Jimmy Kimmel hosted the Emmy Awards last night from an empty Staples Center in Los Angeles. Jokes that would usually get polite titters from a giddy audience fell flatter than they usually do. It could have just been the lack of audience, but it also had a lot to do with Kimmel just being miserably dull.
Mostly, though, there were no jokes. There were just a bunch of political diatribes and socially distancing virtue signals. With a few notable exceptions, like Tyler Perry winning the Governor’s Award, celebs appeared virtually, and the whole show was done with no audience but the viewers at home.
Despite the political and pandemic pandering, Hollywood’s Emmys were not without their absurd sense of self-importance, believing themselves and their product to be even more super essential while everyone was stuck at home. A TV exec stepped out to let everyone know how important it has been for people to have good, escapist TV.
The Emmys, however, weren’t escapist at all. Instead, they were a stark reminder of the divisiveness, the pandemic-inspired stupidness, and the incessant anger and sadness that have overtaken our culture.
“Stop worrying about getting cancelled and ask yourself what you’re doing to get renewed,” Damon Lindelof said, accepting an Emmy for HBO’s “Watchmen.” A Zoom shot of Lindelof in his living room showed “Watchmen” actors all masked up—as though we’re supposed to believe for a second that they’re walking around their private Emmy party drinking champagne with masks on.
The red carpet was done virtually as well, with Entertainment Weekly interviewing celebs over video calls. Red carpet predictions were made… via video call. Entertainment pundits sat in front of their computers. A few wore some kind of nod to festive gear such as bow ties and cocktail wear, but many just wore street clothes—or house clothes—meaning that one of the best things about an awards show, the fashion, was notably missing.
“It’s a weird time to be rewarding rich white people,” said Sarah Rodman in discussing her picks for best show, noting that this goes against the whole tone of the world right now, and proving that nothing can be done without political overtones anymore.
RuPaul had the best remarks, saying, “Don’t give up on love, believe that you are loved,” to the people at home. For sure, it’s hard to remember that when you’re on lockdown.
Other than a nod to “The Good Place” and “Saturday Night Live,” no shows were nominated from basic network TV. Everything that was nominated was from a premium or streaming service. This shows top-tier TV is not for everyone, it’s for those who can access the right platforms.
Most of the shows that were nominated I had not seen, because they were on HBO. While I had HBO for a minute this year, earlier in the pandemic I let the service lapse. Turns out it’s not easy to pay for all the premium services that all the premium TV is on, and for the most part these past few months, I’ve been happy to stick with Star Trek repeats.
In accepting his award, John Oliver wore a sweatshirt and sat in the room in his house where he Zooms his show. Regina King, winning for “Watchmen,” got a knock at her door and received her award in her house. She wore a magenta suit and a shirt featuring Breonna Taylor, and sat in an orange club chair. King thanked her list, and encouraged everyone to go to Ballotopedia and figure out how to vote.
Mark Ruffalo accepted his award from his couch, and said, “We have to come together with love for each other and if you have privilege you have to fight for those who are less fortunate and more vulnerable and that’s what’s great about America, it’s diversity… are we going to be a country of division and hatred a country for only a certain kind of people?” Ruffalo also demanded that everyone go out and vote.
Kimmel spoke to celebs about what they’ve been doing during the past several months when the government put all the healthy people in quarantine. They all tried to be funny about it, and while Mindy Kaling’s needlepoint reading “Help I’m going insane” was at least accurate, the segment fell flat. Seeing people perform on Zoom calls is like watching a dozen super-short one-person shows.
The fun thing about Hollywood, celebs, and awards shows is that it’s escapist. It’s a fantasy, and the celebs play out their roles too, wearing gorgeous clothes, making stupid comments, behaving as the frivolous, vain beings they are.
That’s why we tune in—not to see essential workers talk about driving their trucks across the country, or how hard it is for doctors to tell if people are smiling behind their masks, or to hear about a nurse practitioner’s experience falling ill with COVID. We know that stuff; we are living that stuff.
Hollywood thinks essential workers are a novelty because these are not the people in their lives or community. The rest of America already knows these stories—they tune in for the celeb nonsense, not the daily-life seriousness.
This year, almost everyone wanted to jump in and express their moral view on the state of the nation. They don’t have any idea that what we need them for is to entertain us and to take our minds off the state of the nation, not to guide us, or to moralize to us, or to tell us what our values should be.
Diversity, pandemic, protests, presidential election—celebs hit viewers over the head with all these. But all we really wanted to see were pretty dresses, actresses crying with tears of joy, and Jason Momoa in an armless tuxedo.
I, for one, am over the novelty of seeing glimpses of people’s homes through their Zoom screens. As of this writing, 29 percent of the population has been tested for COVID-19, 7 percent of those have it, and 3 percent of those have died. Yet we persist in denying ourselves the physical company of others because we think that in some way this is the moral and correct thing to do.
The Emmys thinks it’s their job to perpetuate this nonsense, and as such, they spell the end of their relevancy. If they can’t stand for people, and give people what they need, then what good are they?