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Inside the (unpredictable, virtual, at-home, pandemic-era) Emmys

Illustration of an actress in gown standing in her own living room.
Must the show go on? Times journalists examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the Emmy Awards, and the industry that annually springs up around it.
(Michelle Rohn / For The Times)
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You’ve heard the one about showbiz resilience, so familiar at this point it’s more cliche than adage: The show must go on.

For years it’s called to mind plucky understudies and tenacious stars or, in the most extraordinary instances — the 2001 Emmy Awards, delayed nearly two months following the attacks of 9/11; the 2003 Oscars, shortly after the “shock and awe” that started the Iraq war; or 2005’s Concert for Hurricane Relief, on the heels of Katrina’s landfall — Hollywood’s halting attempts to capture the zeitgeist (mostly) live, raw and uncut.

This year, of course, as we’ve come to know 200,000 times over, is different. Unprecedented, apocalyptic, strange. And against the crash of crisis upon crisis, from the pandemic and police violence to election meddling and environmental collapse, it’s at times been unclear, even to us, if the 2020 Emmys should go on, much less must.

But in the case of the first major awards show held since COVID-19 changed the world, it shall, and the result is certain to be unprecedented, apocalyptic and strange. “Watchmen,” the series that leads the field going into Sunday’s event, crystallizes our collective plight. Many of the nominees have long since joined the movement for a more racially inclusive Hollywood. The ceremony itself will reflect the need for social distancing, and as in the broader economy, those adaptations have left some out of work. Even the red carpet, home of Hollywood glamour, will likely strike a more somber note this year: When you’re hunkered down, there’s less impetus to get dressed up.

The show may go on, then, but it won’t be like any we’ve seen before. And, we can only hope, it won’t be like any we’ll have to see again. Welcome to this year’s (unpredictable, virtual, at-home, pandemic-era) Emmys.

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The Nominees

Regina King in a scene from "Watchmen."
(HBO)

Emmy predictions: Who will win? And who could pull off an upset?

The Emmys! They’re here! They’re happening! Nobody knows how. But hopefully the Zoom links will work, Catherine O’Hara wears something that would make Moira proud, and the screen will be filled with a sea of faces when “Succession” wins for drama series. One ray of sunshine: It’s likely that most of the prizes will go to the best shows and performers. Like last year with “Fleabag,” only without the undeserved “Game of Thrones” win to spoil the night. Here’s how things should shake out on Sunday. READ MORE >>>

It’s HBO vs. Netflix for Emmy dominance. But numbers don’t tell the whole story

Long-criticized for its narrow focus on white men and their stories, HBO proves with its 2020 roster of Emmy nominees that it remains the master of reinvention. READ MORE >>>

The 7 Emmy-nominated TV shows that you should be watching

The Times TV team selects the nominated programs that deserve your attention. And no, we don’t just mean the obvious ones. (Though you should definitely catch up on “Watchmen.”) READ MORE >>>

The 7 Emmy-snubbed TV shows that you should be watching anyway

Even though the nominations were announced in July, some of the series and performances that were overlooked by the TV academy really stuck in our craw. If you’re in search of some Emmy counter-programming, boy do we have the list for you. READ MORE >>>

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The Red Carpet

KTLA's Sam Rubin and Jessica Holmes will host the station's Emmys pre-show once again this year.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

No red carpet? No problem. The pre-shows are ready for a ‘semi-glamorous’ Emmys

“With so many heavy things happening, it does feel a bit frothy, but there is a part of us that needs a little escapism to take our mind off things for a while. I would rather have it be the way it used to be, but we’re going to try and go with it — roll with the punches,” says KTLA morning news co-anchor and Emmy pre-show co-host Jessica Holmes. READ MORE >>>

Emmys 2020 fashion forecast: Pajamas, but make it red carpet

With no traditional red-carpet walk and nominees beaming in from around the globe in the middle of the pandemic, Sunday’s Emmy Awards telecast will look and feel markedly different than it has in previous years, especially on the fashion front. This point was underscored by the dress-code guidance offered in a July letter sent to nominees by the virtual show’s producers: “Our informal theme for the night is ‘come as you are, but make an effort!’” And according to stylists working with some of this year’s nominees, one of the letter’s examples, “designer pajamas,” has captured the collective awards-show-from-home imagination. READ MORE >>>

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The Ceremony

Reginald Hudlin
Reginald Hudlin, executive producer of the 2020 Emmys, at the Television Academy.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

What will the Emmys look like? The show’s history-making producer reveals his plans

Emmys 2020

The Emmys’ first Black executive producer, Reginald Hudlin, has left many of the telecast’s usual variables in the hands of the remote winners — including where, and with whom, they accept their awards: “You can do it in the living room, your backyard, your kid’s room. You know how everyone always says good night to their kids? Well, they can have their kids with them! And they can tuck their kids in after they win. Maybe they’re alone in their apartment; maybe they’ve got their entire extended family. Maybe they’ve got all their friends over there and they’re having some raucous Emmy party. It’s all up to the individual and how they want to celebrate the night.” READ MORE >>>

The world is on fire. Why should we care about the Emmys?

Even in a normal year, it takes a lot to get me to care about the Emmy Awards — in fact, I never really care about the Emmys, apart from being happy to see artists I like win, because it’s nice for them. But many, many, many more artists whose work I like will not win, or be nominated, and I would hate to think that matters. This is not a normal year. READ MORE >>>

TV has made 2020 bearable. The Emmys have never been more important

Just as radio provided an escape during the Great Depression, Hollywood tapped its way across the silver screen during World War II and music became a mouthpiece for social revolution in the 1960s and ’70s, television has pivoted from a passive form of entertainment to a powerful expression and reflection of our time. After fighting to keep us afloat and informed throughout 2020, it deserves its moment int the sun. READ MORE >>>

For L.A. workers who depend on awards shows, this year’s Emmys are a ‘nightmare’

Each year, the Emmy Awards celebrate the best in TV — not just on a single Sunday in September but over three months of schmoozing and glad-handing that provide a boon to the local economy. The televised ceremony and the many events surrounding it, including press conferences, screenings, luncheons and splashy afterparties, usually employ thousands of people in and around Los Angeles, from TV crews, publicists and stylists to bartenders, line cooks, seat fillers and security guards. But because the COVID-19 pandemic has made large in-person gatherings unsafe for the foreseeable future, this Sunday’s virtual Emmys will be different for viewers at home as well as the many people who work behind the scenes to make the event happen. READ MORE >>>


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