Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

Emmy Awards 2020: three things we missed this year

The 72nd Emmy Awards was the first major entertainment awards ceremony to be conducted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

Jimmy Kimmel in front of a screen showing nominee Kerry Washington (R) and Reese Witherspoon celebrating an early 2021 while watching the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony held virtually on September 20, 2020. AFP 
Jimmy Kimmel in front of a screen showing nominee Kerry Washington (R) and Reese Witherspoon celebrating an early 2021 while watching the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony held virtually on September 20, 2020. AFP 

The Emmy Awards were noticeably different this year, and understandably so.

There was no lavish red carpet event, no celebrity-packed auditorium and only a single musical performance (albeit a powerful and moving one).

The event went largely digital, with the coveted golden statues being delivered to the winners' (and the losers') homes by interns in hazmat suits.

It was the first major entertainment awards ceremony to be conducted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 130 cameras were shipped out to nominees across 10 countries. Jimmy Kimmel, who was hosting the 72nd Emmy Awards from an empty Los Angeles theatre, said, days before the event, that he was bracing for a “beautiful disaster”. Considering how much depended on streaming technology, so much could have gone wrong.

Yet, for the most part, things worked out well. And there was a decent amount of humour doled out at the ceremony for good measure.

Jennifer Aniston appeared in pyjamas and a sheet mask early on in the ceremony, before arranging a small Friends reunion with Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow. Comedian Randall Park took to the stage with an alpaca to present the award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie. Tracy Morgan filled in for Tracey Ullman in the live stream for Outstanding Actress for a Limited Series or Movie, saying: "All Tracys stick together."

Oprah Winfrey presents the Governors Award to Tyler Perry during the 72nd Emmy Awards telecast on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT/5:00 PM PDT on ABC. Invision for the Television Academy/AP
Oprah Winfrey presents the Governors Award to Tyler Perry during the 72nd Emmy Awards. AP

The Emmy Awards also shined a light on the efforts of essential workers. Doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers and truck drivers were charged with reading out the list of nominees, and in some cases, hand out awards.

"Tonight, we invited some of them, our essential workers," Jimmy Kimmel said, "to be part of the show and hand awards to those who are much less essential.”

The ceremony also had a political flavour to it. Many winners, including Dany Levy and Mark Ruffalo, spoke of the importance of staying united, fighting division and voting.

Mark Ruffalo accepts the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for "I Know this Much is True" during the 72nd Emmy Awards telecast on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. Invision for the Television Academy/AP
Mark Ruffalo accepts the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for 'I Know this Much is True'. AP

Regina King, who won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for Watchmen, said: "You've got to vote, I would be remiss to not mention that being a part of a show like Watchmen. Have a voting plan." She the added: "Rest in Power, RBG” referencing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the US Supreme Court judge who died this week.

Jimmy Kimmel standing before a photo of the late Supreme Court Justice of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony held virtually on September 20, 2020. AFP
Jimmy Kimmel standing before a photo of the late Supreme Court Justice of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony held virtually on September 20, 2020. AFP

The Emmys adapted well to the times, but there were still certain things that were sorely missed at this year’s award ceremony.

The red carpet

The Emmys is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated red carpet event of the year. Without it, it's hard to appreciate the event’s true prestige. The custom predates awards ceremonies by at least 2,400 years, traditionally seen as a way of honouring royalty.

Zendaya accepts the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for "Euphoria" during the 72nd Emmy Awards telecast on Sunday, Invision for the Television Academy/AP
Zendaya accepts the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for "Euphoria" during the 72nd Emmy Awards telecast on Sunday, Invision for the Television Academy/AP

The tradition has now become a way for us to honour the royalty of the entertainment industry. However, during the 72nd Emmy Awards, we didn't get a chance to fully appreciate the sartorial choices of the stars. However, we were still given a glimpse at Emmys fashion through the live video streams. While some – such as Ramy Youssef – chose to wear a comfortable jeans and shirt, others, including Zendaya and Yahya Abdul Mateen II, decided to dress up for the occasion.

Still, webcam framing and blurriness sapped a lot of the star dazzle from the evening. We couldn’t help but miss the glitz and glam of the Emmys red carpet.

The reactions

Another thing that the awards sacrificed by going virtual was the reactions of audience members. While award winners still got the chance to deliver their speeches, we couldn’t see how other stars (and losers) reacted to the winner.

Regina King accepts the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for "Watchmen" during the 72nd Emmy Awards telecast on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. Invision for the Television Academy/AP
Regina King accepts the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for 'Watchmen' during the 72nd Emmy Awards. AP

Traditionally, panning the camera will catch the joyous, funny and occasionally less-than-impressed expressions of the A-list audience members. A virtual awards ceremony, sadly, detracts from that experience.

The performances

H E R was the only musician to perform at this year’s Emmys, delivering a passionate and moving "In Memoriam" performance that paid tribute to the Hollywood figures who died over the past year. The singer-songwriter sang a solo rendition of Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U, starting out the song behind a piano and bringing it to a powerful end with an electric guitar as the montage paid a special tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who died last month.

US singer H.E.R. perform at the Staples Center during the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony held virtually on September 20, 2020. AFP
US singer H E R performs at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles for the Emmys. AFP

Maybe it was in good taste that the Emmy Awards this year was musically frugal.

The ceremony rarely showcases more than a few musical performances anyway. However, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t craving at least one more performance during the event.

Updated: September 21, 2020 02:32 PM

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