The Emmy Awards Blend Familiarity with a New Format/by Morgan Miller

“What’s happening tonight is not important. 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.”

         If any words could be used to highlight the necessity of entertainment, it would be those, taken from Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue for the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards. Blunt and true, they reflect what many people already believe about Hollywood’s award shows–that they are unnecessary and frivolous, a chance for the elite to gather and pat each other on the backs. And yet, people still watch. People always watch. They watch because it takes them out of reality, because it allows them to see the stories that have impacted them brought to recognition, and because it’s, as Kimmel says, “fun.”

         The 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards premiered on Sept. 20, honoring some of the best TV has offered in the past year. The show was conducted without a live audience, and winners had their reactions and speeches broadcast from their own homes. A different format to be sure, but given the circumstances, the show was able to adapt without losing the essence of what makes it significant.

         Canadian sitcom “Schitt’s Creek” enjoyed a historically rewarding night, winning in all seven categories for which it was nominated. HBO’s “Watchmen” and “Succession” took home four wins each, including Outstanding Drama Series for the latter. Zendaya won Outstanding Lead Actress for her work on HBO’s “Euphoria,” the youngest winner in history for that particular category. Tyler Perry was awarded the Governors Award for his achievements and breakthroughs in the realm of television. Essential workers like teachers, nurses, and delivery personnel were honored for their efforts in the time of COVID-19, even presenting the award in a few of the categories. Some jokes were tone-deaf and fell flat. Others hit their mark. And if the event hadn’t taken place during a pandemic, it would have felt right in line with every Emmy Awards show from years past.

         Perhaps that’s a good thing. Some feel as though award shows are dying and never offer anything new for entertainment value, but in times like these, watching Hollywood adapt its broadcast to fit current circumstances is heartening. Rather than rescheduling or canceling, they found a new format and ran with it. They took something people are familiar with and melded it to comply with guidelines. They made something work to the best of their ability, all for the purpose of honoring shows that many people turned to for comfort during quarantine.

         This is another sign that the entertainment world is creating its new version of normal, one that gives audiences what they’re familiar with while still abiding by guidelines.

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