OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL (LIVE)
The 64th Annual Grammy Awards (CBS)
The Trevor Noah-hosted celebration of music aired April 3 (more recently than any rival), featured performances from winners Silk Sonic and Olivia Rodrigo, and landed five Emmy nominations (tied for category best). But only the 2021 Grammys telecast attracted fewer viewers, and no Grammys telecast has ever won this award.
The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! (CBS)
This commemoration of Broadway’s rebound from COVID aired in September (another Tonys has aired since), was hosted by Tony winners Audra McDonald and Leslie Odom Jr. and featured musical performances and award presentations. But with just two noms, it’s tied for a category low, and a Tonys telecast hasn’t won this prize since 2017.
The Oscars (ABC)
March’s telecast will forever be remembered for the moment Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. It also controversially pretaped and then aired condensed versions of winners’ acceptance speeches for eight crafts awards (including, ironically, film editing), yet still ran 40 minutes long and was the second-lowest-rated Oscars yet. Plus, the Oscars has 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 hometown L.A. Rams. It garnered five nominations, but no halftime show has ever won — not even Prince’s in 2007, widely regarded as the greatest.
Live in Front of a Studio Audience: The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes (ABC)
Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear’s third re-creation of Lear classics was packed with A-listers (Kevin Hart! Jennifer Aniston! Jon Stewart! Snoop Dogg!) and could win like the previous two. But, on the other hand, the December telecast’s ratings were the lowest yet, and it’s up for just one other award.
OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL (PRERECORDED)
Dave Chappelle: The Closer (Netflix)
No nominee in this category dropped longer ago (last October) or generated more controversy (over his jokes about the transgender community, which prompted Netflix staffers to stage a walkout) than Chappelle’s sixth Netflix stand-up special, which was recorded in Detroit. It’s tied for a category-low two nominations (the other is for directing).
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts (HBO/HBO Max)
This category’s longest nominee (102 minutes) dropped on New Year’s Day and, marking two decades since the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone premiered in 2001, featured old footage of and new interviews with the stars (notably absent: author J.K. Rowling). Its only other nom was for picture editing.
One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (CBS)
This category’s briefest entry (its run time is just 45 minutes) features two beloved singers of different generations reuniting, for Tony Bennett’s final public performances, in promotion of their second album together, Love for Sale. It attracted an impressive 6.38 million viewers and four nominations.
Adele One Night Only (CBS)
In November, 10.33 million people tuned in to the singer’s Griffith Park performance (with a live celeb-packed audience) and Oprah-moderated interview — the most for a special since April 2021 — in promotion of her fourth studio album, 30. It’s now up for a category-leading five awards.
Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special (Netflix)
The veteran comedian died last September and was remembered in May in this special (the category’s most recently released nominee), which includes 50 never-before-seen minutes of his stand-up, plus celeb friends discussing his legacy. Never Emmy-nominated during his lifetime, Macdonald is also up for co-directing and writing the special.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.