John Oliver jumps ahead of Samantha Bee in Emmy race for Best Variety Talk Series, according to Experts

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” won the Emmy for Best Variety Talk Series in 2016, following a long period of dominance by “The Late Show with David Letterman” (1998-2002), “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (2003,2012, 2015) and “The Colbert Report” (2013-2014). Knowing how prone this category has been to dynasties, can we expect “Last Week Tonight” to keep winning even with a strong challenge this year from first-time nominee “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”? We’ve polled 15 Expert TV journalists from top media outlets, and they say Oliver is the frontrunner, but just barely.

As of this writing seven Experts are predicting Oliver: Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Anne Thompson (IndieWire), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Ken Tucker (Yahoo), and Adnan Virk (ESPN).

In addition to winning Best Variety Talk Series last year, Oliver’s show won Best Variety Series Writing and Best Variety Editing. In 2015 it also won Best Interactive Program. This year “Last Week Tonight” is the most nominated talk show of the year with eight, including return bids for writing and directing. On paper that’s tough to beat.

But Bee is close behind with support from five Experts: Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes), Robert Rorke (New York Post), Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed).

Bee was widely expected to be nominated in this category last year, but she was snubbed, though her show contended for Best Variety Series Writing. This time around she did break through in the top contest as well as in the race for Best Interactive Program, and she’s back with a nom for her writing team too. But the show has seven total nominations if you count the four bids for the “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” event, which contends for Best Variety Special, Best Variety Special Writing, Best Variety Special Directing and Best Variety/Nonfiction Production Design. That’s nearly as much broad academy support as Oliver has, and after decades of dominance by male talk show hosts, voters may wish to break the glass ceiling.

Our last three Experts say two-time winner Stephen Colbert will rise again with “The Late Show,” which he took over from Letterman in 2015: Eric Deggans (NPR), Lynette Rice (Entertainment Weekly), and Glenn Whipp (LA Times).

Though this is Colbert’s first nomination for “The Late Show,” he has the longest track record of the three top contenders. Between his work on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” he has won nine Emmys to date, including seven for Best Variety Writing. It took him a while to find his footing in his move to the more traditional CBS talk show, but this season he beat timeslot rival “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in the ratings for the first time and he has gained buzz since he returned his focus to political commentaries. This year “Late Show” is also nominated for its writing and directing, and like “Full Frontal” it contends a few more times for its variety special “Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale.”

The last three nominees are on the outside looking in, according to the Experts: “Late Late Show with James Corden,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Might they be underestimating those three shows?

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on September 17. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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