The drama series, comedy series and limited series get all the Emmy respect, but let’s face it — when it comes to stuff that gets buzzed about on social media, often as not it comes from Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel or “SNL” or a reality show.
This is where you’ll find some of the most pointed and political shows on TV, and some of the cheesiest and most cringeworthy. It’s where Donald Trump once worked (reality TV) and where he is regularly skewered (variety TV).
And it’s where Emmy voters once did their best to prove that they were creatures of habit, and now try to throw in an occasional surprise or two.
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
Maybe even more than Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, late-night talks shows are ground zero for television’s resistance to the Trump administration via the constant mocking of the president and in many cases the decrying of his policies.
Last year’s nominees included four hosts who are explicitly political — John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and Bill Maher — along with one, Jimmy Kimmel, who is now known for his occasional and impassioned political statements and another, James Corden, who pokes fun at Trump but typically keeps things silly.
That lineup didn’t include Jimmy Fallon, who might have lost votes with his friendly ruffling of Trump’s hair during the campaign. Fallon perhaps atoned a bit by trading Twitter barbs with the president during Emmy voting, but that may not be enough to get him back into voters’ good graces, unless recent missteps by Bee and Maher lessen their support.
Trevor Noah and Seth Meyers are also waiting to grab a spot if anyone falters — but with the same administration in power, the voices that attracted viewers last year seem likely to do it again.
Predicted nominees (in order of likelihood): “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Late Late Show With James Corden,” “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” “Real Time With Bill Maher”
Watch out for: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers”
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Last year was the 42nd year on the air for “Saturday Night Live” — and for the first time in those 42 years, “SNL” was the most nominated show at the Emmys. (OK, it tied with “Westworld.”) You’d expect the show to falter a bit after peaking in an election year, but at this point that hardly matters: It already has more nominations than any show in Emmy history, and it’s guaranteed one or two dozen more this year.
Its competition includes IFC’s “Portlandia,” which has quietly become an Emmy favorite over the last few years and should have no problem picking up a nomination for its eighth and final season. Comedy Central’s “Drunk History” should likewise score its third consecutive nomination in the category, and HBO’s “Tracey Ullman’s Show” its second.
For the other two slots, 2017 nominees “Billy on the Street” and “Documentary Now” aren’t eligible this year, which opens up room for contenders that include “At Home With Amy Sedaris,” “I Love You, America With Sarah Silverman,” “Nathan for You,” “The Joel McHale Show,” “Kevin Hart Presents the Next Level” and “Tosh.0.” Sedaris and Silverman’s fresh takes could give them a slight edge.
Predicted nominees: “Saturday Night Live,” “Portlandia,” “Drunk History,” “Tracey Ullman’s Show,” “At Home With Amy Sedaris,” “I Love You, America With Sarah Silverman.”
Watch out for: “Nathan for You,” “The Joel McHale Show,” “Kevin Hart Presents the Next Level”
Outstanding Variety Special (Live)
This is an intriguing category because the Tony Awards, which snagged 11 nominations and eight wins in the last 11 years, opted not to enter the race this year, no doubt balking at the idea of submitting a show hosted last June by pre-scandal Kevin Spacey.
That makes “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” a front runner that, if it wins, will complete the EGOT for three of its producers: actor John Legend, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. But first it’ll have to get nominated, which should be no problem for the most acclaimed of any of the live musicals that have become the rage in recent years.
The Oscars are almost always nominated as well, and the Golden Globes join them a surprising amount of the time. The Super Bowl halftime show has made the cut the last two years, and this year’s Justin Timberlake edition should make it three in a row.
But the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, which lands a nomination every four years, wasn’t broadcast live because it took place in Korea, so that program will be competing in the Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) category instead, which could open a spot either for the Grammy Awards or another live musical, “A Christmas Story Live!” We’re guessing voters will balk at giving awards shows three of the five spots, and go with “Christmas Story.”
Predicted nominees: “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” “Super Bowl Halftime Show Starring Justin Timberlake,” “The Oscars,” “75th Annual Golden Globes,” “A Christmas Story Live”
Watch out for: “The Grammy Awards,” “J Lo Super Saturday Night,” “Weekend Update Summer Edition #2,” “George Lopez: The Wall – Live! From Washington, D.C.”
Outstanding Reality-Competition Program
It’s strange that in the major Emmy category that changes the least year-to-year, two of the most influential and iconic reality shows of all time, “Survivor” and “American Idol,” haven’t been nominated since 2006 and 2011, respectively.
But “The Amazing Race” has been nominated in all 15 years the category has existed; “Project Runway” has been nominated for the last 13 years in a row, covering every one of its seasons; “Top Chef” wasn’t nominated for its first season but has been in the running all 11 years since then; and “The Voice” has been nominated for the last six years in a row, for all but its first season.
Last year, those four shows were joined by “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (its first nomination in the category) and “American Ninja Warrior” (its second). The category repeated the same slate of nominees four times in a row between 2007 and 2010 and again between 2012 and 2015, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them do the same this year — though lots of contenders could conceivably muscle in, including “Hollywood Game Night,” “Celebrity Family Feud,” past nominees “Dancing With the Stars,” “Idol” and “Survivor” and even, God help us, the zeitgeisty “The Bachelorette.”
Predicted nominees: “The Voice,” “The Amazing Race,” “Top Chef,” “Project Runway,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “American Ninja Warrior”
Watch out for: “American Idol,” “Hollywood Game Night,” “Survivor,” “Celebrity Family Feud,” “Survivor”
Outstanding Structured Reality Program
Here’s what always happens in this category: “Shark Tank,” “Antiques Roadshow” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” get nominated, and “Shark Tank” wins. (At least it has for the last four years in a row.) They’re all in the running again this year, and they’ll all be nominated again.
The other three 2017 nominees – “Fixer Upper,” “Lip Sync Battle” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” — are also on the ballot, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they repeat as well. But they’re up against Kevin Hart’s new Comedy Central show “Hart of the City” and Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg’s VH1 series “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party,” and also against the return of Discovery’s eight-time nominee “MythBusters” (with new hosts), Netflix’s “Queer Eye” reboot (with a new cast) and the return of TLC’s “Trading Spaces” (with the same old crew).
At a time when the Supreme Court might be sliding to the right and gay rights might be threatened, “Queer Eye” could be the one of those rebooted shows best positioned to slide in and grab a spot.
Predicted nominees: “Shark Tank,” “Antiques Roadshow,” “Lip Sync Battle,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” “Who Do You Think You Are?,” “Queer Eye”
Watch out for: “Fixer Upper,” “MythBusters,” “Penn and Teller: Fool Us,” “Hart of the City”
Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program
The constant here is Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch,” but in recent years the category has also leaned toward shows about inclusion, acceptance and healing: Last year’s nominees included “Intervention,” “Gaycation With Ellen Page,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked” and 2016 winner “Born This Way,” while “United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell” took the Emmy in the category.
Nothing has happened lately to suggest that voters will change their approach and embrace, say, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” or “Jersey Shore Family Vacation.” But “Gaycation” is no longer eligible, so that’ll open up a spot for someone from a group of contenders that includes past nominees “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” “Flipping Out” and “Naked and Afraid” and newcomers “Somebody Feed Phil” and “Ride With Norman Reedus.” We’re guessing it’ll be two-time nominee “Alaska.”
Predicted nominees: “United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell,” “Born This Way,” “Deadliest Catch,” “Intervention,” “Ru Paul’s Drag Race: Untucked,” “Alaska: The Last Frontier”
Watch out for: “Flipping Out,” “Naked and Afraid,” “Somebody Feed Phil,” “Ride With Norman Reedus,” “Coach Snoop”
Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program
Last year, voters in this category did something shocking: Out of the seven people who had garnered more than 70 percent of all nominations in the category’s 10-year existence — Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Ryan Seacrest, Cat Deely, Phil Keoghan and Jeff Probst — they only nominated Klum and Gunn, who shared a single nomination for “Project Runway.” It was the first time ever that fewer than four of the seven had been nominated.
Things look to stay the same this year, even though Seacrest has a shot with the rebooted “American Idol.” RuPaul Charles has won the Emmy for two years in a row and will certainly get another chance, along with W. Kamau Bell. And the pairing of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg is too delicious for voters not to embrace.
The other 2017 nominees, Alec Baldwin for “Match Game” and Gordon Ramsay for “MasterChef Junior,” might be a little likelier to be ousted by two-time winner Jane Lynch (“Hollywood Game Night”), by Norman Reedus (“Ride With Norman Reedus”), by LL Cool J (“Lip Sync Battle”) or by the new hosts of “Queer Eye” or even by the apparently tireless Steve Harvey, who’s on the ballot three separate times for “Celebrity Family Feud,” “Little Big Shots” and “Showtime at the Apollo.” (But maybe he’ll split the vote.)
Predicted nominees: RuPaul Charles, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”; W. Kamau Bell, “United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell”; Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, “Project Runway”; Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party”; Gordon Ramsay, “MasterChef Junior”; Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness, “Queer Eye”
Watch out for: Alec Baldwin, “Match Game”; LL Cool J., “Lip Sync Battle”; Jane Lynch, “Hollywood Game Night”; Norman Reedus, “Ride With Norman Reedus”