OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL (LIVE)
The 64th Annual Grammy Awards (SCS)
The celebration of music hosted by Trevor Noah aired on April 3 (more recently than any rival), featured performances from winners Silk Sonic and Olivia Rodrigo, and nabbed five Emmy nominations (tied for best category). But only the 2021 Grammys telecast drew fewer viewers, and no Grammys telecast has ever won that award.
The Tony Awards Present: Broadway is Back! (SCS)
This commemoration of Broadway’s post-COVID rebound aired in September (another Tonys has since aired), was hosted by Tony winners Audra McDonald and Leslie Odom Jr., and featured musical performances and award shows. But with just two names, it’s tied for a low category, and a Tonys TV show hasn’t won that award since 2017.
The Oscars (ABC)
The March telecast will forever be remembered for the moment Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. He also pre-recorded and then controversially released condensed versions of winners’ acceptance speeches for eight craft awards (including, ironically, film editing), but still ran for 40 minutes and was the second lowest rated Oscar to date. Moreover, the Oscars have never won this award.
The Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show (NBC)
Hip-hop icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige performed a 15-minute set that was watched by more people than the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the LA Rams of the hometown. It has won five nominations, but no halftime show has ever won – not even Prince’s in 2007, widely considered the greatest.
Living in front of a studio audience: the facts of life and the different shots (ABC)
Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear’s third recreation of the Lear classics was star-studded (Kevin Hart! Jennifer Aniston! Jon Stewart! Snoop Dogg!) and could win like the previous two. But, on the other hand, the December telecast ratings were the lowest yet, and there’s only one other price.
OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL (PRE-RECORDED)
Dave Chappelle: Closest (Netflix)
No nominee in this category fell longer ago (last October) or caused more controversy (because of their jokes about the transgender community, which prompted Netflix employees to stage a walkout) as Chappelle’s sixth Netflix stand-up special, which was taped in Detroit. He is tied for a lower category at two nominations (the other is for directing).
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts (HBO/HBO Max)
The longest nominee in this category (102 minutes) fell on New Year’s Day and, marking two decades since the film Harry Potter at the Sorcerer’s Stone premiered in 2001, featured old footage and new interviews with the stars (notably absent: author JK Rowling). Its only other name was for image editing.
One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (SCS)
The briefest entry in this category (it’s only 45 minutes long) features two beloved singers from different generations coming together, for Tony Bennett’s final public performances, in promotion of their second album together, love for sale. It drew 6.38 million viewers and four nominations.
Adele one night only (SCS)
In November, 10.33 million people tuned in to the singer’s performance at Griffith Park (with an audience full of live celebrities) and Oprah-hosted interview — the most for a TV special since April 2021 — in promotion of his fourth studio album, 30. It is now up for five top awards in its category.
Norm Macdonald: Nothing special (Netflix)
The veteran comedian died last September and was recalled in May in this special (the category’s most recently released nominee), which includes 50 never-before-seen minutes of his stand-up, plus celebrity friends discussing his legacy . Never an Emmy nominee in his lifetime, Macdonald is also up for co-directing and writing the special.
This story first appeared in an August issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.