Emmys Shake Up Variety Categories: John Oliver Out Of Talk To Face ‘SNL’ In New Scripted Field, Jon Stewart & David Letterman Back In Talk

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver‘s seven-year winning streak in the Emmy Variety Talk category is coming to an end. That is because the HBO series will no longer compete with late-night talk shows according to changes for the 75th Emmy Awards announced by the Television Academy.

They include replacing the Variety Talk and Variety Sketch Series categories with Talk Series and Scripted Variety Series.

According to the definitions of the two new categories, Last Week Tonight no longer qualifies as Talk series and will move to the Scripted Variety series category where it will face variety series, including sketch programs like Saturday Night Live, which had won the Variety Sketch Series Emmy for the past six years.

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Late-night talk shows dominated the Variety Series Emmy category before it was split into Variety Talk and Variety Sketch in 2015. Ironically, the two hosts whose late-night shows had long winning streaks in the Variety category’s last two decades, David Letterman and Jon Stewart, will face their successors because Hosted Nonfiction Series, a category which has featured Letterman’s My Guest Needs No Introduction and The Problem With Jon Stewart, will now be folded into Talk Series.

The category changes were likely triggered by the diminishing numbers of late-night talk shows and sketch series. In 2019, there were six nominees for Variety Talk Series. In 2020 and 2021, the number went down to five. With only 19 submissions, the nomination slots were supposed to drop to four this year, which was only prevented by active lobbying by late-night showrunners. But with more talk shows going away, including Desus and Mero and Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, and the future of The Daily Show and The Late Late Show in flux as their hosts depart, the category change is designed to keep the field wide for enough nomination slots.

The same goes for the Variety Sketch category, which had gone down to two nominees the last two years, SNL and The Black Lady Sketch Show.

Here are the definitions of the two new categories, followed by other Emmy rule changes, including capping nomination-round voting picks.

Outstanding Talk Series: Programs where a significant portion of the running time consists of unscripted interviews or panel discussions between a host/hosts and guest celebrities or personalities. A Talk Series can include scripted elements and other aspects of a variety series such as monologues, musical performances, etc., so long as the main intent of the program is interviews/discussions.

Outstanding Scripted Variety Series: Programs that are primarily scripted or feature loosely scripted improv and consist of discrete scenes, musical numbers, monologues, comedy stand-ups, sketches, etc. Scripted Variety Series may occasionally feature unscripted elements, but the main intent of the series is scripted or performed entertainment.

“The Television Academy’s Awards committee and Board of Governors carefully review Emmy rules annually and adjust and refine competition requirements, often with input from television leaders, to reflect and support the current industry environment,” said Frank Scherma, Television Academy Chairman and CEO.

Here are the other rule changes:

Cap on Nominations-Round Voting
The number of selections each voting member is allowed to make per category in first-round voting will now be capped at the number of nominations specified for that category. Members will no longer be allowed to vote for an unlimited number of selections in any category.

Changes to Tracked Categories
The Single Camera and Multi-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series categories have been combined into the tracked category Picture Editing for a Comedy Series. The Cinematography for a Single Camera Series (half-hour) and Multi-Camera Series categories have been combined into the tracked category Cinematography for a Series (half-hour).

In addition, a trigger has been added to all tracked categories such that during any year in which the number of submissions for each track is 20 or more, the category will automatically be split into separate categories for that year. In 2023 there will be 16 categories with tracks, which could potentially be split.

Finally, the minimum number of submissions required to include a nomination track in a tracked category has been changed to 5% of the total number of submissions but no less than three submissions.

Line Producers to Receive Eligible Credit for Variety Categories
“Line Producer” has been added as an Emmy-eligible credit in the following categories:
● Outstanding Talk Series
● Outstanding Scripted Variety Series
● Outstanding Variety Special (Live)
● Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)

Migration and Creation of New Game Show Categories
The previously announced migration of Game Show categories to the Television Academy-administered Emmy competition will go into effect for 2023 as the result of the joint decision by the Television Academy and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to award game show programming categories by genre instead of daypart.

The new category of Outstanding Game Show will recognize programs with game elements taking place primarily in-studio and involving mental challenges. They must be self-contained or carry-over (winner continues to next episode) and cannot be arced. The new category of Outstanding Host for a Game Show will be awarded to the “master of ceremony” host(s) for a continuing performance in a game show.

To avoid confusion between Outstanding Game Show and Outstanding Competition Program (which awards programs with reality-style, skill-based competitions), the latter category has been revised to Outstanding Reality Competition Program. Additionally, game shows and reality competition programs with children as the sole contestants must enter in the Children’s & Family Emmy Awards.

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