The 2020 Emmys gave host Jimmy Kimmel and presenters an unusual challenge.
Thanks to the pandemic, the ceremony had to proceed with none of the usual pomp and circumstance of a live audience.
Here’s a breakdown of what worked — and what flubbed — during the 72nd Emmy Awards.
Best: The screen room
Host Jimmy Kimmel, 52, opened the ceremony by delivering his monologue to an apparently full audience sans masks or social distancing that confused viewers at home. However, he soon revealed it was old footage (with the real audience being a mix of empty chairs and cardboard cutouts), and then he moved into a room filled with an entire wall of screens showing this year’s nominees video-conferencing in remotely. It presented a striking visual and set the scene appropriately.
Worst: The postal service bit
Before the best comedy director category, Kimmel did a bit with “Barry” actor Anthony Carrigan posing as a Russian “mailman” delivering the envelopes to announce the winners. It’s hard to grasp what this unfunny and tedious skit was trying to accomplish. The postal service changes and delays have caused a dire situation that has led to thousands of people losing access to life-saving medicine. Was this skit trying to say something smart about it? It didn’t. Was it trying to make light of it? You can’t. Was it trying to lay the blame at the USPS postal workers’ feet? That’s inaccurate. The implication that the postal service is infiltrated by the Russians ahead of the election is also conflating two different issues, which is irresponsible to potentially confuse people as they prepare to cast their ballots — whether in-person or by mail. What was the point?
Best: “Schitt’s Creek” sweep
After a six season run from 2015-2020, warm-hearted comedy “Schitt’s Creek” saw its swan song with a sweep in all the comedy categories, including the top actor categories (with wins for Eugene Levy, Dan Levy, Annie Murphy and Catherine O’Hara) and writing and directing. The cast and crew were even assembled for their own socially-distanced party, complete with masks and an award presenter donning a Hazmat suit. A sweet send-off for a universally loved show.
Worst: Too many COVID jokes
We’re living in unprecedented times, where COVID is the issue dominating everything else. But as Kimmel pointed out in his monologue, the Emmys are still happening in 2020 because this year has been miserable and “right now we need fun.” Unfortunately, it didn’t feel like he could commit to that, as every other bit involved COVID jokes. While it’s understandable to mention it a few times, between Jennifer Aniston joining Kimmel for an extended “sanitizing” bit that involved Lysol spray and fire, Jason Sudeikis getting a test on-screen, Randall Park’s bit with a llama and about 200 more references, Kimmel showed that he wasn’t willing to follow his own advice to try to have fun for one night. It kind of felt like this shouldn’t even be happening this year — in which case, don’t do it! But they did it, so at least commit to it and don’t self-flagellate.
Best: The celebrity quarantine montage
From Margo Martindale drinking in her garden to Ty Burell’s awkward sex joke to Will Arnett admitting it’s hard being in his own company, the glimpse behind the scenes at the less-than-glamorous current lives of various celebs was one cute and relatable bit that didn’t overstay its welcome. It served as a nice counter to the tone-deaf celebrity “Imagine” video that spawned outrage at the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Worst: A “Friends” non-bit
Towards the middle of the ceremony, Kimmel pulled up a video feed to “check in” with Jennifer Aniston. While she spoke, Courteney Cox popped up next to her. When Kimmel expressed confusion about why she was there, Aniston said, “We’re roommates.” Lisa Kudrow then joined, in what was shaping up to be a charming “Friends” homage . . . but then, inexplicably, instead of Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry or David Schwimmer, Jason Bateman popped up to cap it. The bit trickled off from there without a punchline, leaving the audience wondering what the point was.
Best: Thanking a therapist
When Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson won for “Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special” for HBO’s gritty superhero drama “Watchmen,” Jefferson said in his acceptance speech, “Thank you to my therapist.” While most of the other COVID jokes were clunky, this sentiment was perfect for the current era in a way that rang authentic.