Some things never change. Here we are at the end of the 72nd Emmy Awards and once again the story in terms of major wins is HBO, proving it could lose Emmy juggernauts like Game of Thrones and Veep and one year later come back just as strong with wins in Best Drama Series for Succession, and Limited Series for Watchmen, plus on top of that pulling off an upset win making Zendaya the youngest winner ever in Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Euphoria, a year-old show few thought would be remembered at Emmy time.
Of course, HBO is sharing the glory on this night with Pop TV and the absolute rout in the comedy categories, with all seven of those wins going to Schitt’s Creek, a comeback story like no other in its sixth and final season. The irony, as I have previously noted (and did again in tonight’s live blog), is that the series probably owes some of this success to Netflix, which picked up reruns of its earlier seasons. That certainly led to a much bigger audience discovering the brilliant series, which after that exposure landed a few nominations last season and the whole boatload of them this year. Eugene Levy in his Comedy Series acceptance did acknowledge Netflix. It was a similar kind of boost the streamer gave a few years ago to AMC’s Breaking Bad, and it engineered the same result for that series.
‘Succession’ Wins Emmy For Outstanding Drama Series: Complete Winners List
The sad fact for Netflix, which came in with a leading 160 nominations this year for 52 different shows, is that they leave this Emmy night with only two wins on the Primetime broadcast (they won another 19 over the course of this week’s Creative Arts ceremonies), once again for Julia Garner’s supporting turn as the feisty Ruth on Ozark and one for direction for the limited series Unorthodox. That’s one less than last year on the big Emmy broadcast.
In terms of streamers, it was a largely unimpressive showing tonight with little to shout about for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Normal People, and nothing for Amazon’s nomination-leading series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (although that did pick up some tech awards at Creative Arts). Disney+ had seven wins at the Creative Arts but missed out, predictably, for Drama Series for its freshman series The Mandalorian. Apple TV+, in its first Emmy outing, actually nearly tied Netflix tonight when Billy Crudup took Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for its marquee series The Morning Show. That brand new streamer spent a lot on its first Emmy campaign and probably should be happy just to have gotten on the board against stiff competition.
I do get a little tired of a lot of the same shows that seem to win year after year in other categories, like RuPaul’s Drag Race, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Saturday Night Live and the like. Comedy Central had put a lot of effort into trying to get a seminal season for The Daily Show With Trevor Noah the big Emmy win for Variety Talk Series, but HBO just ran over them with Oliver again. Comedy Central probably shouldn’t complain as its Daily Show With Jon Stewart won for something like a decade. Academy voters do tend to repeat, and though Television Academy membership has expanded, the voters are pretty much the same.
It is nice to see, however, after Jharrel Jerome’s Lead Actor in a Limited Series win last year for When They See Us, and now Zendaya’s in Euphoria, that the Academy is not ageist and not averse to rewarding new generations.
As for the show itself, it is a damn shame the Emmys take their own show out of eligibility to actually win Emmys. With the Herculean technological logistics involved, the gutsy decisions by producers Jimmy Kimmel, Reginald Hudlin and Ian Stewart and their teams to really make the effort, this was one of the best Emmy shows ever, and in fact stands up I think the some of the best awards shows period. The technical snafus were almost non-existent, and that, considering they were dealing with 130 selfie camera feeds from around the world, is no small feat. The In Memoriam segment and the Tyler Perry Governors Award both knocked it out of the park; Mark Ruffalo (with passion and purpose) and Jesse Armstrong (with his “Un-thank yous” to Donald and Boris) were highlights; and among the presenters Jennifer Aniston gets MVP (especially with that half-a-Friends reunion).
I said months ago that COVID-19 might actually force the Television Academy to rethink the Emmys for the better and create a broadcast that walked right out on the ledge of being a trainwreck. They didn’t look back and produced a fun, lively, vibrant Emmys for the ages, certainly one that will be remembered. And Kimmel, no stranger to hosting this kind of thing, topped himself, proving a host is a very good thing to have. I suspect the Oscars are going to be looking at the Emmys for guidance unless a miracle cure for the coronavirus is on the way sooner than we, if not Trump, thinks, and the Motion Picture Academy should look no further than what Kimmel, obviously a past Oscar show host, and Hudlin, a past Oscar show producer, have pulled off with a very competent production team in a very challenging situation. The KIA Emmy statuette delivery bits were another brilliant touch, especially when you consider the dreary Creative Arts shows the Academy put on all week, showing how not to do awards shows in the midst of a pandemic.
And the Emmy voters, other than some of the tried-and-true repeat winners mentioned above, can also pat themselves on the back for recognizing winners of the quality of Schitt’s Creek, Succession and Watchmen. After last year’s Emmys, when something that might have been considered out of left field like Fleabag dominated, this is a trend toward being pretty cool that is nice to see.
Schitt’s Creek claimed 7 comedy awards, while Watchmen scored most Emmys
Jackson Weaver · CBC News · Posted: Sep 21, 2020 4:29 AM ET | Last Updated: September 21
It was a night of pitchy Zoom audio, surprisingly few technical issues and historic wins — particularly for Canadian comedy Schitt’s Creek — at the 72nd Annual Emmy Awards on Sunday.
Though organizers had to dispatch nearly 130 camera kits to nominees around the globe to accommodate stars staying at home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, everything came together despite early predictions of dropped calls and general disaster.
Here are some of the highlights from a night of upsets, historic wins and big statements.
“Hello and welcome to the pand-Emmys,” host Jimmy Kimmel announced to open the event. The late-night show host’s opening monologue was an open acknowledgement of both the strangeness and frivolity of putting on an awards show during a pandemic.
At first, the crowd looked like that of a typical awards event, with pans of the audience showing smiling and laughing stars. That is until Kimmel admitted he was mostly alone, revealing the empty seats of the deserted Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“All alone,” Kimmel quipped. “Just like prom night.”
He went on to address the seemingly bizarre reason the Television Academy chose to proceed with the show. It could be considered “frivolous and unnecessary,” to go during a pandemic, he said, but how is that unlike any other year?
“What’s happening tonight is not important,” Kimmel said. “It’s not going to stop COVID. It’s not going to put out the fires, but it’s fun. And right now, we need fun. My God, do we need fun.”
Top honours for Schitt’s Creek
After the monologue, the show kicked off with the comedy awards. Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy snagged Emmys for best comedy actress and actor off the top, and that was only the beginning for the much-beloved, made-in-Canada Schitt’s Creek.
The show went on to sweep the comedy awards, nabbing top honours in all seven categories. After O’Hara and Levy’s wins, Annie Murphy took the Emmy for best supporting actress, and Daniel Levy took three — best supporting actor, comedy writing and best director of a comedy series alongside Andrew Cividin. It was an Emmys first, something no other comedy has achieved before.
WATCH | Kimmell jokes about Canada’s Stanley Cup drought after Schitt’s Creek wins big:
“If they’d won one more Emmy, they would have been able to trade them in for this,” Kimmel joked and revealed a mock Stanley Cup. “But they didn’t, so we’re going to keep it here for another 27 years.”
Kimmel aimed one more joke at Schitt’s Creek before moving on, saying ABC censors demanded the show display the Schitt’s Creek logo whenever the TV show’s name was mentioned — to clarify what was being referenced. When the comedy show won every award in the first hour of the broadcast, the logo appeared frequently.
HBO vs. Netflix
Schitt’s Creek wasn’t the only series to receive some love — as the most nominated show of the night,HBO’s limited series Watchmen didn’t disappoint. It was named best limited series, while star Regina King took home outstanding lead actress. The show earned the most Emmys of the night with 11 awards — not a surprise given Watchmen had the most nominations with 26.
It also marked a stunning success for the network, which has been pitched in an ongoing battle with streaming giant Netflix.
Though Netflix set a record for the most nominations with 160, it won just 21, well behind HBO’s 30 awards, which included statues for both Watchmen and its other success story, Succession. The show, about a dysfunctional family in charge of a global media empire,took home the top prize of best drama.
A night of upsets
Succession also scored awards for best writing for drama and directing for drama, and it won statues for lead actor in a drama series for Jeremy Strong. Strong beat his co-star Brian Cox, who plays Strong’s father on the show and was widely expected to win. The award marked Strong’s first-ever Emmy nomination.
That wasn’t the only upset of the night. Actor Zendaya won for her performance in the series Euphoria, with her team erupting into loud, screaming applause behind her.
WATCH | Schitt’s Creek wins big at Emmy Awards:
At 24, Zendaya is the youngest to win an Emmy for lead actress in a drama, and she beat out Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer for their work on Killing Eve, Jennifer Aniston for The Morning Show, Laura Linney for Ozark and Olivia Colman for The Crown.
“I just want to say there is hope in the young people out there,” Zendaya said in her acceptance speech. “I know that our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that, but there is hope in the young people.”
The virtual nature of the Emmy program didn’t lessen the number of impassioned speeches. Actor Anthony Anderson coaxed Kimmel into shouting “Black Lives Matter” before presenting the nominees for outstanding limited series. Daniel Levy encouraged members of the audience to register to vote, and Sterling K. Brown presented the final award of the night while sporting a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.
There were various other commentaries, some more lighthearted than others, including one moment from Ramy Youssef, creator of the comedy series Ramy.
Youssef was up for both best directing and best lead actor in a comedy series, both of which ultimately went to Schitt’s Creek. Even still, a hazmat wearing presenter showed up to Youssef’s home, only to wave goodbye once the real winners were announced.
“When you lose the Emmy,” Youssef captioned a tweet. An attached video showed the presenter walking away with the golden statue, revealing what happens when you don’t win at the COVID-19-shaped Emmys.
Reginald Hudlin Talks Producing Virtual Emmys During Pandemic: “There’s Going to Be Cameras Across the Country”
6:30 AM PDT 9/16/2020 by Michael O’Connell
“Of course I used to spend time at production offices in Hollywood or Santa Monica, but the work-from-home thing hasn’t been a radical shock,” says Reginald Hudlin, who was photographed Sept. 7 at his home in Beverly Hills.
The veteran producer-director shares the challenges and upsides of producing TV’s biggest night remotely as well as worries that streaming may reduce the communal experience.
Reginald Hudlin — Reggie, to those in his esteemed inner circle — didn’t go into shock when Californians were told to work from home back in March.
The Los Angeles house he shares with his PR vet wife, Chrisette, and two children has been his base of operations for over a decade now. “When I ran BET, I went into the office every day,” he says of his 2005-08 tenure as president of entertainment at the Viacom network. “But once I went back to independent production, I realized that an office is just a hole in my pocket.”
As a trailblazing filmmaker (HouseParty, Boomerang), an Oscar-nominated producer (Django Unchained), a comic book scribe (BlackPanther), a prolific TV director (NewGirl, BlackMonday) and a former network exec, Hudlin is a true Hollywood jack-of-all-trades.
On Sept. 20, he’ll add executive producer of the Primetime Emmy Awards, alongside host Jimmy Kimmel and event producers Done+Dusted, to that résumé. Their live telecast, the most ambitious since COVID-19 made standard production impossible, will see Kimmel emceeing from a vacant Staples Center as upwards of 140 camera crews are deployed around the globe to capture nominees and winners at home.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter over Zoom earlier in September, the 58-year-old talked about the logistics that this plan entails, having a friend on the Democratic presidential ticket and why he prides himself on his eclectic résumé: “I’m just working off the bucket list I’ve had since I was 12.”
“The Black Panther mask was given to me at San Diego Comic-Con by a cosplayer who wore it as part of his costume,” says Hudlin, who wrote the comic for years.
This is the first event of its scale to go live since the pandemic began. How important was it that you not pretape?
If it’s a performance-based show, it’s easier and maybe preferable to do a bunch of pretaped elements. For the Emmys, where the whole thing is being driven by the reveal of who the winners are, it needs to be live. Jimmy loves live, so we were all in agreement that we needed to fight to preserve that. That’s led to a vast array of logistical challenges. (Laughs.)
What’s the biggest?
We’re going to have the nominees in their homes, backyards, hotels. There’s going to be cameras across the country, in the U.K., in Berlin, in Tel Aviv. We’re going to be based in the Staples Center because it’s the only place big enough so the crew can keep appropriate distance and we can manage that much data coming in and going out.
“I’m a regular at Golden Apple [Comics] on Melrose,” says Hudlin of his comic book collection and art. In 2015, Hudlin was tapped to relaunch DC Comics’ Milestone Media imprint.
On the eve of the show, what will you be worried about?
It’s a live event, so there are things you don’t know. We don’t know who the winner is. And we’ve said, “Why don’t you tell us? We’ll keep the secret. No? Fine then.” If a winner is in London, and it’s 4 in the morning and they’ve fallen asleep, we don’t know what’s going to happen. And that’s presuming all these connections are good. Our motto for the entire production is, “What could go wrong?”
Given Hollywood’s attempt to course-correct the lack of Black storytelling as part of a larger reckoning, are you dusting off any old pitches?
Oh God! (Gestures behind him.) You see this closet? That’s full of really good ideas that can’t get made.
But maybe now?
It used to be when you went to pitch a Black project, there was this thing called the preamble. And when I did the preamble, I had to explain that Black culture is pop culture. (In a kindergarten teacher voice:) “Have you ever noticed that the biggest stars in every medium are Black? Look at Eddie Murphy. Look at Will Smith.” You had to explain the racial physics of the entertainment business — not that anyone was racist; they literally never thought about it. “Oh, I never noticed that pattern.”
A fan of George Clinton, Hudlin directed the funk musician’s 1993 music video for “Paint the White House Black.”
Have those conversations changed at all?
“The market for that’s going to be very small” — it’s not like I don’t hear that still. The difference is, I say to them, “My life is a refutation of what you’re saying.” I’ve seen the people who say, “Well, based on the financial models …” come and go. But their historicals are only based on what’s been done. My whole career is doing things that have never been done and being very successful at it.
What is some memorable pushback?
When I pitched House Party, people said: “Black movies don’t sell. Teen movies don’t sell. You have a Black teen movie. No one wants to see that.” Right. When we were shopping Django, they’d wait for Quentin Tarantino to leave the room. Then they’d go, “Black movies don’t travel internationally. Westerns don’t travel internationally. You have a Black Western. Nobody wants to see that.” They’re wrong every time. HouseParty was one of the most profitable movies of that decade. Django made a half-billion dollars. The pushback is the sign I’m on the right track. Hopefully things are changing. I’m happy to not have to fight anymore, but I’m always ready.
You directed Safety, out later this year, for Disney+. Is a theatrical release still important to you?
Listen, streaming is fantastic. Look at how robust it’s made documentary or mid-budget movies that could never compete with the blockbusters. There’s no “ABC Movie of the Week.” The Brian’s Song of today gets made on a streamer. The challenge, and COVID is certainly adding to the danger, is making sure one doesn’t cannibalize the other. My kids haven’t been to a theater in a long time. And the phone sometimes beats the big screen in our house, which drives me crazy. “You will not watch Snowpiercer on your phone! You will go upstairs and watch it as it was intended!” It’s scary. I don’t want the communal experience reduced to what live theater is — people seeing maybe one or two plays a year, and only if they live in big cities. Motion pictures must remain a populist experience and not an elite one.
You and your wife introduced vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris to her husband, Doug Emhoff. How do you feel about dinner with your friends potentially requiring a lot more logistics?
Kamala is a wonderful person, Doug’s a great guy, and I feel very hopeful about the future of our country. When I look at Kamala with Joe Biden, when I see the enthusiasm that the public has for them, the promise of what could be, all I can say is, please vote. Please, please vote.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday’s prime-time TV broadcast of the 2020 Emmy Awards will be a tale of reinvention by necessity — and executive producer Reginald Hudlin is loving the possibilities. The director of “House Party” and “Boomerang” and producer of “Django Unchained” and the 88th Academy Awards knows many of the choices he’s making for the 72nd edition of TV’s biggest prize are going to be firsts. So is Hudlin himself, for that matter: He is the first Black executive producer in Emmys history.
Though the event is based at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, no nominees or live audience will be present, just one of many health and safety restrictions Hudlin and his team are working under. Instead, the production will dispatch camera rigs and crews to more than 130 locations around the world; there, the nominees will have unprecedented freedom to present themselves as they choose to a worldwide audience. Despite all the planning and practice, the gregarious Hudlin knows the deck is stacked with wild cards — and he’s excited to play. “Whatever happens,” he says, “we want to capture it.”
Clearly, this is a moment requiring reinvention, not just technically but creatively. It’s also a great opportunity to rethink whether you really need certain things, right?
I think every genre needs a reinvention at a certain point, whether it’s soap opera or sports or whatever. “Wait a minute. How are we doing this? How do we make this better using technological advances?” Or, “How do we get this to where the audience is now?” I feel like we’ve been at that point for awards shows for a little while now. To quote the great Melvin Van Peebles, “Trouble is opportunity in work clothes.” This is forcing us to question all the tropes of awards shows. Some of those things we’ll miss and we look forward to the day we can do again. Some of those things we’ve been holding onto for no reason.
The truth is, we won’t know what works or what we’ll miss or what we’ll never need to see again until after we do it. We’ve been watching all these other shows that have happened virtually. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve produced shows in this environment. So we’re taking the collective learnings of everything we’ve done so far and applying them to the first large-scale show where the awards are front and center [rather than live performances].
With the Emmys, it comes down to that moment where you go, “You’re the winner.” It’s that very small, but gigantic, human moment. That’s what we’re fighting to preserve in this show. To do that, but not all be in the same room, means sending out 130 or more cameras. Los Angeles, New York, Connecticut, Canada, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv, wherever we need to go, we’re going to be sending out these elaborate but relatively easy-to-use camera rigs so we can have the best sound, the best picture, the best lighting, given the circumstances. We tried to make these rigs as user-friendly as possible so they can install them in their homes. It really is a partnership between us and the nominees.
You can do it in the living room, your backyard, your kid’s room. You know how everyone always says good night to their kids? Well, they can have their kids with them! And they can tuck their kids in after they win. Maybe they’re alone in their apartment; maybe they’ve got their entire extended family. Maybe they’ve got all their friends over there and they’re having some raucous Emmy party. It’s all up to the individual and how they want to celebrate the night.
The fact that these nominees are all familiar with the process of making film and TV means there might be some creativity involved.
That’s what we’re encouraging. Be safe, first and foremost. But presuming you’re being safe … have at it! That includes wardrobe. If you want to wear a tuxedo and a beautiful gown, great! If you want to put on the funkiest, flashiest, crazy outfit that you would never have the nerve to wear to the Emmys, now’s the year! Go! If you want to be totally comfy and you’re wearing your Adidas track suit or your Lululemon … if you want to put on some really awesome pajamas because right after this, you’re going to bed … that’s all good, too.
There are no wrong answers. It’s all about how you want to express yourself.
What have you learned from other COVID-era broadcasts — the VMAs, at-home versions of shows, benefit specials? And I mean good and bad — what have you learned that you can apply to the Emmys?
We looked at [the NFL Draft], the DNC and RNC. We’re looking at everybody and how they’re executing it, and there’s lessons to be learned from all of it. I was involved in one of those shows where I got the camera kit and I had to put it together. “Oh, this is what it’s like on the other side.” That was very helpful, but how do we improve that experience? You can see from the beginning of these remote shows to where we are now, there’s been an evolution and everyone’s learning from each other. Because of the scale and scope of this show … we keep saying, “What could go wrong?”
Any specific examples of what you learned from other shows, whether it was what you should or shouldn’t do?
I don’t think it’s fair to knock on anyone; we’re all carving a path. We’re just out there with our machetes: “Is this the way to water?” “No! Double back!” A lot of it is focused on production quality, to make sure we’re not making the Zoomies; we’re making the Emmys. Make sure we have quality images, quality sound. That we have an interesting shot. So many times, [the participants] are left to their own devices: “If I’m wearing all white and I’ve got a white background, is that a problem?” “Yes. Yes. Don’t do that.” “If you turn your camera six degrees this way, that’s an infinitely better shot than the one you’ve set up.”
What are your biggest fears with this approach?
Fear is what I have for breakfast. It’s all about fear. Every morning, we get together with a big conference call, we talk about our big ideas, then we work through the logistics of those ideas and go, “That’s impossible!” Then we tear it all down and build it up again.
Truly our biggest advantage is our host, Jimmy Kimmel. Jimmy is so funny, so experienced not just hosting shows, not just hosting awards shows, but working in these COVID environments. Executing comedy without an audience is a brutal task. There could be a break in the [technical] chain at any given point. We know we can cut to Jimmy: “Jimmy, tell the people what’s happening. Save us, Jimmy!”
We’re going to be very transparent with the audience about the process. As far as I’m concerned, that’s part of the appeal of the show. We get to celebrate television in a year that it really deserves to be celebrated because television’s gotten us through this year in a lot of ways. It has really been one of the unifiers.
But we also want to be honest: This is what we’re doing; this is how we’re doing it. “They don’t know what’s going to happen. Come along for the ride with us!” It’s like you’re doing a “making of” [documentary] at the same time you’re making the show.
You’re getting me fired up to see what they all do.
I want to see what they do too! These are the parts that are not under our control. These nominees, they come into our home every week or six-hour binge, however we consumed their show. So now we’re going to their house and we get to hang out with them. That’s on the nominees. That’s the biggest “x” element we don’t have control of.
Are there nominees who didn’t want cameras at their homes, or just declined to participate?
There are some people who are like, “We’re hermetically sealed; we’re not doing it.” There are some people who are like, “We’re in the U.K.; that’s 4 in the morning and I will be asleep.” “Really? Really?! Wake up!”
So those conversations are ongoing. And a lot of times, people, they need to be talked through it. Once they understand the approach we’re taking — “Everything that’s going to be delivered to you is going to be disinfected and COVID-safe.” I’m a bit of a psycho about it in terms of my house. If it’s good enough for me, you’ll be OK.
How will you convey the glamorous Hollywood experience to viewers? No red carpet, no Cate Blanchett rubbing elbows with Sterling K. Brown. Will viewers still get the glitz?
It’s obviously much harder, since even rubbing elbows is challenging these days. We’re gonna try. We feel that we’ll see an amazing array of stars — not just nominees but stars from every type of show. We watch everything. We watch classy, award-winning dramas and we watch what some people call “guilty pleasures.” I personally don’t believe in guilt; I believe in pleasure. But it’s like, let’s celebrate it all. It’s all important to us. I get it: There are some shows that we don’t “watch,” our spouse may watch, and we just happen to be in the room when it’s on. So we want to celebrate all that in the course of the show.
What were some of the more vexing problems solved? Not like filmmaking or putting on a show is ever about problem solving.
True! One of the things we think could make the show different in a really good way is that, typically, in an awards show, all the awards are presented in the same way. We’re not going to do that. In the course of the show, different awards will be presented in very different ways. So as you watch it, things will keep changing. And you really couldn’t do that in the conventional awards format.
So which one works the best, or is it just fun to watch it change all the time? We’ll find out. Because you don’t know until you actually do it. But we think that’s an exciting experiment we’re really happy to try. You really do have to keep watching: “What? I didn’t see that coming.”
The year is 2020. The lack of pandemic response continues to terrorize a First World nation. Unemployment is rampant. The skies are filled with toxic fumes. Fires rage in the countrysides. People can’t attend baseball games.
And at this point, while the Primetime Emmy Awards don’t appear to be immune from the new status quo, executive producers Reggie Hudlin and Ian Stewart aren’t particularly fussed about it.
In a Q&A with entertainment journalists Wednesday morning, the two men spoke at length about the vast and varied information streams they’ll be juggling throughout the process, each with the ability to go sideways at any moment.
“We’re going to have 130 cameras all over the world, New York, Los Angeles, Fayetteville, Connecticut, London, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Berlin,” Hudlin said before asking Stewart exactly how many production units were being dispensed globally.
“I think it’s about 20 cities, and 125 different locations. And I think it’s about 10 countries. If you think about those logistics,” Stewart said, “If there’s 130 live feeds coming in, it’s like trying to watch 130 Sports matches at the same time. You have so many things coming in and also so many things that can stop coming in.”
Stewart’s reference to sports was pointed, it turns out, as Hudlin said the sheer amount of feeds contributed to choosing the Staples Center as the center of operations: It was the only place that could withstand the sheer volume of information being exchanged.
In order to capture the vibrancy of live television, as well as maintain involvement with nominees, the Emmys are distributing production units around the world, designed to be as plug-and-play as possible.
“There’s a ring light, there’s a laptop, there’s a boom mic, there’s a camera,” Hudlin said, adding that the camera was the same type he utilized when directing his latest film, a testament to its quality.
“Trying to get to the middle of nowhere to get one of those installed in somebody’s house, to get it up and running, and, of course, under all of the [safety] precautions that we obviously have taken, it is sort of a logistic nightmare,” Stewart said, laughing. “It’s gonna be great. How could it possibly go wrong?”
Both men emphasized time and again the volatility of what they were attempting and seemed quite at ease with the near certainty that something — likely many things — would go wrong.
Still, they had plenty of things planned, some of which they were willing to expound on and others they sought to keep under wraps. Hudlin mentioned that, as previously announced, singer and songwriter H.E.R. would be performing during the ceremony’s In Memoriam segment. Stewart shared that Kimmel wouldn’t be the only individual appearing live and in-person at the Staples Center during the ceremony, a huge blow to those of us delighted at the thought of Kimmel standing alone, in the center of an auditorium designed to hold 20,000 or some odd people, hosting an awards show. The echoes alone would have been priceless.
If nothing else, the EPs were excited at the prospect of throwing out the rulebook of what traditional awards ceremonies are supposed to look like and anticipated how they would go about reinventing the wheel.
“Let’s use this opportunity as a way to experiment with different ways of presenting awards, so from category to category, it’s going to change throughout the entire three-hour broadcast,” Hudlin said. “Some of them may not work. But we said, let’s just experiment. And let’s have the audience a little more on the edge of their seat just to see how many tricks we can pull out of our sleeve.”
While executive producers are projecting a sense of calm throughout the process, it remains unclear if that laid-back point-of-view extends to the nominees themselves. According to some in competition on Sunday night, there are plenty of questions left unanswered about how operations will proceed. Early reports are that kits have yet to be delivered and it remains unclear when the units are meant to arrive at their intended destination.
That said, even wary nominees appear to have every faith that Hudlin, Stewart, and host/executive producer Jimmy Kimmel are more than up to the challenges at hand.
Reginald Hudlin, one of the executive producers of this year’s unique (to say the least) virtual 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards show, has actually produced the Oscars in 2016. But even that did not prepare him for what he is experiencing at the helm of this year’s Emmys.
“We’ve all seen the Emmys, this is the 72nd one. This is not that. This is going to be something else. And what that is none of us 100% know. This has never been done before,” he told me in a conversation this morning from his car as he was driving to rehearsals and a virtual press conference among other things as the big show nears its Sunday airdate. “As experienced as this entire production team is — we have all done the biggest awards shows — no one has done anything like this. And given how the show is live we won’t have seen it until it is all done. There are segments that are pre-taped but 90% is a live show. We are relying on talking to people all over the world. We have 130 cameras in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv. I presume that is all gonna work just great.”
Hudlin says he is thankful to be working with the production team of Done + Dusted, which also produced (with Don Mischer) last year’s Emmys in a very different environment. His fellow producers include show host Jimmy Kimmel, who I interviewed about all this last week, Guy Harrington, David Jammy and Ian Stewart. Hamish Hamilton is the director, and they will all be working from ground zero at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Kimmel and a very few select presenters will be. It is an enormous operation in uncharted waters, technologically speaking. In regard to the latter, that is where the Great Emmy Experiment of 2020 really comes into play as the production team has sent elaborate camera kits to all the nominees, equipment they will have to set up themselves, but Hudlin promises it will be easy. “Elaborate is the term. And that was the trick. We want the best quality sound, the best quality picture. And at the same time we are sending people a simple unit. They only have to plug in a few things, so it is very user friendly,” he said.
Of course, as I have discovered doing a boatload of virtual interviews this Emmy season with many of the same stars that figure into Sunday’s Emmy show, things can go wrong, and the WiFi isn’t always reliable. In fact, the connection between Hudlin and I went out four times today before I finally was able to complete the interview. Fortunately he kept calling back.
“It could happen again on Sunday,” he laughed. If things go haywire, he says, they are ready. “We have got some plans for that, but the number one plan we have is called Jimmy Kimmel. He is very brilliant and also used to these types of production situations.” That is an understatement: Kimmel reminded me recently of the Oscar show debacle when the wrong Best Picture winner was announced on the first of the two Oscar shows he hosted, so he is road-tested for disaster in a way few awards-show hosts are.
Hudlin says the producers have been watching other TV shows forced into the virtual universe and have learned some lessons. Do they plan to steal any of those ideas? “1000%! That is how art works,” he said. “We have all been watching the evolution of these kinds of virtual shows from March until now. What was really novel and entertaining a couple of months ago is kind of old hat now. We have seen what some of the drawbacks are. We’ve seen some really imaginative solutions to those problems and we are gonna try to add to that. Certainly the football draft was really interesting. The Republican and Democratic conventions were interesting. What’s going on with sports, with basketball and baseball. We are looking at everything and taking inspiration from all those things.”
One of the innovations he hopes works is in the way the awards will be handed out. He did confirm tradition will be honored in seeing all nominees on screen at the same time before the winner is announced. “We will do that, but how we present them will change from category to category. Once you start reinventing the show you say, ‘Why do we always do it this way?’ Since we can’t do it the usual way, maybe we should try to different things. As we move through the different categories we are going to be trying different styles of presentation to keep it interesting. And we will see if it works,” he said. He added that one hurdle they haven’t been able to completely overcome will be in the presentation of the actual Emmy itself, but he did dangle an intriguing clue that we may actually see some sort of physical presentation of TV’s top award.
“There is no way we can get the statues in the hands of all 23 winners (the number of categories being presented on air). But we are gonna try some experiments with a few and we will see how that turns out,” he said. “We will just see. Honestly we are still working it all through. I know it sounds like it is very late to still be working it through but that is what we are doing. We are working it all through,”he added, laughing.
They may not have to worry about that with some potential winners, because Hudlin revealed to me not everyone nominated is on board. Fear of COVID-19 may just be one of the reasons. “There are people who say ‘Look , we can’t accept anything in our house. We are in a hermetically sealed bubble,’ ” Hudlin says of some responses they have gotten. “We make sure everything we send people is disinfected. And there are also nominees where it is going to be 4 in the morning, and they say ‘I’m not going to stay awake until 4,’ and we say, ‘Are you sure? It’s the Emmy Awards!’ We have a few folks who have bowed out, but I have to say that is typical for any awards show.”
For those who are all in, and especially the lucky ones who win, are there any restrictions along the lines of a normal awards show where those who go on past the time limit are actually played off? Will there be a virtual orchestra so to speak to carry that out? “Absolutely. The need to keep it moving never ends. Yes, we have a plan A and a plan B. The main thing is we really just try to talk with the nominees and say, ‘Guys we really want you to express yourself fully, and you will get to do that in ways you never got to do before.’ For example, you don’t have to thank your kids because hopefully you are with your kids. You could all be together, have all your friends over to your house for a big Emmy party. All those things will be part of it,” the producer said hopefully.
The realities of life in the pandemic, as well as very serious events both racially and socially, will also be a part of the 72nd Emmys. For the first time in many years, the Governors Award will be on the network’s Primetime Emmy broadcast, and not relegated to the Creative Arts Emmys (those are unspooling all this week on Emmys.com and Saturday night on FXX, with all acceptance speeches canned and pre-recorded before voting began). Tyler Perry will be receiving the Governors honor, and his acceptance is sure to be memorable and reflect the times in which we live. But there will be more.
“We think one of the things about television as a medium is that television is so immediate and is able to meet the moment,” Hudlin said. “We think keeping in the spirit of what we are celebrating, that we feel as a show we need to meet the moment. 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.
“We are at an incredible inflection point in this country and it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge that, and acknowledge TV’s role in all of that,” added Hudlin, who himself is making history as the first African American ever to produce the Emmys, a fact he downplayed and wasn’t even aware of until he started reading headlines pointing it out. He said his goal is not to make history, but to just get the job done as best as he possibly can.
Although the show promises to be innovative in so many ways from past Emmy shows, or any past awards shows, there still will be some tradition. That includes the In Memoriam segment honoring those TV professionals we have lost in the past year. It will also be the centerpoint musical performance in the show featuring Grammy winner H.E.R. Hudlin said he was blown away when he saw what she was doing, and says it will be a definite highlight of the broadcast.
As for any big musical opening number, don’t count on it. Hudlin says not to expect a big virtual dance segment or other type performance to kick things off. “That is just not possible in what we can do here,” he laughed. The Television Academy did announce Wednesday some additional talent that will be involved in different parts of the show. Jason Bateman, Sterling K. Brown, Laverne Cox, Count Von Count, Morgan Freeman, Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, D-Nice, Randall Park, RuPaul, Patrick Stewart and Jason Sudeikis are lined up for “special appearances.” They join a list including Anthony Anderson, America Ferrera, Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, J.J Watt, Lena Waithe and Oprah Winfrey.
As for the usual big draw for awards shows, the red carpet, there obviously won’t be one — though Hudlin said they actually considered doing a one-hour pre-show focused on fashion and the usual tropes associated with arrivals. But the logistics of such a thing were imposing, and with all the technical hurdles involved in the show itself, the idea was abandoned. However he thinks the fashion angle can be interesting and they are encouraging stars to dress exactly how they want. He suggests a tuxedo, a designer gown, or whatever people feel like wearing including an “Adidas track suit” or “pajamas.” No dress code here. He hopes that will satisfy those who tune in to these shows for fashion.
ABC’s most current promo ad actually advertises Sunday night as full of “Half the Glamour!” If features a naked Anthony Anderson emerging from a hot tub, and nominees like Tracee Ellis Ross, Brian Cox, Issa Rae and Rachel Brosnahan in the “comfort” of their homes, bringing to mind what Kimmel told me when he described the show as a combo of the “Emmys and Big Brother.”Watch the spot here:
Hudlin loves the marketing approach the network is taking, believing it is good to prepare the audience for the unexpected and an awards show like no other they have ever experienced: “Our thing is let’s just really be honest with the audience,” he said. “There’s something of value in that.”
The 72nd Annual Emmy Awards airs live on ABC on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5p.m. PT. Fasten your seatbelts.