It’s kind of hard to believe that, once again, somehow, Late Night with Seth Meyers was snubbed for an Emmy nomination. At this point, it’s encroaching on “outrage” territory. And, look, we aren’t even talking about “winning an Emmy,” we are talking about just being nominated at all. And if you go back through every year, it’s like Emmy voters go out of their way not to nominate Late Night. For instance, there was the year Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee – a fine show! – was nominated over Late Night. Another year it was Real Time with Bill Maher. This year The Late Late Show with James Corden gets nominated, yet Seth still does not. (I do get that a lot of experts picked Corden to be nominated, but still.) Nothing against The Late Late Show, but in the era we are living in, it’s hard to watch an episode of The Late Late Show and Late Night and walk away thinking The Late Late Show was better. And these kinds of things always seem to be at Late Night’s expense.
What’s frustrating at this point is it’s not even, “Oh, they should be nominated every year.” Well, actually, they probably should, but what’s insane is they haven’t even had a year where they sneaked in, in a world where Late Night has been the go-to political comedy show ever since 2016 when we started living in this godforsaken hellscape. So this is less an argument that Seth should have beaten someone specific out, it’s more that it’s insane he hasn’t gotten a nomination in what has now become a pretty large sample size.
So why is this happening?
I don’t think voters have some deep-seated secret hatred for Seth Meyers. But it’s really strange that the “A Closer Look” segment has become such a cultural force, yet it hasn’t paid off with an Emmy nomination. But I do have an idea why this is happening:
The Outstanding Variety Talk Series category is unlike the others. We see voters becoming better at nominating scripted series – like there was no way Fleabag was getting snubbed this year, yet 10 years ago, it may have – and this might have something to do with series getting shorter. Voters no longer have to watch a 24 episode arc to fully get the feeling of a given season. Now it’s down to, a lot of times, just eight episodes.
But late-night television doesn’t work like that. It’s an ongoing thing. It’s like baseball — there are a lot of games and you kind of have to keep paying attention all season long to notice standouts, unless something huge happens. And, I suspect, unless someone really makes some waves, a lot of voters just vote for who they always vote for. And shows like The Late Late Show and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee benefited in a huge way from incredibly strong starts. Both shows came out of the gate and knew what they were, grabbing voters’ attention right away, so they both became perennial nominees.
Late Night with Seth Meyers took a bit to find its voice, but once it did, it became an incredibly important voice. Take Monday night for instance, with Seth having to give a serious monologue about our president’s recent racially-tinged tweets. Seth has gotten so good at “A Closer Look” that we now take that for granted. And I think voters probably do, too.
If I’m Seth Meyers right now and I want to get an Emmy nomination next year, I would be looking at what Jimmy Kimmel has been doing. Kimmel, for many years, was kind of viewed as the “also-ran” late-night show. Just over there on ABC, having a good time, not really caring about all the drama at NBC or CBS. Kimmel has always been a good host, but for a long time he was just content with doing funny pranks.
Then, because of events that happened in his own life, Kimmel got involved in the health care debate. And he became a force. Here’s the important thing to remember about Jimmy Kimmel: I don’t always watch his show, but I always know what he’s up to. He makes news because he goes out there and does things. Playing basketball with Ted Cruz doesn’t seem like the best way to spend an afternoon, but there was Kimmel, giving it his best, eventually losing to Cruz in the game, but still winning.
Seth Meyers’ day-drinking video with Rihanna was a lot of fun, and is one of the show’s highest viewed YouTube videos. But I do wonder how this went over with voters. (Voting was still open when this aired.) First, it’s pretty infrequent when Seth does a remote like this, so it felt like a novelty as opposed to a feature of the show. Also, I don’t think voters think of Seth like this. I think they think of him as the adult in the room who is going to tell it like it is. So when the voters ask, “We sure like ‘A Closer Look,’ what else do you have?” And the answer is, “Well, one afternoon I got drunk,” I’m not sure that was going to seal the deal.
I think at this point, in a lot of people’s minds, it’s kind of like watching Walter Cronkite get drunk. I mean, hey, that’s kind of fun, I guess, but it’s not why we watch. (To be fair, if Corden had done this voters probably would have loved it, because that’s the show Corden has. And I know, in the end, all Seth Meyers wanted in the world was to have a fun-loving late-night talk show. In an alternate universe he gets drunk three times a week and he’s having the time of his life. But, in this universe, that’s not the hand he was dealt.)
It’s now obvious “A Closer Look” on its own is not going to get Late Night an Emmy nomination, even though it should. (Or, a lot of great segments by Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel.) If this is something Seth cares about, he’s going to have to get out there more and make some news, like Kimmel has been doing. Put it this way: on the nights we don’t watch Late Night with Seth Meyers, we (and Emmy voters) should still know what Seth has been doing.
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