Last Year’s Winner: “Saturday Night Live”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: “Saturday Night Live” has won two years running, meaning it’s won exactly half of the awards ever handed out for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series. However, despite Lorne Michaels’ landmark NBC series’ Emmy dominance over the last few years, it didn’t fare all that well before the Best Variety Series category was split in two: Sketch and Talk. “SNL” only won two awards in 38 years prior to the separation and hadn’t taken home the top prize since 1993.
Fun Fact: Unlike other actors, when “SNL” performers are nominated for Emmys they’re not credited for each character they’ve played. For instance, last year Tatiana Maslany was nominated for playing “Sarah Manning, Helena, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Rachel Duncan, Krystal Goderitch, Elizabeth (Beth) Childs, Jennifer Fitzsimmons, Katja Obinger, Tony Sawicki, Veera Suominen (M.K.), Camilla Torres and Unnamed Clone” in “Orphan Black.” Kate McKinnon, meanwhile, was merely credited for “Various Characters,” even though her NBC page lists 102 characters the two-time Emmy winner has portrayed in the series.
Notable Ineligible Series: “I Love You, America,” “Portlandia”
At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Variety Talk Series (listed in alphabetical order). This article will be updated throughout the season, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz from the 2019 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15. The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, September 22. Fox is broadcasting the ceremony.
The State of the Race
Well, “Saturday Night Live” is primed to rule yet again — though not just for its persistent topicality. After landing 22 nominations in 2017 and 21 last year, the NBC late-night sketch series remains in prime position to earn accolades at the 2019 Emmys. There’ve been memorable episodes from hosts like John Mulaney, Rachel Brosnahan, and Awkwafina, and the weekly news cycle being parodied hasn’t seen any dip in outlandish material.
So what else is in the running? “Documentary Now!” is returning to the field after a year off, and IFC’s two-time nominee in the category has brought out the big guns for Season 3: namely, Cate Blanchett. There’s also Comedy Central’s “Drunk History,” which has four nominations under its belt — one for every year the Best Variety Sketch Series category has existed — and “At Home with Amy Sedaris” is looking to go two-for-two in its second season (featuring guest stars like Rose Byrne, Michael Shannon, Ann Dowd, and Justin Theroux).
Rounding out the former nominees is “Tracey Ullman’s Show,” which features its own all-star guests, including Dame Judi Dench, as well as a preseason plug from Ullman’s friend and acting legend, Meryl Streep.
Even if all of these returning contenders get another nod for their respective tallies, that still leaves one slot open — and not too many series eligible to claim it. “Portlandia” came to an end on IFC, and Hulu axed Sarah Silverman’s “I Love You, America,” leaving perennial submissions like “Tosh.0” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” to fight for their spots, alongside a canceled yet eligible Netflix series, “The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale.” There’s also the sneaky pick, IFC’s “Baroness Von Sketch Show,” which would make two nominees for the network if “Documentary Now!” gets in, too.
Still, we’re betting on “Detroiters” co-creator Tim Robinson’s luck to turn around after his beloved Comedy Central series was canceled earlier this year. He’s got a new Netflix series dropping April 23, “I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson.” Given the streaming giant’s impact on voters and the former “SNL” writer’s skills, this one could break through in its debut year.
- “At Home with Amy Sedaris”
- “Documentary Now!”
- “Drunk History”
- “Saturday Night Live”
- “Tracey Ullman’s Show”
- “Who Is America?”
Spoilers: “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson,” “Tosh.0”
In a Perfect World: “Baroness Von Sketch Show,” “The Joel McHale Show With Joel McHale,” “Random Acts of Flyness”