Last year was the first in the Emmy race for Best Variety Series since Jon Stewart stepped down from “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central; Stewart’s “Daily Show” won Best Variety Series 10 times (2003-2012), and then it won Best Variety Talk Series when talk and sketch shows were separated in 2015. In Stewart’s absence, the TV academy passed the baton to “Daily Show” alum John Oliver for his HBO series “Last Week Tonight,” which also focuses on politics. But Oliver isn’t the only “Daily Show” graduate making headlines for their takes on the headlines. Samantha Bee (“Full Frontal”) and Stephen Colbert (“The Late Show”) were both snubbed in 2016, but there’s reason to believe Emmy voters will welcome them both this time around.
“Full Frontal” premiered in the spring of 2016, but over a year covering the presidential election campaign and Donald Trump‘s subsequent presidency its ratings have skyrocketed. Trump’s election has also boosted Colbert’s profile. Colbert hosted “The Colbert Report” for nine years and won Best Variety Series twice (2013-2014). He took over “The Late Show” from David Letterman in September 2015, but he missed out on a nom last year. However, he has leaned back into the political satire that made him a hit on Comedy Central, and in 2017 he started surpassing his time-slot rival “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in the ratings.
But for Bee and Colbert to break through, they’ll have to replace a returning contender since all six are eligible again this year, including Fallon, who has been nominated every year since 2011, first for “Late Night” (2011-2013) and then for “The Tonight Show” (2104-2016). We also mustn’t underestimate James Corden‘s “The Late Late Show,” which started in 2015 and broke into the Emmys last year instead of its CBS lead-in Colbert. In the last 12 months Corden has maintained his high profile with his Emmy winning viral hit video series “Carpool Karaoke” and by hosting the 2016 Tony Awards and 2017 Grammy Awards.
This season’s other two EGOT ceremonies were hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (2016 Emmys and 2017 Oscars), so perennial nominee “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (2012-2016) also benefits from its host’s high profile, but it has yet to win. Jerry Seinfeld‘s digital series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” surprised by scoring a nom in 2016, so don’t count it out this year. And though Bill Maher has courted controversy this year on “Real Time,” the HBO series has been nominated 11 times for Best Variety Series.
Other shows are hoping to break through for the first time. Seth Meyers has also found success by tackling politics on “Late Night,” and Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” successor Trevor Noah could get that show back into the lineup. Past nominee Conan O’Brien (“Conan”) is waiting in the wings. Chelsea Handler (“Chelsea”) could make history by becoming the first Netflix nominee in this category. And Chris Hardwick has two shows in the running: his Comedy Central series “@midnight” and AMC’s “Talking with Chris Hardwick.”
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