This year, the Best Competition Program Emmy category stands out from all others in that every nominee has previously conquered it (or the special class category from which it derived). Notably absent from the lineup is surprise 2022 victor “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” which has yet to return for a second season after wrapping its first last March. This gives 2018-2021 winner “RuPaul’s Drag Race” a clear shot at redemption that is almost sure to pay off.
“Drag Race” is one of three series in this group that has already taken this prize at least four times, along with “The Amazing Race” and “The Voice.” Also in the mix are one-time winners “Top Chef” and “Survivor,” the latter of which has remarkably reached the end of a 16-year, 30-season snub streak.
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In order to gauge the possibility of any show beating “Drag Race” here, let’s take a closer look at each nominee. Be sure to visit our predictions center to make your own picks in this and 25 other Primetime Emmy categories.
“The Amazing Race” (CBS)
This reality TV staple is seeking its 11th program win on its record 20th nomination. Its 34th season was, as always, presented by four-time Best Reality Host nominee Phil Keoghan and involved 12 pairs of Americans racing around the globe in hopes of earning a prize of $1 million. Throughout the course of 10 legs (rather than the usual 11-13), duos were eliminated one by one until dating couple and “Big Brother” alums Claire Rehfuss and Derek Xiao emerged victorious.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” (MTV)
This multifaceted talent competition series was first recognized here for its ninth season in 2017 against eventual winner “The Voice.” After initially airing on Logo for eight years, it migrated to VH1 for six before moving again to MTV for its 15th and most recent season. This time, former guest judge Ts Madison joined the regular panel consisting of RuPaul, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews, and Michelle Visage to size up 16 drag performers before eventually crowning Hawaiian Sasha Colby the winner of the competition.
22 years after it was awarded the now-retired Emmy for Best Special Class Non-fiction Program for its inaugural pair of seasons, “Survivor” finally has another shot at officially becoming a Best Competition Program winner. Presented by 2008-2011 hosting honoree Jeff Probst, the social experiment series’ 43rd and 44th seasons each involved 18 castaways building relationships and competing in mental and physical challenges in order to avoid elimination in the quest to become the $1 million-winning sole survivor.
“Top Chef” (Bravo)
During the 20th (and 17th Emmy-nominated) season of this cooking competition show, 16 returning contestants competed in various quickfire and elimination challenges in search of the title of World All-Star. In the end, judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons bestowed the distinction upon Season 19 champion Buddha Lo, an Australian native based in New York City. The series originally prevailed here in 2010 on the merit of its sixth season, which was filmed in Las Vegas.
“The Voice” (NBC)
Having now featured 18 main judges since its 2011 inception, the 22nd and 23rd seasons of “The Voice” were the last two for original panelist Blake Shelton, who built teams of singers to compete against those of Camila Cabello, John Legend, and Gwen Stefani in 2022 and Chance the Rapper, Kelly Clarkson, and Niall Horan in 2023. As he did during the pairs of seasons for which the show achieved this honor in 2015 and 2017, Shelton produced a fall winner but lost the spring contest (to Horan).
So, what will win the 2023 Emmy for Best Competition Program? Although it faces the challenge of bouncing back from its streak-ending 2022 failure, “Drag Race” is in a much better position than all of its challengers, given how no winning show has ever managed to rebound from two or more consecutive losses in this category. It is worth pointing out, however, that this is the first time the previous year’s honoree is ineligible, which could mean a similarly unprecedented victory is in store.
“The Amazing Race,” “Drag Race,” and “The Voice” have all beaten at least half of their current competitors multiple times each, with “Survivor” being the only one the latter two have yet to prevail over. Indeed, the positive implications of the long-running CBS endurance series’ unexpected comeback make it the strongest threat to “Drag Race,” but it would still be rather unwise to break from the crowd in this case.
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