It’s fitting that the unprecedented virtual presentation of the 72nd Emmy Awards will be based at Staples Center, home of both the Los Angeles Lakers and the L.A. Clippers.
“It’ll sort of be like 130 sports matches going at the same time,” said Reginald Hudlin, one of the executive producers who will supervise mini-operations from living rooms, hotels and backyards of Emmy nominees around the world. “There are so many things that will be coming in — and could stop coming in.”
Technical difficulties are bound to be an issue during Sunday’s three-hour broadcast, especially since the Television Academy is determined to be as live as possible. But seeing how host Jimmy Kimmel handles the snags should make this year’s ceremony more entertaining than ever.
“It’s sort of like walking on a tightrope. You know you’re not supposed to look down, but you do glance and notice there isn’t a safety net,” said Hudlin’s producing partner, Ian Stewart. “Things are going to go wrong. Things aren’t going to work. That’s part of the endearment of the moment. And we’ve got Jimmy Kimmel, who loves live TV and loves chaos.”
Kimmel, who agreed to the gig before the pandemic, is coming off a long summer break from his late-night show.
“I can imagine we’re going to have even more nominees watching this thing fully baked on marijuana edibles,” he told Deadline. “My hope is that they are surrounded by their families so that we have genuine emotion and excitement when they win, and that’s what I’m hoping, because we’re certainly not going to have that in the empty Staples Center. I don’t know, maybe I’m going to screw it up.”
The late-night host’s quick wit will be instrumental in pulling off the TV industry’s richest opportunity to applaud itself, but the show’s success will depend largely on how much fun the winners will have adapting to the unique circumstances.
“Since they are at home, they can put on their funkiest outfit or cool pajamas,” Hudlin said. “That part is going to be great. You don’t have to just thank your kid. You can have your kid next to you on the couch.”
Some aspects will look familiar. Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman and Lin-Manuel Miranda have been recruited as presenters. H.E.R. will perform a special musical number for the “In Memoriam” segment. But ultimately, the show will rely on spontaneity and surprise, an approach last month’s largely pretaped MTV Video Music Awards didn’t have the guts to take.
“Whatever the nominees do from their end, we have no control over,” Stewart said. “They can have shenanigans or be serious. It should mean more fun and, we hope, so much more variety. As one ABC executive told us, ‘We don’t care what you do. Just, for God’s sake, make it entertaining.’ ”