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David Letterman beats Conan O'Brien in ratings and Emmy races

July 17, 2009 | 12:57 pm

David Letterman is now beating new "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien in the ratings on a fairly consistent basis. On Wednesday, Letterman welcomed Paul McCartney back to the Ed Sullivan Theater after 45 years and outdrew O'Brien by almost 2 million viewers.

David Letterman Late Show Emmy Awards Ratings Conan O'Brien Tonight Show TV news 1357986

Thursday, "Late Show With David Letterman" earned five Emmy nominations while the final season of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" managed just one nod. And pity poor Jay Leno, who was snubbed by the Emmys for his farewell year hosting the "Tonight Show."

"Late Show" contends once again for best variety comedy music series. The CBS late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman has competed in this Emmy race every year since its debut season. "Late Show" won the Emmy for its first year in 1994, and then again for five consecutive years beginning in 1998. In addition, it has won three technical Emmys for a total haul of nine awards out of 59 previous nominations.

It took Conan O'Brien a full decade of hosting "Late Night" before the show landed its first Emmy nomination in the variety comedy music series category in 2003. It contended unsuccessfully in that race for five years, always losing to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart." Last year and this, "Late Night" lost its slot to the resurgent "Saturday Night Live."

O'Brien and his writing staff finally won an Emmy in 2007 after being also-rans every year from 1996 to 2004 and then again in 2006. That is the only Emmy won by "Late Night" out of 28 previous nominations. Last year, the "Late Night" writers lost to the team behind "The Colbert Report" and they are back in the race this year, up against the same roster of talent, including the scribes from "Colbert Report," "Late Show" and "SNL."

Letterman won four consecutive Emmys as part of the writing team on the original "Late Night" beginning in 1984 and has been a perennial writing nominee for "Late Show." Jay Leno and his team of gag writers were snubbed by the Emmys for the entire run of his version of the "Tonight Show."

During Leno's 17 years at the helm, this NBC late-night staple won just one Emmy for best variety comedy series. That was back in 1995 and the last of the show's nine nods in that race was in 2003. Add in three technical wins and the "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" managed to take home just four Emmys out of 40 nods.

Photo credit: CBS

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