Latenight Battle: Will Emmy Voters Honor the Departed or Award Newcomers?

The competition for Emmy glory among latenight talkshows was certain to be fierce this year, given all the comings and goings in the sector. But the Television Academy’s rule changes have added even more heat to the race.

The Academy split its former variety, comedy or music series category into two sections — one for variety talk and another for variety sketch. That made room in the talk sector for more contenders, because “Saturday Night Live” and “Portlandia” had been perennial nominees in recent years. Now competition amounts to a tug-of-war between departing favorites and younger hot shots.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” were showered with long and loving sendoffs. “Daily Show” has dominated the category — its 10-year winning streak was snapped last year by “The Colbert Report” — but “Late Show” had not landed a nom for variety series since 2009. The outpouring of commentary on and appreciation for the legacies of Letterman and Stewart, whose last show was just Aug. 6, are sure to linger in voters’ minds. The same goes for “The Colbert Report,” though to a lesser degree, since star Stephen Colbert will re-emerge this fall on CBS.

Yet, Jimmy Fallon’s success in taking over NBC’s “The Tonight Show” has been undeniable — so much so that “The Colbert Report’s” win last year was seen as an upset. This time around, Fallon has to fence with John Oliver, whose HBO series “Last Week Tonight” has been hailed for its cultural resonance, particularly among industry insiders. Rounding out the category is ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Will voters deliver a sentimental shout-out? Or will the next-gen prevail? No matter what happens on Emmy night, the outcome is sure to provide plenty of monologue material.

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