Emmy Rules Could Hamper Prospects For Some Late-Night Shows

You might think that fewer shows would increase the chances of any given late-night series earning an Emmy nomination this year, but depending on how things shake out, that may not be the case.

There are currently two major categories where late-night shows compete at the Emmys: Outstanding Scripted Variety Series and Outstanding Talk Series. 

While last year saw 12 shows submit in the Scripted Variety category, this year there will likely only be 5, with HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show and Random Acts of Flyness, Paramount+’s Inside Amy Schumer and Crank Yankers, Comedy Central’s Tooning Out the News and Showtime’s Ziwe no longer in production.

Similarly, last year saw 19 submissions in the Talk Series category. This year, there will likely be 13, even with the recent addition of category newcomers John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s in L.A. and Hot Ones. That’s due to the loss of shows like The Problem with Jon Stewart, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Amber Ruffin Show, Hell Of A Week with Charlamagne Tha God, and Pause With Sam Jay.

Here’s where Emmy rules kick in. While some Emmy categories see as many as the top 8 vote-getters earn nominations, the number of nominees in a given category  is derived by the number of submissions in that category:

20 – 80 submissions = 5 nominations 
81 – 160 submissions = 6 nominations 
161 – 240 submissions = 7 nominations 
> 240 submissions = 8 nominations 

But what if, as will likely be the case with both late-night categories, there are fewer than 20 submissions? 

For categories with 8-19 submissions, the number of submissions is divided by four and then rounded to the nearest whole number. So, if the number of submissions in the Outstanding Talk Series category holds at 13, that means only the top four vote-getters will earn a nomination (down from last year’s five).

And if the number of submissions is below eight in a given category (as it currently stands for Scripted Variety)?

Per Emmy rules, categories with fewer than 8 submissions do not go to Academy members for consideration. Instead, they go to a jury for a consensus approval. If 90% of jury members approve of a submission, it earns a nomination. If one or fewer of the submissions win 90% approval, the Emmy is awarded to the submission that earned the highest approval rating.

If the jury is generous, we could see all five submissions for Outstanding Scripted Variety Series nominated. If not, the race in a category that includes Emmy heavyweights Last Week Tonight and Saturday Night Live could be over before it begins. 

It’s not a great situation for any of the shows in contention, leading some to speculate that next year’s Emmys could see a consolidation of the two late-night categories. 

It wouldn’t be without precedent. Prior to 2015, variety series and talk shows competed in a single “Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series” category—meaning shows like The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson would compete against SNL

We should have a better idea of where things are headed when the 76th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards nominations are announced on July 17. This year’s ceremony is scheduled to air live on Sunday, September 15.

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