Working from home didn’t work for the Emmys
Pandemic takes away Hollywood’s sequins, leaves self-infatuation and elitism
TV personality Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 72nd Emmy Awards on Sunday in the largely empty Staples Center in Los Angeles while nominees waited at home to discover whether they had won. Winners gave their acceptance speeches via livestream and, in most cases, received their trophies through prearranged delivery.
Coronavirus prevention measures drained the ceremony of its usual glitz and glamor. Kimmel and the other presenters attempted to lighten the mood, but playing to an empty room caused most of the jokes to fall flat. Between awards, the audience at home saw prerecorded gags in which most of the humor revolved around COVID-19 and social distancing. Some of it might have been funny four months ago, but six months into the pandemic, gags about not getting dressed for work have gotten stale—especially since a lot of Americans can venture out of their homes now if they take precautions.
The producers also tried to honor essential workers by letting some of them announce awards. Delivery drivers, farmers, and doctors took part in the ceremony, and though some of their presentations were awkward, at least they didn’t make jokes about the virus.
Some nominees dressed in outfits suitable for the red carpet and streamed their acceptance speeches from elegant watch parties, while others wore wrinkled shirts and slouched on sofas in humble-looking rooms. When John Oliver won for outstanding variety talk series, a black box burst open presenting him with the trophy and covering him in confetti. “Thank you for sending what’s technically a small bomb to my house,” he said in his acceptance speech.
This year, the Emmys honored more African American nominees than in any previous year. The pro-LGBT series Schitt’s Creek swept the comedy categories, winning seven awards, an unprecedented feat. Zendaya, 24, became the youngest person to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama. She starred in the gritty sex-saturated HBO show Euphoria.
Though it was a night of firsts, some things about the Emmys stayed the same. Many of the winners used their acceptance speeches to deliver political messages, all critical of President Donald Trump. The refrain became: The United States needs more love and unity, and the only way we can get more love and unity in this country is if more people vote in November. While some of these celebrities know how to entertain, it was sad to see them holed up in their homes, clinging to the desperate hope that politics can bring about a reform of the heart.
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