Between coronavirus-caused production delays and a glut of new streaming platforms, the future of television is rife with uncertainty right now. But here’s one thing we do know for sure: The (awards) show will go on. The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards are scheduled to be handed out on Sept. 20, honoring pre-pandemic series like The Crown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Schitt’s Creek, Succession and Watchmen.
But don’t expect to see the stars of all those shows in the same room. This year’s ceremony will be entirely remote, with the eventual winners accepting their statues from their homes. An all-virtual Emmys is a first for television, and you can bet that other awards shows — including the Golden Globes, the Grammys and the Oscars — will be watching closely should celebrity social distancing remain a necessity heading into 2021. You’re sure to have your own burning questions about this piece of TV history in the making and we’re here with the answers.
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How do I watch this year’s Emmys?
You won’t have to Zoom-bomb the show’s remote feed: The Emmys will air live on ABC starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. If you’ve still got cable, satellite or an old-fashioned antennae, tuning in is as easy as turning on the TV and switching the channel. But cord-cutters have viewing options as well: Streaming services like Hulu, YouTube TV, FuboTV and AT&T TV Now include live TV options that let you watch ABC programming — like the Emmys — in real time.
Is there a red carpet?
Typically, the Microsoft Theater would be a busy, buzzing hive of red carpet activity in the hours leading up to Emmy time. But this year, all will be quiet in front of the L.A. venue. That said, multiple networks are still planning pre-show coverage, led by awards show mainstay E!, which will kick things off at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT with the annual Countdown to the Red Carpet co-hosted by Nina Parker and Laverne Cox. At 6 p.m. ET/ 3 p.m. PT, Giuliana Rancic and Vivica A. Fox take over the countdown, appearing live from a Universal Studios set. The E! digital team will also be busy, with a Live From E! Stream show streamed on social media and online starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. (For night owls, E! Also has a post-show recap starting at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.)
Elsewhere on the proverbial dial, L.A.’s local TV station, KTLA5, commences its own countdown at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT with hosts Sam Rubin, Jessica Holmes, Doug Kolk and Megan Henderson, while the Good Morning America team of Eva Pilgrim, Whit Johnson and Janai Norman cover ABC’s pre-Emmy coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT. Last, but not least, People & Entertainment Weekly are collaborating on an at-home edition of a red carpet livestream, which can be watched on People TV, People.com and EW.com starting at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. All of these telecasts will feature the usual red carpet mixture of live celebrity interviews, pre-taped packages and glamorous fashion shows… minus the actual red carpet.
What’s the dress code?
Expect this year’s fashion to put the “semi” in “semi-glamorous.” The various red carpet hosts are all planning on at least a little bit of a glow-up, while the nominees have been reportedly told that “come as you are” is OK as long as there’s a bit of effort put in. Stylists, meanwhile, have teased the notion of “designer pajamas,” which sounds both comfy and cool.
Who’s the host?
After a planned summer vacation — preceded by an unplanned Blackface controversy — late night host, and Emmy nominee, Jimmy Kimmel launches his fall season by hosting the Emmys for the third time. Unlike the nominees, he won’t be turning his home into a stage. Instead, Kimmel will be self-isolated at an empty Staples Center for his emcee duties. “It could be a beautiful disaster,” he told The Hollywood Reporter about lending his name to this year’s Emmy telecast, adding that he doesn’t have any back-up bits planned should technical issues intrude on his gags. “If something happens technically, I will be touching upon all the skills I’ve acquired over the course of my life. I know one magic trick. I can kind of juggle. I guess I could draw caricatures of the crew. We are heavily relying on WiFi for this Emmys — more than any show ever has before.”
Will we see celebrity presenters?
To give Kimmel a break every now and then, the Emmys have enlisted a high-profile ensemble of celebrities to present awards, introduce planned packages — like the annual “In Memoriam” reel, which will feature a performance by Grammy-winning singer, H.E.R. — and, in general, entertain the audience. Those celebrities include Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda; Broad City collaborators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson; former Joe Biden impersonator and current Ted Lasso star, Jason Sudeikis; and Star Trek legend, Sir Patrick Stewart.
So is this going to be one giant Zoom call?
Visually, at least, the Emmys will more closely resemble your morning office meeting than a lavish awards show. And don’t try and pull the old “I can’t remember my Zoom password” excuse, Bryan Cox! Earlier this week, the Emmys production team mailed out carefully disinfected at-home video kits, complete with a monitor and ring light, to over 130 nominees in over 20 cities and 10 countries across the globe. The 6K cameras included in those kits are linked directly back to Emmy mission control, which will be juggling all of the different feeds in real time.
“If there are 130 live feeds coming in, it’s like 130 sports matches at the same time,” Emmy executive producer Ian Stewart told Variety. “You have so many things coming in. Get your head around that fact. Each one of those is coming from people’s homes, hotels and backyards. They’re not wired for a sports match, they’re wired to have your dinner.” All the nominees will be on camera prior to one of them being anointed the winner. Once winners are revealed, they’ll deliver their speech to their personal camera and then head over to a virtual press room to chat with reporters, Yahoo Entertainment among them.
Will there be statues?
Traditionally, Emmy winners deliver their speeches with statues in hand. But getting those statues to the winners isn’t going to be as easy as an on-stage hand-off. Rather than make everyone wait for next-day delivery, Emmy producers are trying a unique approach with select categories. According to a press release received by Yahoo Entertainment, some of the night’s victors might be receiving a knock on their door by one of these hazmat-wearing trophy presenters, who will hand over the Emmy and then melt away into the night. Sounds potentially hilarious… or terrifying.
Just how badly is this going to go?
As William Goldman famously wrote: Nobody knows anything. Director Reginald Hudlin — who is making history as the first Black executive producer of the Emmys — is open about the fact that technical glitches will almost certainly be part of the show. “There’s a tremendous amount of risk in what we’re doing,” the House Party director told Variety. “We’re pushing the technology to its absolute limits.” The producers have several pre-taped packages ready to go in case the 130 feeds get scrambled, but otherwise they’re going to be all live most of the time. At least one thing won’t change: Hudlin can’t guarantee that the show will end on time at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. “We’ll find out,” he teased.
Will real-world events be acknowledged?
Look, with everyone dialing in from home, there’s no way that the reality of the pandemic won’t be acknowledged. But there are so many other real-world events that celebrities may feel compelled to reference, either in punchlines or emotional acceptance speeches. Certainly, the looming Presidential election will be on everyone’s mind, along with a summer filled with Black Lives Matter protests that placed a new spotlight on the lack of diversity and inclusion in entertainment and the wildfires that have ravaged California and other Western states. Hudlin told Deadline that all of those topics and more are on the table. “The trick is to do it so we are not preaching at all, but to make sure there are a lot of different voices that need to be heard in a way that is entertaining, that is enlightening. So we definitely will be addressing the world we are currently living in.”
What’s going to win Outstanding Drama?
Sorry, Baby Yoda — we love you, but you and The Mandalorian are no match for the mighty Roy family. HBO’s corporate drama Succession received 18 nominations for its hugely popular sophomore season, including Outstanding Drama Series and individual nods for most of its ensemble cast. With star Brian Cox leading the way with an almost certain Outstanding Lead Actor win, Succession has a strong chance of succeeding Game of Thrones as HBO’s most Emmy-lauded drama series.
What’s going to win Outstanding Comedy?
Schitt’s Creek signed off earlier this year, and Emmy voters gave them a heck of a parting gift. The Canadian sitcom created by Dan and Eugene Levy earned 15 nominations, making it the most-nominated scripted comedy series behind Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And the Rose clan are likely to triumph over Mrs. Maisel on Emmy night. The much-loved show is poised to win Outstanding Comedy Series, and Catherine O’Hara is expected to accept her first acting Emmy for playing the one and only Moria Rose.
What’s going to win Outstanding Limited Series?
Who watched Watchmen? Practically everyone. Damon Lindelof’s boldly creative, painfully timely sequel to/reinvention of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel received the most Emmy nominations of any program, a testament to its popularity with audiences, critics and industry types alike. While limited series like Little Fires Everywhere and Mrs. America are likely to pick up some statues, too, Watchmen and its star Regina King are the inevitable victors in the Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actress categories, respectively.
The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards airs Sunday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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