On Thursday, to nobody's surprise, John Oliver was nominated for three Emmy awards for the first season of his new show Last Week Tonight, which airs Sundays on HBO. Oliver received nominations for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series, and Outstanding Interactive Program — and his show was nominated for a fourth award for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Limited Series Or A Movie. Not a bad haul for his first year hosting his own show. The big kahuna of these nominations is certainly the Outstanding Variety Talk Series, where Oliver is in competition with Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, and Jimmy Kimmel. Up against these late night legends, does Oliver stand a chance of winning?
Oliver has actually been nominated a handful of times in the past for his work on Stewart's Daily Show, so this isn't his first time around the Emmy block by a long shot. He's also won three Emmy's, so while he's a newcomer as a host, fans of his work know that he's proven his talents over and over in the past. But given that three of his fellow nominees have been nominated for their final seasons, I'm not sure Oliver's first season stands a real chance.
Don't get me wrong. I think John Oliver is hilarious and has a long career in comedy entertainment ahead of him. Last Week Tonight is an exceptional show, and almost my favorite of the nominees. Almost. My personal favorite of the nominees is Jon Stewart, who is (sadly) stepping down from The Daily Show this summer after hosting for 16 years. Oliver was a correspondent and writer on The Daily Show from 2006 through 2013, so a win for Stewart this year could also be seen as a hat tip of sorts to the work Oliver contributed to the show during his tenure there.
Even though Stewart is my personal choice for the win, I don't think he is necessarily Oliver's biggest competition. That honor, I believe, belongs to David Letterman.
Like Stewart, Letterman also received this nomination for a final season; he just stepped down this season from CBS' Late Show after a combined 33 years of hosing Late Night and Late Show. It would not be overstating Letterman's esteem to call him a talk show legend, particularly in late night network television.
Given that this is the first time Letterman has been nominated since 2009, I have a sneaking suspicion the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences wants Letterman to end his career with an Emmy; if Letterman wins in the Outstanding Variety Talk series category, it could perhaps be seen as an award for his career overall. And as fabulous as John Oliver is, the first season of Last Week Tonight simply can't stand up to a career like Letterman's.
While I think it's unlikely Oliver will get the award for his show this year, it's totally possible he could take home one of the other awards he was nominated for this year. And even if he comes up empty on award night, he's sure to have a better chance in the future not only because two of his most impressive competitors will be out of the running, but also because he's a highly intelligent guru who will hopefully be cracking us up for many years to come.
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