‘Hamilton’ in Emmy duel with Bo Burnham with Dave Chappelle waiting in the wings

At the Emmys, Best Pre-recorded Variety Special is turning into a race between three very different programs: the TV version of the stage hit “Hamilton,” a comedy special from Emmy favorite Dave Chappelle and an innovative show by Bo Burnham.

“Hamilton” was hailed by both audiences and critics when Disney+ streamed it during the tumultuous worldwide lockdown last year. It scores 97% at Rotten Tomatoes based on nearly 200 reviews, and boasts an impressive 8.4/10 rating on IMDb. After being recognized by the Golden Globes, Screen Actors’ Guild and Critics’ Choice Association. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical reaped a resounding 10 Emmy bids including a record-breaking seven acting nominations.

Three years ago, another stage to TV transfer, “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” won a program award at the Emmys. However, that victory came in the “Live” category with the “Pre-recorded” prize going to Chappelle’s stand-up special “Equanimity.” Chappelle repeated in that race in 2020 for “Sticks and Stones.” However, his current contender, “8:46” is third in our odds. Chappelle may have to make do this year with winning an Emmy for his guest hosting of “Saturday Night Live.”

Sitting in second is another Netflix entry, “Bo Burnham: Inside.” This innovative program included flashes of both stand-up and sketch-type comedy as well as a slew of songs that sent the internet into a viral frenzy. Burnham released an album of this material and two of his songs, “All Eyes on Me” and “Bezos and I,” cracked the global top 100 charts on Spotify and the Billboard Top 200. The album reached #7 on the Billboard global 200.

Critics and audiences responded to Burnham’s meditation on life in lockdown. “Inside” merited a jaw-dropping 98 on MetaCritic and an 8.7/10 rating on IMDb. Emmy voters responded as well and it earned six nominations. Burnham is tapped to win both directing and writing and is a close second for song. If voters are ticking his name off in other categories, they could do so in the top race too.

Consider this: While “Hamilton” reaped multiple bids in three of the four acting categories for telefilms and limited series, it isn’t predicted to prevail in any of them.  At its core “Hamilton” is a stage musical. It won a record-tying 11 Tony Awards. Will Emmy voters feel compelled to reward it as well?

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