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Emmys 2020 predictions and analysis: It’s time Trevor Noah takes home a trophy

Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show"
There’s been no shortage of meaningful conversation on late-night TV the last few months. Trevor Noah and “The Daily Show,” though, have been absolutely essential.
(Comedy Central)

The same slate of six late-night talk shows have earned Emmy nominations the last two years. And though the COVID-19 pandemic has upended their formats and presentation, it’s a pretty safe bet that voters will return all six series to the Emmys this year. Why change ... until it’s time to award the trophy. Then voters would do well to consider an old favorite they haven’t rewarded since it changed hosts five years ago.

Here’s how the variety talk and sketch series categories are shaping up, along with a relatively robust group of television movies.

VARIETY TALK SERIES

“The Daily Show With Trevor Noah”

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“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”

“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”

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“The Late Late Show With James Corden”

Next up: “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Conan,” “Desus & Mero,” “A Little Late With Lilly Singh”

Late-night television adapted to the mandated shutdown with impressive speed, delivering often intimate looks at hosts’ lives (and homes) in ways that have provided some small measure of comfort in uncertain times. And, in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, the programs often provided vital forums to discuss racism and systemic inequality, with one host, Fallon, thoughtfully grappling with a past “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which he wore blackface to portray Chris Rock.

The most vital voice has belonged to Noah, who has spoken with anger and urgency on race in America, specifically, the country’s long history of racist law enforcement. Noah’s segment on the recent police killing of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot found him searching to make sense of another police shooting of an unarmed Black man. Noah ticked off the reasons some people use to explain the killings, the “ifs.”

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Trevor Noah
(L-R) Roy Wood Jr. Michael Kosta, Desi Lydic, Trevor Noah, Jaboukie Young-White, Ronny Chieng, Dulce Sloan of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
(Sean Gallagher)

“If you didn’t resist arrest, then you’d still be alive,” he said. “Or if you didn’t run away from the cops, you’d still be alive. Well, if you didn’t have a toy gun and were 12 years old in the middle of a park, then you would have still been alive. Well, you know what, if you weren’t wearing a hoodie, then you would have still been alive. If you didn’t talk back to the cops, you would have been still been alive. If you weren’t sleeping in your bed as a Black woman, you would have still been alive.

“There’s one common thread beyond all the ‘ifs,’ ” Noah concluded. “If you weren’t Black, maybe you’d still be alive.”

There’s been no shortage of meaningful conversation on all these shows for the last few months. “The Daily Show” though has been absolutely essential.

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Tom Hanks delivers a monologue while remotely hosting "Saturday Night Live" in April.
Tom Hanks delivers a monologue while remotely hosting “Saturday Night Live” in April.
(NBC)

VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

“Saturday Night Live”

“Drunk History”

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“At Home With Amy Sedaris”

“A Black Lady Sketch Show”

“Alternatino With Arturo Castro”

“Sherman’s Showcase”

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Next up: “The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show”

Daniel Craig
Aidy Bryant as Deirdre, host Daniel Craig as Chef Clyde, and Ego Nwodim as Cookie La Flute during the “Daytime Show” sketch on Saturday Night Live.
(Will Heath/NBC)

Five years ago, the Television Academy separated the variety series category into talk and sketch programs. It was a great era for sketch shows. “Inside Amy Schumer” won the first Emmy, besting “Key & Peele,” “Portlandia,” the second (and very funny) season of “Drunk History” and a typically so-so season of “Saturday Night Live.” “Key & Peele” won the following year for its final season. Since then, “Saturday Night Live” has prevailed — as it will again this year. Is it time to think about contracting the variety categories until there are more contenders? Or at least until “Saturday Night Live” is just a little better again?

TELEVISION MOVIE

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Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks in "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie".
(Ben Rothstein/Netflix/Netflix)

“El Camino”

“Bad Education”

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend”

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“American Son”

“Togo”

Next up: “Patsy & Loretta,” “Troop Zero,” “Selah and the Spades,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Transparent Musicale Finale”

“Black Mirror” episodes (yes, “episodes,” not movies) have prevailed in this category three years running, leading the Television Academy to stipulate TV movie submissions must have a running time of at least 75 minutes. It was weird then that they caved in April, allowing Netflix to submit “Smithereens,” a 70-minute “Black Mirror” episode starring “Fleabag’s” Andrew Scott playing a London rideshare driver whose user rating is destined to go down the toilet. Then, after an outcry, the TV academy flip-flopped again, ruling “Smithereens” would compete in the drama series category.

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What’s funny is that A) “Smithereens” was one of the worst episodes in “Black Mirror’s” five-season run and B) it didn’t have a chance of winning as it would have been up against “El Camino,” the emotionally satisfying and sumptuously shot “Breaking Bad” continuation, and the excellent corruption drama “Bad Education,” featuring outstanding turns from Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney. Maybe next time “Black Mirror” could pad the running time or ... make an actual movie-length story.


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