Stephen Colbert is favored to win the top variety series Emmy for the third straight year for "The Colbert Report." But can he do something only Tracey Ullman has ever done before: take a completely different show into the winners' circle in the same category?
The premiere episode of "Late Show with Stephen Colbert" aired Tuesday evening on CBS. He dropped his longtime personna as the ultra-conservative pundit from Comedy Central to become an enthusiastic talk show host interviewing guests and introducing musical acts each night. Colbert inherited the job after a 22-year run by late night legend David Letterman, whom he praised extensively in his opening remarks behind the desk.
If the first listing of guests is any indication, Colbert plans on mixing the usual celebrity interviews (George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Schumer, Emily Blunt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Spacey) with political candidates and newsmakers (Jeb Bush, Joe Biden, Stephen Breyer, Bernie Sanders). While some of the other late-night shows do bring on politicians, it seems that Colbert will have them on more frequently.
Could that be the correct formula to continue pleasing Emmy voters starting next year? For Best Variety Series, only Ullman has had two different shows win: "The Tracey Ullman Show" (1989) and "Tracey Takes On" (1997). But to be fair, the most dominant winners over the years (Johnny Carson, Letterman, Jon Stewart) never moved on to have other shows compete.
Currently "Colbert Report" is ranked first in our Emmy predictions center with 13/8 odds for the newly-named Best Variety Talk Series category. His show ended last December, but both programs seen as his closest competitors have also concluded: "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is in second with 27/10 odds followed by "The Late Show with David Letterman" at 9/2. Rookie talker "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" is next at 15/2, and then "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" at 33/1 and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" at 100/1.
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Photo: Premiere episode of "Late Show with Stephen Colbert." Credit: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS