Emmy nominations: ‘SNL’ and late-night comedy nods reflect a Trump bump — with a few exceptions
Live, from Los Angeles, it’s the Emmy nominations — and “Saturday Night Live” is proving it’s not a joke when it comes to Emmy dominance.
With a total of 22, matched only by HBO’s freshman drama “Westworld,” NBC’s venerable late-night comedy series earned its highest number of Emmy nods ever, outdistancing the 17 it received in 2016. Already holding the record for the number of Emmy nominations received over the run of a single series, “Saturday Night Live” has now earned a total of 231 nominations since its debut in 1975.
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Boosted by the election of President Trump, “SNL” enjoyed some of its strongest buzz in years, along with ratings that were 20% higher than last season thanks to the strength of political material. The series capitalized on a raised profile that also sparked plenty of Twitter venom from Trump, and also made the unprecedented move of broadcasting live on the West and East coasts for its final four episodes.
Included in the nomination windfall was a supporting actor in a comedy series nod for Alec Baldwin’s frequent portrayals of Trump — often seen in the cold open at the top of the show — as well as supporting actress nods for cast members Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Vanessa Bayer, the last of whom recently announced she was leaving the show after seven seasons. McKinnon, who has won high marks in big-screen comedies such as “Ghostbusters,” was also a fixture of the show’s political material, appearing as Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and Cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions.
The show also earned nominations in the guest acting category for Melissa McCarthy, whose impression of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a viral hit, and hosts Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dave Chappelle, Kristen Wiig and Tom Hanks.
While the rising tide of political satire lifted the Emmy fortunes of “SNL,” other late-night comedy fixtures that have also experienced a “Trump boost” did not fare as well.
Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” which had amassed 21 Emmy wins from 2001 to 2015 under the leadership of Jon Stewart, was again shut out in the variety talk and writing categories despite new host Trevor Noah’s improved performance after a bumpy first season. However, the series did receive a nod in the short-form variety series category for its “Between the Scenes” Internet segments.
Also shut out of the variety talk category was NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers.” The show’s behind-the-desk monologues and sharp-edged “A Closer Look” segments have recalled Stewart’s “Daily Show” years for their pointed view of current events. (Meyers and his staff did earn their first Emmy nomination for writing for a variety series.)
TBS’ “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” hosted by the former “Daily Show” correspondent, managed just a writing nomination in 2016 but notched a nomination Thursday for variety-talk series. The category includes other “Daily Show” alumni: HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
With eight nominations, Oliver’s weekly HBO series trailed only “SNL” among the late-night comedy contenders, and Bee and Colbert were also recognized in the variety category for Bee’s “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” special and Colbert’s live election-night special. The latter show’s unexpectedly raw, improvisational tone began a ratings surge for Colbert, whose CBS show toppled NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” at the top of the late-night ratings.
Fallon, who was blasted this year for a bit in which he toyed with Trump during the election season by mussing his hair, and “The Tonight Show” scored only a nomination in the interactive category. Also left out was Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” which earned a variety-talk series nomination in 2016.
Elsewhere in the category, ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” earned its third consecutive nomination along with “The Late Late Show With James Corden,” which was also recognized after its debut last year. That show’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment, a frequent viral hit, also earned a nomination for its prime-time special.
The biggest surprise in the late-night field came courtesy of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” which returned to the variety talk category for its 20th nomination. The announcement comes in the wake of another controversial year for Maher, who caught flak both for booking a segment with right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and, more recently, using the N-word during an interview with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) in June.
That incident occurred just weeks before Emmy voting began and had many on social media and elsewhere calling for Maher’s job on HBO. But the outcry seemed to have little impact on voters as his show earned another chance to pick up its first Emmy win.
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