The 2020 Emmys Are Going To Be Virtual — But How Will That Actually Work?

Photo: Eddy Chen/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images.
With the recent announcement of the 2020 Emmy nominees, award season is in full swing, but this year's lineup of star-studded award shows will look nothing like we’ve ever seen in the past. Six months into a global pandemic, hosting thousands of people within an enclosed space to watch host Jimmy Kimmel tell jokes onstage is just not possible — but the show must go on.
Hours after the announcement of this year’s Emmy nominees, executive producers reportedly sent out letters letting attendees know that the ceremony would take place virtually rather than at its usual venue, the Microsoft Theatre. Tech teams will be dispersed to the key participants wherever they are, fitting them with the necessary technology to help make their portion of the show look as professional as possible.
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“We are assembling a top notch team of technicians, producers and writers to work closely with Jimmy Kimmel and with you and your team, to make sure that we can film with you (and loved ones or whomever else you choose to be with) at your home, or another location of your choice,” read the letter, according to Variety. “We’re going to make you look fabulous – we’re exploring the cutting edge of technology to allow to use good cameras and lighting and look forward to working with you to produce your unique ‘on screen’ moments.”
Though the Emmy Awards are a celebration of television work, they’re also an opportunity for Hollywood to lean into its glamorous side. The virtual nature of this year’s show gives attendees some wiggle room when it comes to their outfits for the big night. The theme for the night is “come as you are, but make an effort,” so the dress code ranges from anything to designer pajamas to Rihanna at the 2016 Met Gala. Your choice.
The executive producers are still fleshing out the bigger details of the telecast. Wrangling thousands on the big night is hard enough, so doing it from a distance will inevitably be a million times more complicated. Which segments of the show will be live? Which bits will have to be pre-recorded? How do we keep it entertaining? It's an understandably stressful pivot from the normal protocol of the Emmys, but but a virtual awards show isn’t impossible — if done well, it could even be fun.
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In June, BET held its first socially distant BET Awards show, and this year’s event was widely regarded as one of the best in the show’s almost 20-year history. Musical guests were given the creative freedom to put on elaborate, music video-like performances, award winners accepted their honors from the comfort of their own homes, and host Amanda Seales was still able to throw in a couple of outfit changes throughout the night. Sure, the inevitable antics that come with live TV were limited — Rihanna didn't throw a wad of cash at anyone this year — but the show was still a success nonetheless.
The team behind the Emmys will be tapping into that same vein of creativity. They're fully aware that things will be different, but they promise that the event will be "filled with warmth and humanity, which celebrates the power of television to bring us together and to help us shape our world."
"We’re delighted and honored to be producing the event on September 20th," wrote the producers "[We] have every intention of not only making sure that it is not compromised by this crazy moment in our lives, but that it is the most memorable Emmys ever and that you have a wonderful night."
The 2020 Emmys won't be business as usual, but they will be safe. At least now, we can watch the show in our crusty sweats and not feel bad about it.

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