“Hello and welcome to the Pandemmys!”
That’s how host Jimmy Kimmel opened the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards show to what seemed like a packed, star-studded audience. During the first few minutes of the ceremony, I and probably most of you were thinking, “Is this for real?” as cuts of laughing stars popped up on our screens. It was quickly revealed that the award show was taking the necessary social distancing precautions and were using clips from past ceremonies.
The 2020 Emmy Awards was the second major award show of its kind since the pandemic took hold. The first was the MTV Video Music Awards, which took place last month and was broadcasted live from multiple rooftops around New York City. Kimmel hosted the ceremony to an empty auditorium in the Los Angeles Staples Center. In addition to the videographers, Kimmel was joined by Jason Bateman for a few laughs as the camera panned across cardboard cutouts of celebrities.
Yesterday’s semi-virtual event did not include the usual red carpet fashion and celeb interviews, but it was unexpectedly still a pretty good show. The awards were delivered by various Emmys “interns” donned in tuxedo hazmat suits. They arrived at each nominees’ location holding an Emmy, and they simply walked away, award in hand, if the nominee did not win. Thanks to Ramy star Ramy Youssef for giving us a peek of that experience.
Between the winner’s speeches and Kimmel’s comments, various presenters, from essential workers to celebrities, introduced nominees with Randall Park even entering the Staples Center with an alpaca.
The first hour of the program included all the comedy awards, which took away from the build-up of Daniel Levy and Eugene Levy’s historic wins for Schitt’s Creek. Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Annie Murphy, and Daniel Levy all took home awards for acting, with Daniel Levy also winning an award for Outstanding Directing, shared with Andrew Cividino. This overwhelming sweep makes Schitt’s Creek the only show to ever win every major comedy category.
Following the comedy awards was the limited series category with HBO’s Watchmen also dominating the wins of the major categories. The series took home eleven awards, including Outstanding Limited Series. Hulu’s Mrs. America also made its presence felt with ten nominations and one win for Uzo Aduba’s role as Shirley Chisholm, bringing home the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress. Notably, both shows convey heavy topics on racism and sexism that include commentary on injustices toward black and indigenous people of color as well as women, respectively. These wins signify the ever-important need to put more similar stories in the spotlight.
HBO took the lead again in the drama category with its hit show Succession. The series won nine Emmys, most notably the award for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. However, the breakthrough star of the night was Zendaya, who won the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as the struggling teenage drug addict Rue in Euphoria, making her the youngest ever actress to win this award at age 24. This added yet another award to HBO’s already booming collection of wins, cementing HBO as the top network and streaming platform, beating out their long-standing rival Netflix.
From Jennifer Aniston’s mini ‘Friends’ reunion with Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow to exclusive views of celebrity quarantine setups, this year’s Emmys gave us an arguably more exciting behind-the-scenes experience. However, perhaps more notable than the outstanding wins were the outspoken messages on the Black Lives Matter movement and urging people to vote in the general election.
Actresses Regina King and Uzo Aduba paid tribute to Breonna Taylor during their acceptance speeches by wearing a black shirt with the words “Say Her Name” and an image of Taylor and the name Breonna Taylor, respectively. Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in her home during a botched “no-knock” raid in Louisville, Kentucky, in March. Actor Anthony Anderson led Kimmel in a chant of “Black Lives Matter” before presenting the award for Best Limited Series. Screenwriter Damen Lindelof, who won Best Writing for Limited Series for Watchmen, wore a shirt with the words “Remember Tulsa ‘21,” referencing the horrific events of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre when mobs of white citizens attacked black residents and businesses in Tulsa, Oklahoma. King, Mark Ruffalo, and Dan Levy stressed the significance of voting and urged viewers to register and vote.
“For any of you who have not registered to vote, please do so, and go out and vote, and that’s the only way we’re going to have some love and acceptance out there,” Levy said as he accepted the award for best comedy series.
Despite the most unusual Emmys in the history of the show, it had many stand out moments. From surprising and inspiring wins to bold and important political statements, the 2020 Emmys is not one to be forgotten. See the full list of winners here.
Featured illustration by Yegide Matthews: Emmy image by Jesse Garrison; television image by Mollie Sivaram