Since 2015, when the Emmys split the category formerly known as featured variety series into two — variety talk and variety sketch — the two shows have dominated. In variety talk, Last week Tonight with John Oliver won seven years in a row. In diverse sketches, Saturday Night Live took it six times.
But in 2023, these two giants will be competing against each other thanks to another rule change. Both now fall under the category of excellent scripted variety drama series, described as shows that are “primarily scripted or feature loosely scripted improvisation and include discrete scenes, amount of music, monologues, stand-up comedy, sketches, etc.” So who will prevail? For years, it seemed like voters just shrugged and voted for Last week Tonight And SNL without really thinking. Now, they will have to choose from a list of erratic choices.
By many ways, Last week Tonight still has the upper hand, even though it’s in a new genre. When it comes to variety talk, it beat out the biggest names in the dead of night, including Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live! And Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
SNL, admittedly, had a much smaller field to conquer. In 2022 and 2021, the sketch variety has only two nominations: SNL And A Black Lady Sketch Show. And while it would be thrilling if voters opted for Robin Thede’s HBO series, they’re choosing Lorne Michaels’ longtime star producer instead.
Compare Last week Tonight And SNL feels like an apple versus orange case. This section, previously featured segments on cryptocurrencies, farm workers, and artificial intelligence. SNLThis year’s breakout sketch is Ego Nwodim’s excellent “Lisa From Temecula,” in which she declares her restaurant steak, “Cook my meat,” and tells Pedro Pascal that she He won’t “give up his ass tonight”. Oliver’s works are deeply researched essays with jokes; SNL mainly based on stupidity.
And, of course, they’re not the only two shows competing in this category, which are in fact strong in an uncanny way. In addition to the most recent season of A Black Lady Sketch ShowThe category may also contain the return of Inside Amy SchumerMel Brooks’ longtime teaser World History: Part IIinteresting confrontation Horoscopeformer candidate for the writing category Amber Ruffin Program and the esoteric film parody business Documentaries now! Musical comedy series Schmigadoon! also tried to pass in the category, but the Television Academy reportedly denied their application and the show was still placed in the comedy race.
Even without Jane Krakowski on the belt and doing splits Schmigadoon! courtroom scene, candidates include a wide selection of real comedic styles – from Borscht Belt’s style to World history ARRIVE Horoscopegotcha knowledge’s question. It might be a bit disappointing if there’s only one Oliver or SNL win. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine either of those two not winning. The Emmys love an institution, and those shows have proven their mettle.
With heavyweights dueling in multiple scenarios, what happens to the variety talk, now without Oliver’s insights? The last time Oliver didn’t win in that category, the trophy went to Jon Stewart’s final season Daily program run. Trevor Noah Daily program swan song may have received a nomination, but his departure was more difficult than Stewart’s; Noah left mid-season, putting a host of guest hosts in charge, while Stewart was greeted as a hero of the medium. (Stewart, for what it’s worth, has another show running, his Apple TV+ show, The problem with Jon Stewart.)
This category could always go to one of the late-night standouts – Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel, neither of which have won a Primetime Emmy for their current talk show. Or 12:35 a.m. can finally be due with A Late Night Story With Seth Meyers make a run for it.
Both talk and scripted variety are categories that will feel the impact of the WGA strike. SNL And Last week Tonight cut their season short. Late-night shows – with the notable exception of Fox News’ Gutfeld! — is darkness. Of course, this doesn’t negate what brought it to the screen before the shutdown, but it does highlight that this is a corner of the industry that is immediately forced into limbo.
Even without the strike disruption, the Television Academy for a while struggled to know what to do with these shows, which have grown beyond musical guest formats. monologue-interview or guest monologue-sketch-musical from time to time. Yeah, it’s weird to try to compare Last week Tonight with SNL, but the Emmys are forcing their voters to try. It is a battle between the fool for stupidity and the fool for education.
This story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to sign up.