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Emmy race for best variety series: Can 'Daily Show' be beaten?

September 2, 2011 | 11:05 am


Can anybody, even Jon Stewart himself, stop "The Daily Show" from winning another Emmy Award for best variety series?

Stewart and his Comedy Central mock news show have won this category for eight consecutive years. To many Emmy watchers, it appeared that he was actually conceding the race last year when he submitted a ho-hum, run-of-the-mill episode with guest Roland Martin to be evaluated by Emmy judges. The program was unlike many of his earlier election-based or red hot episodes that had prevailed. When he didn't even show up for the ceremony in 2010, it seemed like he was throwing his support to his friend Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report," which submitted a powerful episode that included a visit from President Obama while Colbert entertained U.S. troops in Iraq. Stewart is an executive producer of that show too, so he would have won another Emmy even if "The Daily Show" lost.

When the ho-hum episode of "Daily Show" ended up winning, it beat the tearful, hilarious finale of "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" and the celebrated Betty White episode of "Saturday Night Live."

This year the Stewart team has submitted much better material with a December episode featuring guest Mike Huckabee. In the program, Stewart is visibly and vocally upset at Congress gumming up the works for a healthcare bill to benefit 9/11 relief workers. Weeks later, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York visited the show and gave Stewart credit for helping the bill become law. A ninth Emmy for best variety series might be his reward.

As for the other 2011 competitors, most are familiar faces with great submissions once again. "The Colbert Report" competes for the sixth time and entered a good episode from January with guest Cornel West. NBC's "Saturday Night Live" comes out swinging with its best episode of the season, featuring musical guest Lady Gaga and Emmy nominee Justin Timberlake hosting.

Bill Maher has the biggest losing streak in Emmy history with 27 nods and 0 wins, and his "Real Time With Bill Maher" from HBO has entered an April episode with Capt. Sully Sullenberger and Colin Quinn. Look out for a long shot like "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," which competes for the first time in this category with a very funny musical-based episode featuring Bruce Springsteen for the full hour. TBS contends for the first time with "Conan," the follow-up to the NBC mess, with an episode in which Will Ferrell shaves Conan O'Brien's beard.

See how the pundits size up this category.


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-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Jon Stewart, "The Daily Show." Credit: Comedy Central