In one of the longest monopolies in Emmy Awards history, Jon Stewart and his protege Stephen Colbert managed to defeat all rivals for the last 13 years and have kept the category of Best Variety Series between themselves since most of the cast of “Saturday Night Live” were still in high school. But this year, we’ll finally have a new winner.
Stewart won the award an astounding (or infuriating depending on you political leanings) 10 years in a row starting in 2003, just a few years after taking over as host of “The Daily Show” from its previous lower-profile host Craig Kilborn. He finally relinquished his title to Colbert’s spin-off talker “The Colbert Report” for the next two years (2013-14). Then last year when both hosts ended their runs Stewart returned to the winner’s circle for his final season.
The monopoly on the category may have been behind the TV academy’s decision in 2015 to split the award into Variety Sketch and Variety Talk races, thereby giving shows like “SNL” and “Inside Amy Shumer” a place to compete away from the more standard talk programs.
This year though, neither Stewart or Colbert are present in the category. “The Daily Show” with Stewart as host aired last summer, thus making it eligible to compete for another year, but Stewart decided not to submit himself for the award to give new host Trevor Noah a chance. Noah was snubbed. Colbert, who took over David Letterman‘s old “Late Show,” also found himself unheralded by the academy, so for the first time in nearly a decade-and-a-half voters will have to choose a different winner.
The early favorite seems to be “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Oliver’s show is the closest in format to Stewart’s and Oliver rose to fame as a fill-in host for “The Daily Show” when Stewart took an extended vacation to direct the film “Rosewater.” Oliver’s show is similar to all four of his fellow nominees since none of the shows have won Emmys in their current incarnations. Oliver faces network staples Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, as well as Bill Maher who returns to the category after not being nominated last year, and Jerry Seinfeld for his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” In the spot that seemed reserved for Colbert at this time last year is the follow-up program “The Late Late Show with James Corden.”
Corden did very well in Emmy nominations, gaining three for his regular program and a fourth in the Variety Special category for his “Carpool Karaoke” primetime event. The British actor and Tony-winning stage performer was seen as kind of a surprise choice to take over the show from Craig Ferguson last year, but largely on the strength of his carpool segments, Corden clearly made a strong impact with Emmy voters. It will be an interesting changing of the guard come Emmy night as one of the new shows takes the award from the long dominating Comedy Central favorites.
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