmel about to take down the unbeatable Jon Stewart?

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While “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” hopes to increase its Emmy haul this year by winning its tenth consecutive trophy for Best Variety Series, one major hurdle stands in its way. According to Gold Derby guru Tom O’Neil, the long-running series has fumbled its episode submission, which means we could be in for an unexpected jawdropper in this race.

At the Emmys, each show and performer must submit a sample episode to judges, who then watch all of the contenders before marking their ballots. “The Daily Show” has succeeded at this aspect of the game for the past nine years, and they likely would have won again if they submitted something from their endless roster of 2012 election episodes. Instead they’ve gone with the Feb. 16 episode with guest Arne Duncan of the U.S. Secretary of Education.

In our forum, O’Neil writes that “The Daily Show’s” submitted episode features a, “painfully unfunny (and looooong) skit by Larry Wilmore blasting NBA star Jeremy Lin, an Asian American who, Wilmore says, gets too much media attention during Black History Month.” Gold Derby forum poster 221BSam agrees, even going to far as to wonder, “Could they be throwing the race?”

Based on episode submissions, which Gold Derby has learned exclusively, the biggest threat to Stewart could be unlikely contender Kimmel. “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” has been a staple of ABC’s late night for the past decade, yet it’s never been nominated in the Variety Series race until this year. Not only does Kimmel have some major good will heading his way for hosting the Emmys, but he actually submitted arguably the best episode to judges.

Kimmel’s episode is the wildly popular “After the Academy Awards” special in which he sits down with Oprah Winfrey. Cameo appearances include Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Matt Damon with musical guest Coldplay. In other words, it’s a show-stopper. Gold Derby gives it 9/1 odds to win.

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Also in contention is “The Colbert Report” (6/1 odds), which submitted its June 30 episode where Stephen Colbert gets the government okay to create his own Superpac. Colbert’s guest is Timothy Garton Ash, author of “Facts Are Subversive.”

In fourth place with 10/1 odds is the young-skewing “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” This relatively new talk show submitted its April 12 episode with guests Tina Fey, John Slattery and Chef David Chang.

Perennial nominee “Saturday Night Live” (16/1) returns to the field once again, this time with Kristen Wiig‘s final episode featuring host and musical guest Mick Jagger.

In last place is “Real Time with Bill Maher” (50/1), which will likely lose again and cement Bill Maher‘s reputation as Emmy’s biggest loser of all time.

Last month, Gold Derby ran a poll asking if “The Daily Show” should bow out of the Emmy race. More than half of you said yes. If Emmy voters feel the same way, then we are finally due for a new winner when winners are announced Sept. 23.

“But beware,” warns O’Neil. “Last year many Emmy pundits thought ‘The Daily Show’ would finally lose because it submitted the really lame episode in which Jon Stewart mocks the ascot work by CNN commentator Roland Martin. However, it ended up beating stellar episode submissions by ‘The Colbert Report’ (Stephen Colbert entertains U.S. troops in Iraq while Barack Obama visits via satellite), ‘The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien’ (Conan’s heart-tugging farewell) and ‘Saturday Night Live’ (the Betty White jamboree). Many of us thought Jon Stewart was throwing the race last year, but he still prevailed. Maybe he’s just unbeatable?”

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