Now that the TV Academy has completed its producer vetting process and added those names to the final nomination tallies, Michaels has officially landed five nods this year. That gives him a lifetime total of 78 nominations, more than any other individual in Emmy history. (The Academy recently updated its summary of “most” Emmys to give Michaels the lead.)
This year’s tally pushes Michaels ahead of HBO documentary dynamo Shiela Nevins, who has 75, and camera operator Hector Ramirez (74). Ramirez had long been the Emmy nomination champ, but Nevins had been creeping up on him thanks to her documentary output. Last year, Nevins and Ramirez tied (at 74 a piece), and this year she scored one more nomination, pushing her ahead.
But along came Michaels, who has been quickly catching up in collecting Emmy nominations as his Broadway Video empire expanded. This year Michaels dominates the outstanding variety sketch series category with three shows: “Saturday Night Live,” “Documentary Now!” and “Portlandia.” He’s also up for outstanding writing for a variety series (“Saturday Night Live”), and outstanding short form nonfiction or reality series (“Creating Saturday Night Live”).
Michaels earned six nominations in 2016 and five in 2015. The legend has won 14 Emmys overall, last earning one in 2015 for outstanding variety music or comedy special (“Saturday Night Live”).
Several factors have been working in Michaels’ Emmy favor in recent years:
• The increased relevancy of “Saturday Night Live.” “SNL” is coming off its best ratings in years, thanks in part to its take on Donald Trump and last year’s election. Alec Baldwin, who’s nominated as outstanding supporting actor in a comedy, and Kate McKinnon, who won last year as supporting actress in a comedy, are front runners to win their categories this year as well.
“Saturday Night Live,” meanwhile, already made history this year with 22 nominations, the most ever in a single year for a variety program. “SNL” is the frontrunner for the Outstanding Variety Sketch Series Emmy – which would give the show its first variety series Emmy since 1993. (It has only won one other time, in 1976.)
• Emmy rule changes that opened more doors for sketch series like “SNL.” The decision in 2015 to split the outstanding variety series category into separate talk and sketch categories were a boon for Michaels, who is a titan in both fields. That opened the door for more of his series to be nominated in both categories.
• Michaels’ growing Broadway Video empire. Up until the early 2000s, Michaels was focused on “Saturday Night Live,” and its various spinoff films, plus “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and Canada’s “The Kids in the Hall.” He dabbled a bit in TV series, but nothing to the extent of “30 Rock.” The success of that Tina Fey comedy changed everything.
“This is the first show I’ve done where I’ve said, ‘OK, I’m proud of it, I was involved from the beginning,’” Michaels told us in 2006. “If it’s successful, whatever the next thing will be well thought through.”
Successes since then have included “Portlandia,” “Documentary Now!” and “Man Seeking Woman,” while Michaels also now executive produces “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in addition to “SNL” – a late night hat trick that is sure to keep Michaels ahead of the game in the nomination tallies for years to come.
As for Nevins, even though she’s been knocked out of the top spot, she still boasts perhaps an even more lucrative crown that no one is expected to take anytime soon: most Emmys won by an individual. Nevins currently has 30, far ahead of second-place Edward J. Greene (21) and third-place James L. Brooks (20).