2012 Emmy preview: Jon Stewart, Andy Cohen lead in the way in Variety

Will Jon Stewart win again?

There’s really no getting around it at this point — the category of Outstanding Variety Series is the most predictable one of the entire Emmy Awards. Jon Stewart has pretty much dominated this category for a decade running, and there’s absolutely no reason to think that will change here — even if there is some strong competition from both his Comedy Central pal Stephen Colbert as well as a season of “Saturday Night Live” featuring the exit of Kristen Wiig.

There’s not much difference this time between who should get nominated and who will, so we’ve condensed it a bit for easier reading.

The deserving nominees

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central) – There are so many reasons why Jon Stewart is the late-night rock star that he is. In addition to having some of the best comedy talent since Jack Benny, he’s also incredibly smart and brings a specific point of view to his table that leads to consistent viewers night in and night out. It also helps him that he tends to lean liberal, which is something many Emmy voters tend to identify with.

“The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central) – We’re actually surprised that Colbert hasn’t beaten his former employer yet, but we still believe that it will happen at some point. Colbert may not be the same sort of genius as Stewart, but he’s a genius nonetheless of the “building an evil army of mutants” variety. He’s unpredictable, narcissistic, and he also has the challenge of not only hosting a show, but playing a character at the same time.

“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (NBC) – Fallon is actually not the funniest host on late-night, but he is the most creative and pop-culture friendly. No one is better up to date on producing sketches that resonate with young people, or puts more into what they do. He’ll get a nod based on his “Downton Abbey” spoof alone.

“Saturday Night Live” (NBC) – While this season was overall not as great as the 2010-11 season (thanks mostly to the subpar Digital Shorts), the departures of Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg give it a better profile. However, this is probably that debate that Emmy voters have — “do we really want to give an award to a show that is almost as old as we are”?

“The Late Show with David Letterman” (CBS) – Dave is not hip, nor is he altogether creative in what he does. However (and unlike Jay Leno), what he does do is pretty darn funny. He’s the best interviewer out of any of the late-night network hosts, and he’s also the wackiest. He’s not the same Dave that he once was (there are fewer things thrown off the roof these days), but there is a reason he has hosted a late-night show longer than anyone else.

“Watch What Happens Live!” (Bravo) – This last spot is really the only one that is up for grabs, and we’re going to go with a show that really had a banner year. Andy Cohen is not a comedian by trade, but his show is just as entertaining as of the others thanks to its intimate vibe, the drinks, the random guests in the clubhouse, and the fact that he may understand his audience better than just about anyone on cable. He’s finally given both men and women a show to watch in a timeslot that is typically testosterone-exclusive.

The likely nominees

The first five shows listed above – We don’t want to sound redundant, so let’s just say that all of them are Emmy favorites, and the voters rarely change things up in this category.

“Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO) – While we would like to see Andy get a little love, Bill Maher is probably the more conservative choice by the voters (which is an odd adjective to use while discussing the show’s host). We actually would like to see fewer shows in this list with strong political views, but there is no doubt that Maher is a funny guy — and his show brings some smart conversation to the table.

We’ll close this off as we always do — by telling you to share your picks in the poll below! You can also read up on our Emmy coverage in the sidebar to the right or by going over to this link to see a full list.

Photo: Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!