“Saturday Night Live” hosts have competed in the Emmys’ comedy guest acting categories since 2009, and in that time the show had won one or both races every year, but that changed on Sunday night, when “SNL” was shut out of both for the first time.
Justin Timberlake has won four Emmys for “SNL,” including two for Best Comedy Guest Actor. He earned another bid in that category this year for his fifth stint as host, joined by Emmy-darling Louis C.K., nominated for hosting the sketch comedy for the first time. But they both lost to Bob Newhart, who won the first Emmy of his career as Professor Proton on “The Big Bang Theory.”
So what went wrong this year?
“SNL” hosts usually have an advantage in the guest acting races; each 90-minute show is tailored around its host, who plays several broad characters over the course of an episode, showing Emmy voters a full range of comic performances and enjoying screentime often two or three times longer than their fellow nominees. This year, for instance, Timberlake’s sketches and musical performances clocked in at almost an hour, compared to a little over 10 minutes for Newhart.
Perhaps surprisingly, hosts have struggled the most when competing against each other. “SNL” has had multiple guest-acting nominees in a category five times, but only won twice under those circumstances: Betty White prevailed against Tina Fey in 2010, and Timberlake won against Zach Galifianakis in 2011.
Of course, it’s also important to consider the strengths of the actors they lost to. Last year, a pair of “SNL” hosts — McCarthy and Maya Rudolph — were upset by a comparatively brief performance by Kathy Bates playing the ghost of Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men.” Bates was a respected Oscar-winner who was overdue an Emmy win after nine previous nominations.
This year, voters honored similar contenders: a respected Oscar-winner (Leo) and a veteran overdue an Emmy win (Newhart).
Will “SNL” resume its dominance in future guest-acting races, or do this year’s losses signal that voters’ affection is on the wane?