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Rounding up the variety series contenders

Road to the Emmys 2012: Variety, Music or Comedy

“The Colbert Report”
Comedy Central
Highlights:
• Stephen Colbert sings “Amercia the Beautiful,” rife with other boggled words, in honor of Mitt Romney’s misspelling of America in his iPhone app.
• Colbert celebrates 1,000 episodes, kicking off the landmark event Feb. 28 with the jab, “Suck it, ‘Simpsons!’ You just hit 500 episodes? Wow, it only took you 23 years.”
• Though the founding of Colbert’s Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, happened late last TV season, Colbert exploits it to its fullest. He raises money to run satirical ads during the Iowa straw poll, and during his January run for “president of the United States of South Carolina,” passes control of the PAC to Jon Stewart.

“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
Comedy Central
Highlights:
• Stewart provides one of the most reasoned, hysterical takes on the Chick-Fil-A controversy, pointing out that banning places with strong religious views and an anti-gay agenda would require you to ban, you know, churches.
• A chat with Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell devolves into an attack on Stewart’s interview tactics, and he calls in Jon Hamm as a defender.
• Stewart’s segment about Rick Santorum, “How Is It That Mitt Romney Hasn’t Crushed This Guy Already?” takes Santorum to task for his offensively extreme views, as well as poking fun at Romney’s robotic attempts to “relate” to the “common man.”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
ABC
Highlights:
• His post-Oscars telecast includes a trailer for “Movie: The Movie ” — a star-studded affair with cameos from Tom Hanks, Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep in a mustache.
• Continuing the trend of asking parents to prank their kids, he shows a montage of children receiving horrible Christmas gifts. Some were very disappointed.
• Kimmel interviews Will Ferrell entirely in Spanish, apologizing for his possibly offensive accent.

“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon”
NBC
Highlights:
• President Obama appears on the show to slow jam the news, pleasing all those fans who loved his cover of “Let’s Stay Together.”
• Fallon competes in a fitness challenge against another Obama — Michelle — at the White House, which aired during his post-Super Bowl special live from Indianapolis.
• Carly Rae Jepsen, Fallon and the Roots cover “Call Me Maybe” using a tiny Casio keyboard and other such adorable instruments.

“Real Time With Bill Maher”
HBO

Highlights:
• Mike Daisey appears to discuss his one-man show about the harsh conditions in which Apple products are made. Granted, this is before “This American Life” debunked parts of Daisey’s story, but the chat is still iOpening.
• Mark Ruffalo discusses “fracking” in a way that not only explains what the hell it is, but proves he’s a thoughtful political activist who uses fame as an opportunity to spark change.
• Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson deftly shuts down General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz on the matter of global warming, proving as always this is the Tyson to bet on.

“Saturday Night Live”
NBC
Highlights:
• The season finale includes a heartfelt sendoff of Kristen Wiig, as well as the uproarious welcome of “Lazy Sunday 2.”
• The show pokes fun at the nudity in “Game of Thrones” with a sketch that imagines the show being run by a 13-year-old boy who encourages boobs above all else.
• Maya Rudolph returns to the show with a raucous opening musical number and the return of “Bronx Beat” alongside Amy Poehler.

Road to the Emmys 2012: Variety, Music or Comedy
Correspondents cool | Can anyone dethrone ‘Daily?’
And the nominees are:
Series | Specials
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