Among his competition, former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver bagged his very first Emmy nom as host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight.
This was Letterman’s last year of Emmy eligibility and, in all the Letterman Late Show finale walk-up adulation, the Most Likely Nominees had advocated for his being Emmy-nominated for his final season and/or legacy, as he wound up a record 33 years headlining a late night broadcast TV show.
Oliver, meanwhile, (like Letterman) will compete for an Emmy in September with his former Comedy Central The Daily Show colleagues Stephen Colbert, who is nommed for his final season hosting Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, as well as Daily’s Jon Stewart. Also nommed this year: ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and NBC’s Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.
Kimmel, who purports to be his most obsessive fan, had come right out and said Letterman’s show deserves not just the nom, but the win for this year’s Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series. “I would like to see Letterman win the Emmy, absolutely,” Kimmel told AwardsLine. “I can’t think of anyone more influential when it comes to comedy in America from my generation.” (Kimmel also said there should be a category to specifically fete the year’s best late night host — a Primetime Emmy derby that currently does not exist.)
This year’s split of the Variety Series category into Variety Talk and Variety Sketch moved perennial nominee Saturday Night Live into the latter category and opened up a slot in the Variety Talk race for Letterman, whose show hadn’t been nominated since ’09.
Among this year’s nominees, Stewart, who is stepping down from his show in August, has owned the category the past dozen years with 10 consecutive wins for The Daily Show, followed by two consecutive wins for spinoff The Colbert Report, which Stewart co-created with Colbert and Ben Karlin and on which he was an executive producer. In the days leading up to Letterman’s exit Stewart spoke forcefully about Dave’s importance to the genre, pronouncing the list of late-night figures that have been able to innovate the genre and have staying power to have just one entry: David Letterman.
Letterman has extraordinarily stiff competition in an Emmy race. Oliver is currently the late night It Guy with his call-to-action advocacy comedy that has made headlines on a near weekly basis.
But, so many late-night shows are on their last runs that the list of likely nominees reads more like a late-night TV In Memoriam. Colbert’s final The Colbert Report aired on December 14; his series, who won this derby the past two seasons, is eligible for this Emmy cycle and that’s it. Even Letterman’s much-ballyhooed finale would be hard pressed to beat Colbert’s series’ swan song. Pound for pound, Colbert may have been the heart-string-pullingest TV finale ever, with its celebrity-studded “We’ll Meet Again” sing-along, after which Colbert declared himself — or his faux-newsman alter-ego, it got hard to distinguish the two toward the end—immortal after shooting the Grim Reaper during a game of chess. The series ended with a final scene featuring Colbert, Santa, a unicorn, Abraham Lincoln, Alex Trebek and a sleigh ride into eternity.
Stewart, however, also is eligible next Emmy cycle, because of his August end date. He would, however, be competing against his replacement, the controversial Trevor Noah.