How the pandemic has reshaped The Emmy Awards

Posted on 16 September, 2020

This reckless 2020 will be the year of the first audiovisual season made of awards ceremonies and festivals without an audience. The 72nd Primetime Emmy® Awards are no exception, but Jimmy Kimmel assures this forced change will be worth it: “We want to make it as special as it should be. And also, along the way, we’ll make sure to pay tribute to the people who are leading us through this pandemic.”

Fewer pre-tapes and much more live stream show then, with 140 cameras and several crews going around the US to follow every major nominee who will be given the awards remotely. It’s the first show to try this new arrangement, as even the MTV Video Music Awards had been mainly pre-recorded – while some festivals like the 77th Mostra del Cinema di Venezia tried to keep the regular welcoming of actors in an almost empty area around the red carpet. 

Reinvention has become a keyword of entertainment delivery over the past few years, and even if COVID-19 wasn’t initially in the picture, it might just be the perfect excuse to renovate and refresh the whole celebrities-audience relationship – some say it might even turn into a fancy pajamas party.

BLM and strong female characters

138 stars, 114 locations, 10 countries. HBO’s hit show Watchmen is the most nominated one this year (it gathered 26 of them), followed by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel from Amazon Prime and The Mandalorian from Disney+ – while Netflix unsurprisingly wins the first prize for total nominations of all its shows: 160 in total. 

In this important year for the BLM movement, strong female characters and a general mix of anxiety and uncertainty – in view of the elections in November – miniseries like Watchmen, Little Fires Everywhere, Mrs. America, Unorthodox and Unbelievable look particularly appropriate. The setting is the present, the characters look a lot like our neighbors and the plots are just a tool to convey urgent themes like freedom, self-determination, and, most of all, empathy.

Some comebacks from previous editions are not to be missed either: Better Call Saul, The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, Killing Eve, and Succession all compete in the drama section, a spot left empty by last year’s winner Game of Thrones

On the comedy side, Fleabag did the same, and while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has already won the title before, others like Schitt’s creek and Curb your enthusiasm aim to their first win. 

Emerging names and confirmations

Nominated as best actors and actresses, there are both well-known and brand new names: Regina King (Watchmen) and Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America), Jeremy Irons (Watchmen) and Mark Ruffalo (I Know This Much Is True) but also Shira Haas (Unorthodox) and Paul Mescal (Normal People) at their first big roles. 

The Morning Show – the product that launched the new AppleTV+ section – and Euphoria – the latest HBO’s successful experiment on teen drama – have put a special spotlight on two social media divas like Jennifer Aniston and Zendaya.

It’s gonna be a night to remember, for sure, much more in terms of form rather than substance. It will be pleasant, glamorous, and tweeted about, but it’s fair to hope that this more personal and virtual filter to the show will reduce distance and affect our after-pandemic, deeply changed minds in a lighter and encouraging way.

As Kimmel himself admits on the Television Academy’s Instagram page: “The Emmys are usually TV’s biggest night out, but this year I’ll be hosting TV’s biggest night in. So wear whatever makes you feel comfortable!” All nominations, in order, are listed here.

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