Critic's Notebook: Emmy Noms Snub Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah, Ignore an Old Favorite

Comedians in Cars Screenshot Trevor Noah Jerry Seinfeld H 2016

With longtime Emmy favorites The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Late Show With David Letterman all either gone or boasting new hosts, it was inevitable that this year's Emmy category for outstanding variety talk series would represent a major sea change. But even with expectations of a major overall, Thursday morning's nominations were rather shocking.

In the main variety talk category, the nominees are: Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Real Time With Bill Maher, The Late Late Show With James Corden, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Fallon, Kimmel and Oliver's shows were all nominated last year and Maher's HBO favorite has been a frequent nominee, so that left two slots for surprises or new faces and Emmy voters delivered, honoring the viral innovation of Corden's 12:37 a.m. series on CBS and, most shocking, a Jerry Seinfeld-hosted series from Crackle of all places.

Nobody would question Seinfeld's star power, obviously, nor the Crackle show's ability to produce segments that general conversation and online traffic, but it's notable what Comedians in Cars beat out.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has gone through creative growing pains, but Late Show was a regular nominee and frequent winner during Letterman's tenure and Colbert's fictional incarnation was a regular nominee and frequent winner on Comedy Central. There's no question that Corden has outstripped his network-mate when it comes to next-day online success and the always ephemeral "buzz," but the newfound Emmy supremacy will do nothing to quiet rumblings — mostly from critics and pundits and whatnot, but sure to get more discussion at the upcoming TCA press tour — that a time-period swap might benefit both shows and the network.

Colbert had big shoes to fill in taking Letterman's slot, but perhaps no figure in late night had a tougher chore than Trevor Noah, who took over for Stewart, a man so powerful and beloved that he probably could have gotten another nomination this year if he had submitted The Daily Show's closing run of episodes from last summer. Instead, Stewart ceded both the show and the Emmy spotlight to Noah and ... nada. The Daily Show was shut out, fueling a narrative that the Comedy Central institution has lost its bite. (I've consistently disputed that contention. To me, Noah has reliably put on two-thirds of a very fine show, followed by a weak nightly interview. Still, it's hard not to feel that this is an outright snubbing, probably an unfair snubbing based on expectations, not reality.)

Neither Colbert's Late Show nor Noah's Daily Show has gotten universal acclaim, though, which probably makes the category's biggest head-scratcher the lack of a nomination for TBS' Full Frontal With Samantha Bee. The former Daily Show correspondent's weekly series may be the year's best received new show. Like Noah on The Daily Show and The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, Full Frontal has been saluted as part of the genre's slow shift away from being the exclusive domain of white males, but Emmy is apparently slower to catch up.

Interestingly, Full Frontal picked up a nomination in the outstanding writing for a variety series category, a possibly more competitive field that includes genre-straddlers like Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, Portlandia, Saturday Night Live and Last Week Tonight. There's some solace in that.

Other shows in the space with potential for Thursday morning grumpiness include Late Night With Seth Meyers, which has boasted some of the election season's sharpest political commentary on a nightly basis, and Conan, which made a number of trips abroad this year but received only an editing mention for the Korea special and digital thingie.

Let the outrage flow ...