Despite the constant ads leading up to the Emmys saying that the event would take place over 100 different locations in 114 countries there was a moment of disturbing surreality watching the opening minutes of Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue. The camera cut to a full auditorium leading many to say “Oh, my God, no one’s wearing a mask.” It’s a feeling that would continue for several minutes over Kimmel’s jokes and, for a moment, we wondered if the ceremony was going to be presented as normal with an audience pre-taped from previous ceremonies. But when Kimmel declared “this isn’t a MAGA rally” it was revealed that the auditorium was empty.
It was a rather fitting, if drawn out, bit of poignancy to remind us this year’s ceremony was going to be one of trial and error. Kimmel started off with a series of obvious jokes about the pandemic, including how you “can’t have a virus without a host.” This eventually transitioned into Kimmel asking the question of “Why are we having an award show in the middle of a pandemic? And what the hell am I doing here?”
The show was smart to admit that, in the grand scheme of things, the Emmys aren’t necessarily needed. Yes, the Emmys won’t do anything to fix the current trash fire — later manifested literally when guest Jennifer Aniston and Kimmel lit an actual trash can on fire — that is 2020. But it’s fun. “And, my God, do we need fun,” Kimmel said.
The host acknowledged the division, injustice, disease and death of 2020 before getting the pretty schmaltzy “realization” that our friend that got us through the last six months was, you guessed it, television. Funnily enough, Kimmel only referred to nostalgic shows of bygone eras, like “Good Times,” “Breaking Bad,” and others that aren’t actually nominated.
A good bit with Jason Bateman being the lone live actor sitting in an auditorium full of cardboard cutouts yielded some fun but by this point the monologue had run its course.
Kimmel also took the time to salute Norman Lear who became the oldest Emmy winner at the age of 98. “Norman, you are a miracle,” says Kimmel. Close-ups of Lear, again, led a few to believe Lear was actually in attendance. But the lack of audience and an abundance of jokes became weird when Kimmel poked fun at streaming service Quibi, calling it the “dumbest thing to ever cost a billion dollars.” Audible groans were heard and it’s assumed that the nature of sound effects came to play.
It was the weirdest element of a monologue that started to overstay its welcome, and that’s before Kimmel abandoned the monologue entirely to tell us the logistics of how the ceremony would go. He walked in front of a Best Buy-esque wall of televisions, all containing an Emmy nominee beamed in from their remote locations. It set up an Emmy show unlike any other — a feat that, hopefully, will never need to be repeated.