One of the main reasons this year’s Emmy race for Best Variety Talk Series is so intriguing is that three of the contenders are no longer on the air. And all of those shows have been dominant winners in the previously-named Best Variety Series category over the past two decades. The reigning two-time champ, “The Colbert Report,” is one of those departed programs and is the frontrunner to triumph again with 8/5 odds on its last try.
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This year marks the first time at the Emmys for this version of the category focused solely on talk shows. An additional category — Best Variety Sketch Series — inherits long-time contender “Saturday Night Live” plus more recent hits like “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Key and Peele,” and “Portlandia.”
For the talk show race, it took Stephen Colbert a long time to overtake parent program “Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” but he finally accomplished that by winning in 2013. He ended his Comedy Central run last December and recently debuted the revamped “Late Show” on CBS.
Jon Stewart dominated this category for a decade (2003-2012) with his satirical political series on Comedy Central. The show is now in second place with 10/3 odds. He also left the network in August, but the summer episodes will keep him eligible for one more Emmy Awards cycle in 2016, should the network choose to submit them.
David Letterman was the other of this year’s contenders to leave television this year. He had a 33-year late night run, with 11 on “Late Night” for NBC and 22 on “Late Show” for CBS. His finale gives him 4/1 odds for third place. A victory would provide him with one last Emmy after winning this category six times (1994, 1998-2002).
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” from HBO is the only newcomer in this category. Oliver first became well-known working with Stewart and started his own weekly show last year. He is in fourth place with 15/2 odds.
Next up with 33/1 odds is the most popular program in the late night wars, “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” While Fallon has picked up four Emmys himself, neither this current NBC show nor his previous version of “Late Night” has won the top program Emmy yet.
The last spot with distant 100/1 odds is held by “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” This is the fourth straight nomination in this category for the ABC program.
Experts Emmy predictions: All 32 categories
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Photo Credit: ‘The Colbert Report’/Comedy Central/REX