With everything turning increasingly political in the post-Trump era, variety talk series are gaining more and more relevance. For many viewers, not only do these shows offer witty takedowns of the powers that be, but they also are the go-to source for an understanding of current affairs. Shows that had decided to actively steer clear of being political bore the brunt of decreased viewership, as was the case with The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, which failed to get a nomination for Outstanding Variety Talk Series this year.

At the Primetime Emmy Awards which will be held at 5:30 am (IST) on Tuesday, September 17th, one of the six nominees will take away the award for Outstanding Variety Talk Series. We look back at some of their best work over the past year.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

This is The Daily Show’s first nomination since Trevor Noah took over the reins from Jon Stewart in 2015. Noah recalled the advice Stewart had given him: ‘Make your show. Make your best version of it.’ And he has. Noah’s style is a lot more low-key. And his charm and outsider POV (he is South American) bring a fresh perspective to the satirical news show format.   

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

At the Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies, this show won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. It is the frontliner for the top honour this year too, not because Emmy voters like repeat winners (the show has won Outstanding Variety Talk Series for two years running) but because it has upped the ante and delivered some of the most relevant, funny and path breaking content this year. The show has come up with the most innovative ways to show its middle finger to all kinds of bigots. This year’s definitive highlight was when during a 20-minute segment about US Vice President Mike Pence, Oliver announced a children’s book about Pence’s fictional homosexual pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo. The book then went on to outsell Pence’s actual book about his pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo.   

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Along with Last Week Tonight, Samantha Bee’s show not only provides sharp commentary but also some great reporting. Full Frontal is also the only show in the category with a woman host and in the #TimesUp era, that may push voters to award the show. Earlier this year, it aired an extensive hour-long show in which Bee along with her team visited Puerto Rico amidst rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Like some of the other shows on this list, Full Frontal provides a healthy dose of comedy but more importantly, Bee uses the platform and the medium for powerful activism.

Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Although Kimmel hasn’t always been overtly political, this season he appealed to America’s conscience by delivering immensely moving opening monologues, some of which were so emotional that he could hardly resist breaking into tears. In October last year, post the mass shooting in Las Vegas, he reiterated the need for more gun control. Another memorable monologue came this year when he told the harrowing story of his son being born with a heart disease, using the anecdote to raise awareness for the need of better health care.

The Late, Late Show with James Corden

Although it seems unlikely that Corden’s show will emerge victorious considering it could be seen as the Television Academy choosing fluff over more pressing issues, it’s important to note The Late, Late Show has provided us with several memorable moments this past year. The Carpool Karaoke segment continues to give us insights into artists while also being a great sing-along. And other segments like Drop The Mic and Riff-Off remain among some of the most refreshing on television right now.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert is probably the best at delivering news of current events, a fact attested by the rise in his show’s viewership. The Late Show has adapted incredibly to the current climate, never shying away for fear of being political. Colbert’s show is the go-to destination for any and all criticism of the Trump administration. And it does so in the most unique ways. In July last year, they kicked off their Russia Week which included, among other things, spending time with an oligarch and a visit to the infamous hotel room where President Trump allegedly hired prostitutes to pee on the bed Barack and Michelle Obama slept in during their visit to Russia. Apart from these segments, his interviews are also the most enriching. Pundits have said the Emmy is pretty much down to Oliver vs. Colbert.


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