A Host at the Staples Center and Stars on Their Couches: What the Emmys Will Look Like This Year

The awards show’s producers promise it won’t be a boring Zoom affair

With the world in a coronavirus lockdown, the producers of the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards are taking pains to make sure the broadcast is as live and as large—and as unlike a COVID-era podcast—as they can possibly make it. The biggest part of that plan, executive producers Ian Stewart and Reginald Hudlin tell Variety, is to send cameras and crew to about 140 nominees around the world on the big night next month.

“We’re not trying to make the Zoomies, we’re trying to make the Emmys,” Stewart said. “We shouldn’t lose sight that Emmys are prestigious awards, and we’re not giving them out for fun, we’re giving them out to reflect excellence. However, apart from that, it’s all available to be blown up, quite frankly. Because awards have been the same way for many, many years.”

One major change is that Jimmy Kimmel will be hosting from the Staples Center without an audience, orchestra, or red carpet. This year’s production is being held at the Staples Center instead of its usual home at the Microsoft Theater across the street thanks to the arena’s cavernous dimensions.

“One is that it’s so large that the crew can work safely under COVID-safe protocols and be at the appropriate distance from each other,” Hudlin said. “Because obviously the most important thing is safety first. The second part is, 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.”

Another variation on the usual is that with no red carpet to sashay upon, the stars are free to—virtually—go in gowns and black tie, or to come as they are.

“If you want to be in your sweats on your sofa that’s also fine,” Stewart said. “It will be much more casual, much more fun, as we’re more in it together. It will go where it goes. We hope really well, but I can’t sit here and say that it’s going to go 100 percent perfectly because no one’s ever done it before.”

Both Stewart and Hudlin stressed that nominees are also free to broadcast from wherever they like.

“So often when people win they award, they dedicate it to their kids. Well, your kids can be right there with you,” Hudlin suggested. “Maybe you’re accepting the award from their bedroom. This is a chance to reinvent every aspect of it. We really want people to think about that.”

“This will all depend on the comfort level of the people at the other end, but we’ve got to go and find them,” Stewart added. “They might be at home, they might be in the garden, might be in a hotel, they might be standing on the side of the street. It doesn’t really matter, wherever they feel comfortable. But we want to bring every nominee that we can logistically, live into the show.”

In a further effort to keep the nominees comfortable, they can chose their own camera operators from among their friends and family if they’re worried about bringing a crew of strangers into their homes.

Stewart told Variety that “one of the things we are trying to do is get the highest-end kit to wherever that person is on whatever level of comfort they have. The best thing for us is to have very high-end cameras, with a person operating them in somebody’s house or wherever they are. That’s our starting point.”

There is, however, one thing that COVID-19 hasn’t changed. Despite the difficult situation, the Emmys’ accountants refused to give the producers a sneak peek at this year’s winners.

“That was shut down,” Stewart said. “We thought maybe this year was an extraordinary situation, but unfortunately there’s no leeway on that. We will find out when everyone else finds out. Which is the right way to do it, it’s just annoying.”

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