by Meilani Weiss, EVP Brand Integration
The 2020 Emmy Awards broadcast live—not pre-recorded—on Sunday, September 20, from the Staples Center in Los Angeles and nominees’ homes around the world.
The energy will certainly be different, with host Jimmy Kimmel at the Staples Center with the crew and very few special guests at the venue, and about 140 camera feeds going into the production.
This year’s ceremony will be the first where award attendees and home viewers will have essentially the same experience (give or take a ring lighting rig to make the nominees’ watch parties more broadcast-ready). In recent talk show appearances, nominees have discussed what they’ll wear to the ceremonies from their living rooms, and viewers who love television can make a night of it as well—whether in their own living rooms or in socially-distanced outdoor viewing parties.
Viewers may also have extra curiosity in the awards show this year, simply from not seeing their favorite actors, writers, directors, and other creative talent in so long. With filming on scripted series halted for months and 2020/2021 premiere dates delayed and in flux, this Emmys ceremony provides an opportunity to see our favorite talent let their more authentic selves shine through, without the long schedule that attending an awards show traditionally entails. And, perhaps, we’ll also see a nominee’s family, pets, or interior decorating decisions steal the spotlight.
For his part, Kimmel is used to improvising hosting duties by now, and has proven adept at producing compelling content during quarantine. While the quality of remotely-produced projects this year has drastically varied in quality, the experience can also lend an intimacy to a broadcast which otherwise may not draw much enthusiasm this year. And as the ceremonies themselves are reimagined by necessity, the Outstanding Series nominees serve as a bellwether of longer-term industry trends.
The Outstanding Comedy Series category includes a range of tone and distributors, from “Dead to Me” (Netflix) to “The Good Place” (NBC), “Insecure” (HBO) to “Schitt’s Creek” (CBC/Pop TV) to “What We Do in the Shadows” (FX, a major partner with fellow Disney-controlled service Hulu). As streaming series tend to have fewer seasons overall, HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is by far the longest-running series nominated, though on its own anomalous schedule.
For Outstanding Drama Series, the nominees represent the most critically-celebrated with dedicated fans: “Better Call Saul,” “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Killing Eve,” “Ozark,” “Stranger Things,” “Succession”—and Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.” Notably, none of the series are from the major broadcast networks, and Disney+ being represented—with a Star Wars spinoff series no less—is perhaps as good a sign as any of the paradigm shift of the last few years, and how difficult it is for broadcast series to break through in awards season beyond individual contributions.
As we look to Sunday, September 20, not knowing exactly what to expect, I’m more intrigued in the Emmy Awards than in previous years—from how Kimmel and his production team invigorate the show, to what the list of eventual award-winners says about the industry’s priorities.