Emmys mystery: Was last year’s win by ‘Colbert Report’ over ‘Daily Show’ a fluke?

At last year’s Emmys, after “The Colbert Report” finally defeated “The Daily Show” for Best Variety Series, journalists grilled Stephen Colbert in the press room about how he was able to finally take down the decade-long champ.

“I’m grateful Jon Stewart took the summer off during the voting period,” a contemplative Colbert surmised. “Not that Jon Oliver didn’t do the greatest job ever, but I don’t know, maybe that helped.”

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Colbert was referring to Stewart taking a three-month hiatus from “The Daily Show” to direct his upcoming movie “Rosewater” in the Middle East. Oliver replaced Stewart to great fanfare and even wound up with his own HBO late-night show, “Last Week Tonight,” in the process.

However, Stewart’s break from the show happened to fall during Emmy voting and, if Colbert is correct, may have cost him Emmy #11 in the same Variety Series race he had dominated since 2003. In other words, was it simply Stewart’s scheduling fluke that caused “The Colbert Report” to triumph?

Last year, our own Tom O’Neil watched all of the episode submissions in the Variety Series race and declared it to be a battle between “The Daily Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” thanks to the latter’s stand-out submission in which Matt Damon kidnapped Jimmy Kimmel and then proceeded to host the show and its roster of A-listers. Based on all six nominees’ episode submissions, O’Neil gave “Colbert Report” only third-best odds to claim victory.

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That begs the question, if Emmy voters wanted to penalize Stewart for taking the summer off, why not reward Kimmel for having the best episode submission? Perhaps voters bypassed the normal viewing panel part of their jobs and just went with their personal favorite “Colbert Report” instead? Don’t forget, Colbert’s writing staff also won the Emmy for Best Variety Writing last year too (as well as in 2008 and 2010), so voters clearly just love the show.

This year, Colbert and Stewart are once again back in contention for Best Variety Series. But if you ask me, they both better watch their backs because there’s a newcomer to the race that could claim the win: Jimmy Fallon as the new host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” Fallon is young, he’s hip, he’s fresh, and he’s a recent Emmycast host to boot. Is the writing on the wall for an easy Fallon victory, or might Colbert and/or Stewart claim Emmy glory?

Gold Derby’s official combined racetrack odds have “The Colbert Report” in first place to win with 1/2 odds, followed by “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in second place at 14/5, “The Daily Show” in third place with 33/1 odds, “Saturday Night Live” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” tied for fourth place at 50/1, and “Real Time with Bill Maher” in last place with 100/1 odds.

What show do you think will win the Emmy for Best Variety Series? Make your own predictions below this video of Colbert’s Emmy acceptance speech and then sound off in the comments section or join the discussion in our Emmys forum.

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