Experts’ Emmy predictions: ‘Last Week Tonight’ will beat ‘Full Frontal’ for Variety Series Writing

The Emmy for Best Variety Series Writing will be handed out at this weekend’s Creative Arts Awards, and it’s likely to have a new winner according to the predictions of the expert TV journalists we’ve polled from top media outlets. The most dominant competitors in recent years, nine-time winner “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and four-time winner “The Colbert Report,” are both off the air and out of contention. The only past winner among this year’s nominees is the sketch series “Saturday Night Live,” which last prevailed in 2002, but that’s not the show our experts are betting on.

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“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” gets leading 1/4 odds to prevail based on support from 15 of our experts: Robert Bianco (USA Today), Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Lynn Elber (Associated Press), Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Pete Hammond (Deadline Hollywood), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Lynette Rice (Entertainment Weekly), Robert Rorke (New York Post), Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), Ken Tucker (Yahoo), Adnan Virk (ESPN) and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed).

This would be the first win for “Last Week Tonight,” though not the first for its writer and host John Oliver. He actually won this award three times as a member of the writing staff of “The Daily Show” (2009, 2011, 2012). Another Emmy-winning “Daily Show” alum is on the “Last Week” writing staff: Tim Carvell, who has won this category six times.

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It appears the closest competition for “Last Week Tonight” is another series from a “Daily Show” graduate: “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” The series was surprisingly snubbed in the race for Best Variety Talk Series, but it made the cut here and ranks second with 13/2 odds and two experts predicting it: Eric Deggans (NPR) and Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes).

This is the first Emmy nom for Samantha Bee herself, but like Oliver she’s also joined on her writing staff by Emmy-winning “Daily Show” writers: three-time winner Jo Miller, four-time winner Jason Reich and whopping nine-time writing champ Eric Drysdale, who prevailed for both “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”

None of our experts are predicting the remaining nominees, but based on the rest of their rankings “Inside Amy Schumer” is third with 40/1 odds. Another Comedy Central sketch series, “Key and Peele,” is fourth with 66/1 odds. And “SNL” and “Portlandia” round out the category tied with 80/1 odds.

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Gold Derby’s Editors, who cover awards year-round, agree with the experts’ consensus. In fact, all seven of us — O’Neil, Sheehan, Chris Beachum, Marcus James Dixon, Rob Licuria, Matt Noble and myself — are unanimous that “Last Week Tonight” will win.

Our Top 24 Users, who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Emmys, also place “Last Week Tonight” way out front, but it’s not unanimous. While 17 are predicting the frontrunner, two are taking a chance on “Inside Amy Schumer,” while one says “Full Frontal” and one more says “SNL.”

Our All Star Top 24, who scored the highest when we combine Emmy predictions from the last two years, strongly favor “Last Week Tonight” as well, with 16 betting on it, three going with “SNL” and one going out on a limb for “Key and Peele.” So while all our predictor groups agree on “Last Week Tonight” as the frontrunner, it seems none can agree on what its closest challenger might be.

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