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As Voting Closes, Focus Shifts to the Emmy Awards Ceremony

Voting is almost over, but are plans for the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on the right track?

THE OSCARS(r) - The 90th Oscars(r) broadcasts live on Oscar(r) SUNDAY, MARCH 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)JIMMY KIMMEL

Jimmy Kimmel

ABC/Craig Sjodin

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Today — Monday, August 31 — is the final day of voting for the 2020 Primetime Emmy Awards, marking the beginning of the end to an absolutely unprecedented For Your Consideration season for a world still reeling from an ongoing global pandemic.

And for the most part, the TV industry has responded with aplomb, with networks and broadcasters pivoting to online FYC events, drive-in FYC events, special deliveries and the like all exhibiting new heights of creativity as publicity teams work overtime trying to keep their clients and creatives in the critical conversation.

For the most part, all that’s left to do is the counting. And, of course, the ceremony.

There are still a lot of questions to be answered about what form the 72nd Emmy Awards will take when they air Sunday, September 20 on ABC, as well as where things stand just three weeks out from the event. There are a few plans we know for certain, many of them only confirmed in Variety last week.

Jimmy Kimmel will be hosting the affair from the Staples Center, but will have no audience to engage with and no red carpet beforehand. According to Reginald Hudlin, one of several executive producers working on the event, in addition to Kimmel, they opted for Staples instead of the Microsoft Theatre across the street partially out of safety concerns.

“This show will need an unbelievable number of wiring connections in and out, because the nominees are not going to be there. So we’re going to take cameras to where they are. And the number of feeds that that requires is so massive that we need a facility like the Staples Center, which is used to having that much signal from reporters covering sports to handle the kind of in and outputs that it requires,” he told Variety.

All that space is necessary because Emmy producers are hoping to station professional cameras and camera operators located wherever each of the 140 Emmy nominees are located, with the goal to have everything looking as professional as possible, eschewing the tools of the common man’s pandemic (in this case, Zoom, Skype, etc.) to embrace something far more ambitious — and maybe cruel.

Imagine you’re nominated for an Emmy. You get dolled up (or you don’t) and you hang around with your bubble people until your category is announced and you win and/or lose. Now imagine that also, there’s a professional camera crew outside ready to blast your face around the globe. If you don’t win, do they just pack up and go, slinking back to their vans as though they were never there?

Nominees are understandably hesitant about the endeavor. Given disparate comfort levels regarding film crews entering and exiting self-isolation bubbles, some honorees expressed concern when a survey about the ceremony’s plans was circulated several weeks ago. At this point, there’s still so much uncertainty about what the ceremony might be, that it seems as though nominees are unwilling to commit to anything, until they know what the plan is. Conversely, it’s entirely possible that producers are unable to commit to an overarching blueprint for the show, so long as they don’t know to what extent nominees are willing and able to participate.

The Creative Arts Emmy Awards have sidestepped this matter by requesting that all nominees submit their own acceptance speeches — which can be its own double-edged sword. On the one hand, exposure is limited and people have an opportunity to be heard and give thanks, but to do so not knowing if you’ve actually won could serve as an experience that feels disingenuous and ultimately hurtful.

There’s also the matter of series awards, which honor the complete collaboration of a group of people. How do you create an environment that rightly celebrates the contributions of hundreds of people while individuals are spread all over the globe. It seems backwards to have a designated individual accept on behalf of everyone and it seems counter to the producers’ grander vision to have multiple feeds on screen simultaneously, Brady Bunch opening credits style, to capture reactions of a cast and crew spread around the world.

The executive producers of the Emmy Awards seem to be willing to try anything at this point, which is good, but eventually they’re going to have to start making decisions. Hopefully those choices will be courteous and humane. No one is expecting a ceremony exactly like all of the ones that preceded this year. Why not take the opportunity to do something completely different? Don’t let the perceived excitement over live television and acceptance speeches rob audiences of the chance to experience something special, unique, and befitting of the strange circumstances we’re all living through together.

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