Feinberg Forecast: Where the Variety Talk and Sketch Races Stand Now

7:00 AM 8/15/2016

by Scott Feinberg

Jerry Seinfeld's nomination made the biggest splash in the talk category, but is it enough to take a win away from late night? THR's awards analyst looks at the landscape.

Variety Talk and Sketch_3 - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of NBC

Variety Talk and Sketch_3 - Publicity - H 2016

  • Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (Crackle)

    + After two noms in the shortform category, Seinfeld's show — shot with three GoPro cameras — is competing with the big guns (it's the first web series to make it this far), up for an episode featuring President Obama.

    - Seinfeld is a perennial Emmy bridesmaid — he's only won once, 23 years ago!

    See More: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC)

    + This series is nominated for the fifth straight year thanks to its host, a funny everyman who appeals to both men and women (and who has been tapped to host the Emmys telecast in September).

    - It hasn't won yet, and it's hard to imagine why it would start winning now with only one other nom this year.

    See More: Jimmy Kimmel Live!

  • Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)

    + With its Brit-wit and deep-dive segments, it scored a category-best six noms (it's the only nominee to get directing and writing noms) on the heels of its Critics' Choice Award win over Corden, Fallon and Kimmel.

    - It airs Sunday for 30 minutes; Corden, Fallon and Kimmel do longer shows multiple nights a week.

    See More: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

  • The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS)

    + For its second season, this fan favorite — which airs after midnight and largely is consumed via viral videos, especially "Carpool Karaoke" — picked up its first series nom, one of three (another is for directing).

    - It's been 21 years since a variety series has won that didn't also receive a writing nom.

    See More: The Late Late Show With James Corden

  • Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO)

    + The only entry that features both monologues and debate has been nominated in 11 of the past 12 years (and never has won). Smart political talk in an election year could resonate.

    - The once-a-week thing could hurt it, plus its episode submission is the season premiere, which literally is old news.

    See More: Real Time with Bill Maher

  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC)

    + The late-night ratings leader's third straight series nom, after three in a row for Fallon's previous gig, Late Night, serves as a reminder of just how well-liked the guy is. The show got a directing nom this year, too.

    - Those are its only two noms. And Corden has stolen Fallon's throne as the king of viral video.

    See More: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

  • Documentary Now! (IFC)

    + SNL spawned a competitor when it aired a sketch that morphed into this mockumentary series, co-created by three alums and produced by Lorne Michaels. It began streaming on Netflix in April, and its freshness could prove key.

    - This is the show's sole nomination this year; no other sketch nominee has fewer than three.

    See More: Documentary Now!

  • Drunk History (Comedy Central)

    + This Derek Waters-hosted laugh-fest, born out of a Funny or Die web series, received three noms this year — up from just one in 2015 — and has submitted a standout episode featuring Octavia Spencer and Will Ferrell.

    - All of the other nominees in this category mostly are scripted; this one isn't, which could undercut it.

    See More: Drunk History

  • Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)

    + The defending champ is one of only two nominees this year that scored acting, directing and writing noms (the other is SNL). Its episode submission deals with guns — talk about timely.

    - Season four was flat compared with season three and attracted less buzz. Plus it has to compete with two other shows from the same network.

    See More: Inside Amy Schumer

  • Key & Peele (Comedy Central)

    + The final season of 2013's Peabody Award winner offered hilarious social commentary — most notably about tensions between cops and blacks in "Negrotown" — and landed noms for writing and acting (Keegan-Michael Key).

    - It's been off the air since last September — and its ratings weren't great when it was on the air.

    See More: Key & Peele

  • Portlandia (IFC)

    + The hipster humor of writer-producer-stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein resulted in a second straight nom here and a fourth in the writing category. Armisen also did good work on Documentary Now! and SNL.

    - Its quirky humor is not for everyone, and it's again the lowest-rated of this category's nominees.

    See More: Portlandia

  • Saturday Night Live (NBC)

    + This old-timer, which thrives in election years, got 16 noms — tops among sketch series by far — including acting (six), directing (two) and writing (two). It's facing three Comedy Central and two IFC shows that could cancel out each other, respectively.

    - It hasn't won a series prize since 1993, and competition's never been greater.

    See More: Saturday Night Live