Emmy Watch: Your Variety Nominees

Early today we broke down your drama nominees for Sunday’s Emmy Awards, and now we’re taking a look at the remaining nominees for the variety category. There are only two more categories left to be awarded; Outstanding Variety Talk Series and Outstanding Variety Sketch Series. The Emmys for outstanding variety special, and directing and writing for both a variety series and specials, were awarded at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmys. Here are those results.

This is the second year that the Emmys has split the variety categories up into talk and sketch. Last year’s first Emmy in the talk category went, unsurprisingly, to The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. This year, with Stewart gone, is the first The Daily Show hasn’t been nominated in a whopping 15 years.

This year’s crop for Outstanding Variety Talk Series includes Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, from Crackle and the only real outlier. Two HBO shows both deal directly, hilariously and fearlessly with politics; Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and Real Time With Bill Maher. Then there’s the Big Three’s late night shows (with the notable exception of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert); The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC), Jimmy Kimmel Live! (ABC) and The Late Late Show With James Corden (CBS).

Of the network shows, if you were to base the award primarily on the “talk” in the category’s title, you’d have to tilt the scales towards Kimmel, whose the better interviewer of the three (Colbert would be right there with him, were he nominated). Fallon is the undisputed king of viral video hits and catchy, music-themed bits. Corden came on strong this year with his ubiquitous carpool karaoke segments, which nabbed none other than Michelle Obama as a guest.

Maher’s show is primarily a roundtable, and an exceptionally good one at that. He tackles topical subjects with vim and vigor, and, to his credit, tries to not only have a diverse range of guests on his show, but actually let them speak their mind. This has included current Donald Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, just this past April. And Seinfeld’s show is nothing but talk, as the comedian takes a guest (they can range from President Obama to Amy Schumer) out for a ride in one vintage car or another, then gets coffee, exactly as promised. Seinfeld’s always good company, especially with a fellow comedian.

Yet, the award is given not to the show that does the best interviews, but the best overall variety talk series, and as good as they’ve all been in their own ways, this year the zeitgeist clearly belonged to Oliver. Somehow they’ve managed to mix real in-depth reporting, often which illuminates subjects most comedy shows wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole (explaining what FIFA is and does, for example, or tackling sex education, or transgender rights) with all the hilarious gags, recurring bits and ribald humor you’d expect from the man who blazed onto the Daily Show and made such a name for himself.

And of course, there’s his immortal “Make Donald Drumpf Again” segment, which did for a certain segment of the population what Stewart and Colbert used to do on Comedy Central; make us laugh to keep from crying.

As for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series, last year’s winner Inside Amy Schumer is back again, joining fellow Comedy Central sketch shows Key & Peele and Drunk History. IFC has two nominees in Portlandia and Documentary Now!, while NBC’s SNL rounds out the category.

While Schumer had the impossible task of living up to her insanely epic third season and fell short only by those standards, Inside Amy Schumer is still essential viewing. SNL had a solid year (with Ghostbuster breakout star Kate McKinnon alien abuduction skit being seemingly everyone’s personal favorite), and shouldn’t been an afterthought just because it’s been on the air since Thomas Edison was in short pants.

Portlandia has been reliably smart, goofy, and singular for six seasons now. Drunk History managed the difficult task of going from a Funny or Die series to a cable show while maintaining it’s sense of self, delivering fairly educational and estimably wasted riffs on historical events. Documentary Now! is truly odd and delightful. If you haven’t caught an episode, read this primer on all the documentaries Seth Meyers, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen’s series mocks as a prime (including Vice and Grey Gardens).

Yet this has to be Key & Peele’s year. They delivered the goods for five seasons, managing to be breathtakingly original and hilarious simultaneously, while tackling issues only two bi-racial, fearless performers could. And considering this nomination is for the show’s last season, what better way for them to go out? But they deserve the award not just as a parting gift, but because their fifth and final season was fantastic, allowing them to leave the show on their terms and at the top of their game.



Bryan Abrams

Bryan Abrams is the Editor-in-chief of The Credits. He's run the site since its launch in 2012. He lives in New York.

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