Emmys: Weighing the Odds in the Variety Races

7:00 AM 8/2/2019

by Scott Feinberg

The late-night nominees may be the same as last year, but they've each hustled to stand out in the crowded field — while the variety special (pre-recorded) field sees a unique mishmash of star-studded concert and stand-up projects vying for the prize.

Courtesy of HBO; Courtesy of CBS; Courtesy of Netflix
  • 'The Daily Show With Trevor Noah' (Comedy Central)

    Variety Talk

    Courtesy of Comedy Central

    The show boasting late night's youngest host (he's 35) earned its second consecutive nom for a season highlighted by an Oprah interview, footage of Bernie Sanders' old public access show and a visit to South Africa.

    On the other hand... It earned only one other nom, for interactive program.

  • 'Full Frontal With Samantha Bee' (TBS)

    Variety Talk

    Courtesy of TBS

    This category's sole female-hosted nominee brought, in its fourth season, a unique perspective to topics like Alabama's abortion law, the likability of female presidential candidates and the #MeToo movement.

    On the other hand... The show's two noms (its other is for writing) are half of what it got in 2018.

  • 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!' (ABC)

    Variety Talk

    Randy Holmes/ABC

    Kimmel is nominated for the eighth year in a row for a season in which Tom Brady shattered Matt Damon's window, George Clooney taped a "dumbfuckery" PSA and Christina Aguilera shot an "Undercover Sing."

    On the other hand... It would be unprecedented for a show to win for the first time in its 17th year.

  • 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' (HBO)

    Variety Talk

    Courtesy of HBO

    The three-time winner has nine noms (tying a series-high) on the back of cheeky commentary and deep dives on everything from Amazon's warehouse conditions to public shaming.

    On the other hand... Voters may want to give another show a shot — perhaps one with more than one episode a week?

  • 'The Late Late Show With James Corden' (CBS)

    Variety Talk

    Terence Patrick/CBS

    Corden shined with recurring segments like "Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts," "Crosswalk the Musical" and "Carpool Karaoke" (Babs! Celine! Cardi! The Jonases!).

    On the other hand... The only nominee that starts after midnight has three noms, one fewer than 2018. And CBS' other nominee is probably a higher priority.

  • 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' (CBS)

    Variety Talk

    Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

    Colbert's show topped the full-season ratings for the first time thanks to everything from a Jon Stewart visit to a Spike Jonze-directed live music video, scoring a best-yet four noms (including directing and writing).

    On the other hand... It's been 17 years since a broadcast net show won — it was Letterman's on CBS.

  • 'Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney Live From Liverpool' (CBS)

    Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

    Craig Sugden/CBS

    The only nominee not from Netflix, this utterly charming walk down memory lane went viral (44 million views) and landed five noms, second to Beyoncé's Homecoming.

    On the other hand... Carpool Karaoke was nominated last year and won in the two previous years, so voters may want to mix things up with some of the other star-studded nominees.

  • 'Hannah Gadsby: Nanette' (Netflix)

    Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    "The most discussed comedy special in ages," according to The New York Times, turned Australian comedian/social commentator Gadsby into an overnight star. And a Netflix stand-up special won last year (Dave Chappelle's).

    On the other hand... Not exactly LOL, it is not the only stand-up option, has only one other nomination (writing) and dropped longer ago (June 19, 2018) than any fellow nominee.

  • 'Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé' (Netflix)

    Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

    Courtesy of Netflix

    Written by, directed by and starring Beyoncé, this doc captures the tireless preparation for and mind-blowing execution of the star's two performances at 2018's Coachella (she was the fest's first-ever black female headliner) that came to be known as "Beychella." It garnered a category-leading six noms.

    On the other hand... Beyoncé doesn't do press, which could hinder her in such a competitive category.

  • 'Springsteen on Broadway' (Netflix)

    Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

    Kevin Mazur

    This filming of the final performance of The Boss' intimate and deeply personal Broadway show offers people who couldn't be in New York and/or afford an expensive ticket the chance to experience what it was all about. Springsteen even promoted the special at Netflix's FYSee space, with Martin Scorsese interviewing him.

    On the other hand... It received only one other nomination, for directing.

  • 'Wanda Sykes: Not Normal' (Netflix)

    Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

    Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

    Twenty years after winning an Emmy as a writer for The Chris Rock Show, Sykes could bag another, on her 10th nomination, for her stand-up special about how the U.S. has changed during the Trump era. It's also the show in this category that premiered the most recently (May 21).

    On the other hand... It's one of two stand-up options in the field, and the special's only other nomination is for writing.

    This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.