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4 things to watch for as the Emmys gear up to be first live major awards show during COVID-19

4 things to watch for as the Emmys gear up to be first live major awards show during COVID-19

No red carpet, a live telecast during a pandemic and more than 130 cameras spread out around the globe.

The 72nd Emmy Awards are set to broadcast Sunday night, and it’s almost impossible to say exactly what the show will look like because nearly every aspect of the event is unprecedented. 

As the first major Hollywood awards show avoiding pre-taped segments hits the virtual stage, here’s what to watch for.

An adapted format

The VMAs, Junos, Tony Awards and most others have either cancelled their events or converted to digital, pre-taped segments. The Emmys will instead be the first truly live major awards show, with more than 130 camera-kits dispatched to nominees around the world — in 10 countries and 20 cities — including Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Tel Aviv, London and Berlin.

All of that will be filmed and broadcast in real time with remote participants, a first for the Emmys and the industry at large. The technical challenges involved have even the organizers second-guessing how well it will work.

“It’s not going to work properly all the time,” Ian Stewart, one of the executive producers, told reporters earlier this week. “It’s just not. And we’ve got to embrace that.”

That setup also means this year’s Emmys will not have a typical red carpet — formal wear is optional, and some are even getting custom-made Emmy pyjamas for the event.

When winners are revealed, they’ll take over the broadcast in what could be likened to a glorified Zoom call. Along with the likelihood of technical glitches, that setup may lead to events not possible at a traditional awards show.

“If someone’s kid suddenly takes control of the mic and, suddenly, they are the star of the show, we are going to let that happen,” said Reginald Hudlin, the show’s other executive producer. One nominee even revealed the possibility of including their dog, and the producers are being open-minded.

Kimmel to host for third time

Jimmy Kimmel will helm the festivities from Staples Center in Los Angeles, with, he said, “select celebrities on hand to infect me.” It will be Kimmel’s third time hosting the Emmys and a change from last year, when the show had no host.

Comedian Kevin Hart had been slated to host last year, but he stepped down following a backlash over a series of homophobic tweets he made years prior. 

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel will host the Emmy Awards for the third time in his career. The event marks his return to the spotlight, three months after old clips showing the comedian wearing blackface resurfaced. (Randy Holmes/ABC via The Associated Press)

Kimmel’s turn as host also follows some controversy — the late-night talk-show veteran is returning to the spotlight after old clips of him performing in blackface resurfaced in June.

He was on a preplanned summer hiatus at the time but released a statement saying he had long been hesitant to address the subject, “as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us.”

Who’s leading the competition

Cable and streaming networks are battling it out as Netflix, Apple and Disney+ bring top performers to an ever-diversifying field. 

HBO’s limited series Watchmen leads nominations with 26 in total, including a lead actress nod for star Regina King, whose feature film directorial debut — One Night in Miami — recently launched at the Toronto International Film Festival. 

Regina King, left, who received a lead actress nomination, is shown on the set of Watchmen with director Steph Green, right. The acclaimed HBO limited series is up for 26 Emmys. (HBO)

Despite that, HBO was still surpassed overall by the awards-circuit juggernaut, Netflix. While HBO set the record for most nominations last year with 137, Netflix smashed all expectations this year with 160. Its shows Ozark and The Crown scored 18 and 13 nods, respectively, with both up for the outstanding drama series category.

Over half of the nominees in that category are from streaming services — Netflix’s other staple Stranger Things, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Disney+’s The Mandalorian are all competing against AMC’s Better Call Saul, BBC’s Killing Eve and HBO’s Succession

Schitt’s Creek

Canadian comedy Schitt’s Creek is one of the major contenders at the show and has already garnered one win. Nominated for 15, the fan-favourite series received the Emmy for outstanding casting for a comedy series on Thursday, when artistic and technical achievement in television awards were given out. 

The show is also up for outstanding comedy series, which it was nominated for last year. Thursday’s win was the first-ever Emmy for the show, which ended its six-season run in April on CBC. The final season is expected to arrive on Netflix this fall.

Series stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy are all up for acting awards, and whether they ride their considerable popularity to widespread wins will be a story to watch.

Where to watch

The Emmy Awards will be airing live on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

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