The Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series is known for being one of the most consistent out there. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has won the award in eight consecutive years. Before that, The Late Show with David Letterman took the Emmy in five consecutive years. That’s just two different winners since 1998, and the last non-talk show to win the award was HBO’s Tracey Takes On… in 1997.

Let’s take a look at this year’s nominees:

The Daily Show
One of these days, The Daily Show won’t win this award. But if you’re in an Emmy pool, you may as well play it safe and go with Jon Stewart again. The show is still as good as its ever been, and this past season became best known for Stewart’s efforts to provide health benefits for 9/11 rescue workers. Stewart has become an influential and compelling voice in American politics, and other than Emmy voter fatigue, it’s hard to see why the Academy wouldn’t give him this award a record ninth time.

The Colbert Report
There are many people who believe that The Colbert Report has been better than its Comedy Central counterpart for years. I’m not one of those people, but it’s hard to deny that this is a great show. Stephen Colbert continues make a name for himself, whether its challenging federal election law to get a Super PAC created, or doing shows from Iraq. Unfortunately for Colbert, the Academy continues to see him as a step below Stewart, and not all of the older voters get his humor.

This is the seventh Emmy nomination for a Conan O’Brien-hosted talk show and he has yet to win. While O’Brien’s work is always terrific, it’s hard to see how he will break through this year. It’s clear that a segment of Emmy voters have sided with O’Brien over his former NBC rival Jay Leno. But many Emmy voters are older and they don’t understand the young O’Brien’s humor. They may even be the types of people who prefer watching a Leno-hosted Tonight Show. Regardless, Conan is not appreciably different from O’Brien’s previous shows, and if they haven’t won before, then they won’t suddenly win now.

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
I’ve never been a fan of this program, but it has steadily gotten better. Fallon’s improvements evidently were noticed by the Academy, as they rewarded him with his first Emmy nomination. Still, Fallon will likely have to be satisfied with just being nominated, because his show doesn’t have the broad appeal to be a winner yet.

Real Time with Bill Maher
If you want a sleeper in this category, then this is probably it. Bill Maher holds the record for the most Emmy nominations without a win, being nominated 22 times. Having just completed its ninth season, Maher’s show continues to get better as it offers some of the most honest and compelling debate out there. Maher’s “New Rules” segment might be the best five minutes of television today. Yet, while Maher’s humor and unapologetic style are entertaining and effective, he’s not for everyone. I believe Maher will win an Emmy one day, but I don’t think the tide has turned enough to make this his lucky year.

Saturday Night Live
The only other nominee in this category to have won before, taking the Emmy in 1976 and 1993. Of course SNL was much better back then. It’s still good for a few laughs, but since an excellent series of episodes during the 2008 Election, SNL has been underwhelming. It still continues to earn nominations on reputation alone, but don’t expect a third win for this program.

If I were a voter, then my pick would be Real Time with Bill Maher. But if you’re in an Emmy pool, then you should probably make the safe choice in The Daily Show. However, if you’re looking to take a chance on something, then The Colbert Report probably has the best opportunity to end Jon Stewart’s streak. But that would be a major upset.


Road to the Emmys Series

August 24: Miniseries/TV Movie Acting Roundup – Dantzler Smith

August 25: Outstanding Miniseries or TV Movie – Dantzler Smith

August 26: Outstanding Reality Competition Host – Erica Scandariato

August 29: Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series – Phil Wallace

August 30: Outstanding Reality Program – Erica Scandariato

August 31: Outstanding Reality Competition Program – Savanna New

September 1: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy – Dave Morris

September 2: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy – Kendra Beltran

September 6: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama – Angela Stern

September 7: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama – Adam Spunberg

September 8: Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series – Megan Lane

September 9: Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series – Megan Lane

September 12: Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series – Kit Bowen

September 13: Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series – Andrew Payne

September 14: Outstanding Comedy Series – Rebecca Rose

September 15: Outstanding Drama Series – Andrew Payne

September 18: 63rd Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards