"Hello and welcome to the Pandemmys!"
That's how host Jimmy Kimmel kicked off the 2020 Emmy Awards, a show unlike any other in the 72-year history of the TV awards ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no audience in the Los Angeles Staples Center, so host Jimmy Kimmel stood on the stage alone. There was no red carpet, no usual parade of glitzy fashion or inane questions.
But amid the nominees video-chatting in their award speeches and Kimmel and friends trying to make lemonade out of the horrifyingly sour lemons of 2020, there were some great moments. And also quite a few bad ones.
Worst: Kimmel fiddles, the world burns
Despite the unprecedented nature of the telecast, the intense cultural upheaval of 2020 and the opportunity to do something entirely new with the awards ceremony, Kimmel kicked off the night with an aggressive sameness, a boring monologue that cracked jokes about the pandemic and the 2020 election as if it was only the typical level of crisis plaguing the world. Cutting in scenes of a past Emmys audience laughing at his new monologue, Kimmel seemed to be in his own little universe, a comedian cracking jokes as the world burns about how pointless the whole charade is.
The full list of winners: 'Watchmen' wins best limited series, 'Schitt's Creek' sweeps comedy categories
At one point there was literal fire, when in a bit with Jennifer Aniston he "sanitized" the winner's envelope by lighting it on fire and asking Aniston to put it out, and the trash can fire proved a bit too strong for her fire extinguisher. A metaphor for something? Probably..
Best: A Schitt's sweep
Every once in awhile, the Emmy voters get it right. The final season of Pop TV's delightful, life-affirming sitcom was overlooked for most of its run by the Television Academy. The voters certainly made up for it this year. The series won all seven comedy Emmys handed out Sunday, which meant the entire first hour of the telecast kept returning to the "Schitt's" Emmy party (where all those attending have been isolating after receiving negative COVID tests). It made the telecast a little boring, but it was so gratifying and cathartic to experience the "transformational power of love and acceptance" of "Schitt's" that star and co-creator Dan Levy talked about in one of his many acceptance speeches.
Best and worst: Mixing up the presenters
Even if Kimmel's business-as-usual monologue made it seem like the Emmy Awards were proceeding as usual, presenting each of the many awards to nominees across the world couldn't. Although a few celebrity guests (Aniston and Tracee Ellis Ross, among them) showed up at the Staples Center, mostly the show had to try something new. Hearing from doctors, a teacher and a UPS worker was lovely, a way to acknowledge the moment we're living in without drowning in depression and sorrow. But having Jimmy or DJ D-Nice casually throw out the winners for lead actor in a miniseries or TV movie made those categories feel just a little less exciting. (Nobody wants to think their category is subpar, even if it is).
Worst: A forced 'Friends' reunion
The most relevant TV joke Kimmel and the show writers could make in 2020 was sticking Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow in a room together? Could we be any more bored?
Best: 'Watchmen' wins and Regina King's speech
HBO's "Watchmen" was one of the best TV series of the 2019-2020 season, and has only become more vital as protests for racial equality have occurred nationwide. Winners Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and writers Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson recognized how special the series is, and the significance of depicting the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 in their acceptance speeches. King and Abdul Mateen's moving words were among the best speeches of the night.
Worst: The nominees who didn't Zoom in
When the awards are happening everywhere the nominees are, there aren't many excuses for not Zooming in (or using whatever video chat technology ABC whipped up that looks nicer than my usual work meetings). Where were Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Cate Blanchett, Jeremy Irons, Michael Douglas, Toni Collette and the others who didn't give us a window into their perfectly decorated homes? It was a bit awkward, even if they didn't win.
Best: "Succession" gleefully wins outstanding drama
Despite the separation of most of the cast and crew when HBO's media dynasty drama "Succession" won the night's top award, the acceptance speech had the adorable glee of the people who bring the series to life. From Kieran Culkin giggling at a phone ringing in producer Jesse Armstrong's room to Sarah Snook holding up a tin-foil Emmy to the delayed applause of Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox, the moment had all the adorable chaos that usually happens when 30 people swarm the stage for a show's win. And while the final speeches of an awards show night can sometimes be anticlimactic, Armstrong had strong words to say as he accepted the award, closing out the night with a rhetoric bang, including an "un-thank you" to COVID for keeping everyone apart.
Best: Emmys delivered in hazmat suits
There's nothing not funny about this.
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