Emmys 2016: Why ‘Last Week Tonight,’ ‘@midnight,’ ‘The Late Late Show’ deserve Variety Talk Series nods

Being and Outstanding Variety Series Emmy candidate in 2016 is so much different than it was presumably a decade or so ago. There are so many more contenders out there, and with that, so many less opportunities to find a way to stand out.

Therefore, in trying to come up with our personal picks in this category we operated from a criteria that emphasized uniqueness, consistency, and making sure the audience was a part of the fun and the entertaining. We actually had a harder time narrowing this down than we imagined we would. (With that, we’re of course going to ask you to narrow it down further — vote for your favorite in the poll below, and we’re going to announce the results come July 13, one day before the actual Emmys are announced.)

Outstanding Variety Series – CarterMatt Picks

“@midnight” (Comedy Central) – To us, so much of a great late-night show comes via risk-taking, and week in and week out, “@midnight” gives you that with no games and assorted silliness. Chris Hardwick is always game as host, and this is one of the few shows in this genre that we feel really stays steady throughout, and you don’t just tune out when “the good parts” are over.

“Conan” (TBS) – We have no idea where Conan O’Brien gets his energy, but we absolutely want some. His comedy is brilliant, he’s magnificent at keeping interview guests on their toes, and through some of his specials and visits to other countries, we actually feel like we (gasp) learn something. He stands out on the basis of effort, and never being afraid to go all out to try to do something that hasn’t been done before.

“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS) – We knew that Bee was tremendous on “The Daily Show,” but here, she is bringing it to yet another level with sarcasm, perspective, and above all else laughs. She hits hard, and that works when the majority of the jokes are as biting and successful as they are. She may be the best on this list when it comes to cultivating strong, short-form segments on a singular topic.

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO) – Meanwhile, let’s introduce you to the master of long-form segments (though we suspect many of you already know him well). Oliver’s takedowns of everything from Donald Trump to the prison system to online fantasy sports have all been brilliant, and not just because they’re hilarious. They’re insanely smart, well-researched, and thanks to HBO he has the time and the freedom to do what other shows cannot.

The Late Late Show with James Corden” (CBS) – Yes, “Carpool Karaoke” is a lot of fun, but we think a late-night show should be more than just so bits that go viral on the internet. You want to feel like you are being welcomed into someone’s home every night / week, and Corden does that. He’s warm, he’s funny, and he has a specific point of view. We also really enjoy his group interview format since it gives celebrities a chance to relax and breathe.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” (CBS) – Colbert is by far the strongest, most-thoughtful interviewer on this list, and while we’re not going to say that the first year of the new “Late Show” has been perfect, we feel like we know the man and appreciate the lengths he goes to make us laugh. Even though he hasn’t been playing “himself” for very long, he’s still forged that personal connection that is essential for a late-night host to have.

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