The Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl Halftime Show have a few things in common. Both, of course, have been fixtures on network television for decades, but neither has even won the top Emmy Award for variety programming — an award currently called outstanding variety special (live). Both shows are nominated in that category again this year.
Will one of these shows finally prevail this year? Quite possibly. Each received five Emmy nominations this year, which is more than the other three nominees in this category — The Oscars (which received three nods), The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! (which received two) and Live In Front Of a Studio Audience: The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes (which also received two).
The Grammys became a live telecast in March 1971, but they assumed a higher profile when the show expanded from two hours to three hours in February 1983. The timing of the expansion was fortunate. The following year, Michael Jackson set a new record for most Grammys won in one night. That 1984 show, which was in effect a pop coronation, really needed to be three hours.
The Super Bowl goes even further back. It has aired every year since 1967, though the half-time show didn’t become the high-profile mega-event we know it to be today until the early ’90s. As late as 1986, the show was headlined by the bland vocal choral group Up With People. That changed in 1991 when the red-hot New Kids on the Block headlined the show, followed by Gloria Estefan in 1992 and, the real game-changer, Jackson in 1993.
This year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show — officially called The Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show Starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent — was a widely-acclaimed celebration of hip-hop music and culture. It’s probably the front-runner to win this award, but award shows have a way of surprising us.
Several artists performed on more than one of these competing shows. Snoop Dogg was one of the headliners on the Super Bowl Halftime Show and also played Vernon in the live revival of Diff’rent Strokes. Anderson .Paak was a featured performer on the Super Bowl Halftime Show and also opened this year’s Grammys, along with Bruno Mars, as Silk Sonic. In addition to hosting and performing on The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!, Leslie Odom Jr. performed on the Grammys, in the pitch-perfect salute to the late Stephen Sondheim. John Legend and Ben Platt also performed on both the Tonys and the Grammys.
Some key behind-the-scenes talent worked on multiple nominees too. Jesse Collins was an executive producer on the 64th annual Grammy Awards and a producer on the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Hamish Hamilton directed both of those shows. Glenn Weiss directed both the Oscars and The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!
Here’s a closer look at this year’s Emmy nominees for best variety special (live):