Among the competitors

Road to the Emmys 2012: Variety, Music or Comedy

From popular latenight series, talkshows, kudocasts to one-offs, TV Acad voters have plenty to choose from among a handful of the medium’s most memorable moments:

“2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony” (HBO)
Why it might win: Taped in April in Cleveland, this year’s inductees included Guns N’ Roses (Axl Rose didn’t show up), Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The show featured the reading of a statement by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who was ill with cancer at the time of the taping and died the day before the program aired.
Maybe not: EW.com’s Ken Tucker called the show typical. He cited uneven performances and a long, dull montage of past Hall of Famers as demerits in a show punctuated by emotion.
Memorable Moment: The reading of Yauch’s statement made a poignant impact. Yauch wrote of his love of family, friends and music, which surely choked up a few fans, an atypical moment for a rock ‘n’ roll show.

“The Colbert Report” (Comedy Central)
Why it might win: “Colbert Report” reached the 1,000th-episode mark in February and its Super PAC made headlines. Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow Super PAC entertained and educated viewers as it demonstrated how a 2010 Supreme Court ruling permits corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political ads.
Maybe not: Though it’s received Emmy noms in this category before, “Colbert Report” has always gone home empty-handed. Big brother “The Daily Show” takes home the trophy time and again.
Memorable Moment: Colbert recently offered his take on a scandal involving a Pakistani production of “Sesame Street.” He said the project was “our most successful deployment of a puppet in the region since Hamid Karzai.”

“Conan” (TBS)
Why it might win: The profiles of “Conan” and host Conan O’Brien have perked up along with the show’s ratings improvements on TBS this year. After all the drama associated with his NBC exit, O’Brien is standing solidly on his own two feet with any hint of self-pity receding.
Maybe not: Much of the Team Coco brand’s success comes via digital platforms, including Twitter, where O’Brien has 5.8 million followers. Do Emmy voters care about a host’s identity beyond TV?
Memorable Moment: Political sketches aren’t just for “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report.” O’Brien donned a wig and frozen smile to play Callista Gingrich to sidekick Andy Richter’s Newt Gingrich in a political spoof that aired when Gingrich dropped out of the presidential race in April.

“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central)
Why it might win: The Republican primary provided plenty of fodder for Stewart and company. And where there’s political coverage, there’s coverage waiting to be mocked, including Stewart’s evisceration of Fox News for its narrative that a Republican “war on women” is manufactured while promoting the notion that there is indeed a “war on Christmas.”
Maybe not: “The Daily Show” has won in this category every year since 2003. Emmy voters might be ready to make another choice.
Memorable Moment: It’s difficult to pick just one with so much timely mockery of TV news and politics on a weekly basis. But the segment that drew more than 824,000 views at thedailyshow.com featured Sarah Palin sharing a pizza with Donald Trump last summer, prompting Stewart to wonder, “Whose name will they put on the vehicle they travel in?”

“Grammy Awards” (CBS)
Why it might win: Held the day after Whitney Houston’s death, emotion-packed ceremony featured several powerful tributes to the late singer and other greats as well as many acceptance speeches from deserving winner Adele. Viewers responded; show delivered near-record ratings.
Maybe not: Not all the tributes meshed. Producers still can’t figure out how to showcase younger bands unless their music hews to traditional styles.
Memorable Moment: Jennifer Hudson pays tribute to Houston with a soaring rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”

“Inside Comedy” (Showtime)
Why it might win: The popularity of comedians talking about comedy has exploded in recent years (see: Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast). It’s hard to imagine a more respected person for a comedian to confide in than “Inside Comedy” host David Steinberg.
Maybe not: It’s a pretty serious approach comedy. Could it be too inside, too intellectual?
Memorable Moment: Jerry Seinfeld tells Steinberg comedians are fueled by being shut off and hemmed in. “Acceptance is a very dangerous thing for comedians,” Seinfeld says, “because your energy starts going in all sorts of different directions. Stand-up is a loud desperation.”

“Kennedy Center Honors” (CBS)
Why it might win: The 34th edition featured the usual polish and class, befitting the stellar slate of recipients — Meryl Streep, Sonny Rollins, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma and Barbara Cook. Stephen Colbert’s heartfelt tribute to cellist Ma was essential viewing on its own.
Maybe not: We think the world of Streep, too, but hearing co-stars gushing about her greatness has lost its power to move since she’s feted so often elsewhere.
Memorable Moment: Audience loosens its formalwear and sings along with Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” (NBC)
Why it might win: Continues to produce many of late-night’s most-talked-about moments, including a run of Super Bowl-week shows in Indianapolis, a couple of hilarious “Downton Abbey” send-ups and a visit from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Maybe not: Still a relative category newbie, having received first nom last year. Has heat, but may not have enough to dethrone “The Daily Show,” the reigning nine-time winner.
Memorable Moment: President Obama makes his first show visit a memorable one, slow-jamming a policy speech with Fallon.

“Late Show With David Letterman” (CBS)
Why it might win: Latenight institution Letterman remains capable of delivering strong rapport with guests. His mood swings give show a slight air of unpredictability with greatness always within the realm of possibility.
Maybe not: Host gives the impression of coasting or even outright apathy on off nights. Show hasn’t been nominated the past two years. Last win came in 2003.
Memorable Moment: Bill Murray, dressed in a New York Giants uniform (complete with pads), lights 30 candles on a blazing cupcake to honor Letterman’s on-air anniversary.

“Mel Brooks & Dick Cavett Together Again” (HBO)
Why it might win: Two beloved show biz vets swapping great stories about old Hollywood will hit the sweet spot with Emmy voters of a certain age. That both men remain razor-sharp raconteurs made the one-hour special all the more delightful.
Maybe not: Some of those great stories have been heard a few times. One-off specials do not usually fare well in this deep category.
Memorable Moment: From the audience, Carl Reiner helps Brooks recount the origins of the legendary “2000 Year Old Man” routine.

“Portlandia” (IFC)
Why it might win: Show’s skewering of hipster culture was more popular and precise in its second season. Each episode held together better through multiple sketches and culminated in a single-topic season finale that amounted to one long sketch.
Maybe not: Did anything top “Put a Bird on It” from season one? Show’s appeal may be limited to young, pop culture-savvy viewers on the coasts.
Memorable Moment: A couple gets hooked on “Battlestar Galactica,” forsakes their careers to watch the whole series and then looks up “BSG” creator Ron Moore in the phone book. They initially meet a different Ron Moore but the “BSG” scribe does make a cameo appearance in the episode along with some “BSG” cast members.

“Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Why it might win: Produced arguably its finest season in the new millennium with ace cast (Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg and Fred Armisen) and a series of fantastic guest hosts (Maya Rudolph, Jimmy Fallon and Mick Jagger). Last chance to honor this particular group before members depart.
Maybe not: Show has been nominated the past four years, but hasn’t won since 1976. As good as it has been this season, “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” still probably possess more comedy cred.
Memorable Moment: Jagger sings Wiig off the show with a rare performance of the Stones classic “She’s a Rainbow.”

“The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” (NBC)
Why it might win: Leno continues as a comfortable, commercially viable presence on the late-night circuit in his 20th year as “Tonight Show” host. Not breaking new ground, but the man still knows his way around a joke.
Maybe not: Emmy voters switched over to Team Coco about a decade ago. Leno’s show hasn’t been nominated since 2003.
Memorable Moment: Leno engages Madonna in a spirited interview before her Super Bowl performance. Anything the NFL asked her not to do? “Well, for sure, no nipples,” she jokes.

“TV Land Awards” (TV Land)
Why it might win: It’s a gleeful, celebration of TV history and that’s got to be appealing to a swath of Emmy voters. To open its 10th anni show, host Kelly Ripa tried on iconic TV character wardrobes.
Maybe not: It’s a light confection compared to other programs in the category.
Memorable Moment: “Laverne & Shirley” won the Fan Favorite Award. Said Penny Marshall, “We weren’t trying to be high society; we were just trying to entertain.” Fox’s “In Living Color” won the Groundbreaking Award. Jim Carrey said, “This is just a tsunami, a wave, a crest of talent I feel so incredibly lucky to be sucked up into.”

Latenight hosts, producers collaborate