2020 Emmy Awards: Everything to know about this year’s pandemic edition

Tribune Content Agency

LOS ANGELES — A pandemic isn’t stopping the Television Academy from honoring its finest when the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards take place on Sunday.

Here’s what you need to know.


The 2020 Emmy Awards will be carried out in a largely remote ceremony at Staples Center in Los Angeles. They’ll air live on ABC on both coasts at 5 p.m. Pacific. They’ll also be streamed on demand via Hulu.

The gala ceremony is being downsized, and its red-carpet warm-up will be “semi-glamorous” this year too.

ABC News Live, the network’s streaming news channel, will also air a virtual pre-show “Countdown to the Emmys” from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Pacific. It’s a live special featuring interviews with nominees, a showcase of this year’s class of Emmy hopefuls and will look at the show’s red-carpet history — as well as this year’s “couch couture,” ABC said in a statement.


Yes, but not all of them. The bulk of the 2020 accolades were distributed earlier this week during the multi-night Creative Arts Emmy Awards. They took place over four consecutive nights and culminate in a fifth broadcast ceremony on Saturday at 5 p.m. Pacific on FXX. And, yes, Baby Yoda won!


ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel will emcee the Emmys for a third time — a decision he made long before the pandemic hit. He previously hosted the show in 2012 and 2016 and hosted the Oscars in 2017 and 2018. He’s also serving as an executive producer this year.

The comedian emerged this week from his summertime hiatus to plug the ceremony, a traditionally glamorous event that he’s now likening to a “beautiful disaster” and an unpredictable Zoom meeting due to COVID-19.

“Let’s just say there will be other human beings in the area. I’m not sure how close I will be to them,” he said of his Sunday duties during an interview on KABC 7. “I know I’m not allowed to touch anybody, which is disappointing, but we’re trying to play it safe and we’re going through ridiculous extremes to keep it as safe as possible.”

Kimmel, of course, was embroiled in his own scandal this summer, becoming one of the many white entertainers coming under fire for using blackface. The comedian-turned-progressive social warrior offered a lame apology on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in June for his repeated use of the racist gag during his time on “The Man Show” in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.


Plenty of televised, performance-driven awards shows have gone on amid the pandemic, including the BET Awards, MTV VMAs, ACM Awards and several others. But the Emmys are the first of the four major awards shows focused on doling out accolades that will proceed this year while adhering to social distancing guidelines. (This year’s Tonys were set for June but were postponed indefinitely and will go digital instead.)

The semi-remote show will rely on secure Wi-Fi connections and has set up live cameras all over the world. Camera kits have been sent out to nominees’ homes, ensuring that the usually predictable format will look different this year. And producers took notes on what worked for the NFL Draft, the DNC and RNC and other live TV events this year.

“With the Emmys, it comes down to that moment where you go, ‘You’re the winner.’ It’s that very small but gigantic human moment. That’s what we’re fighting to preserve in this show,” executive producer Reginald Hudlin told The Times.

“To do that, but not all be in the same room, means sending out 130 or more cameras. Los Angeles, New York, Connecticut, Canada, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv, wherever we need to go, we’re going to be sending out these elaborate but relatively easy-to-use camera rigs so we can have the best sound, the best picture, the best lighting, given the circumstances,” he added.

“We tried to make these rigs as user-friendly as possible so they can install them in their homes. It really is a partnership between us and the nominees.”

The show is expected to be a more intimate, off-the-cuff affair as participants have been encouraged to be creative with their rigs. And if winners aren’t available to accept their award, there won’t be any pre-recorded acceptance speeches either. (Kimmel has made quips about cutting off Wi-Fi for those whose speeches go long.)


Speaking of nominees, HBO’s “Watchmen” leads all shows with 26 nominations. Netflix set a record with 160, smashing HBO’s previous mark last year; the premium cable channel has 107 nominees this year.

The shows vying for best drama series are: “Better Call Saul,” “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Killing Eve,” “The Mandalorian,” “Ozark,” “Stranger Things” and “Succession.”

These are the comedy series nominees: “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Dead to Me,” “The Good Place,” “Insecure,” “The Kominksy Method,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Schitt’s Creek” and “What We Do in the Shadows.”

And for limited series: “Little Fires Everywhere,” “Mrs. America,” “Unbelievable,” “Unorthodox” and “Watchmen.”

Lastly, here are the nominees for TV movie: “American Son,” “Bad Education,” “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones,” “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend.”


Typically this is the part of our guide where we let you know all about the celebrity presenters. But since the awards-show playbook has gone out the window, ABC has only so far shared who’s making “guest appearances.” That means these celebs probably already have their camera rigs securely in place.

Here’s the list of talent, though producers have said viewers can expect a few surprise appearances too.

Anthony Anderson

Jason Bateman

Sterling K. Brown

Laverne Cox

“Sesame Street”‘s Count von Count

America Ferrera

Morgan Freeman

Ilana Glazer

Abbi Jacobson

Lin-Manuel Miranda


Randall Park

Issa Rae


Patrick Stewart

Jason Sudeikis

Gabrielle Union

J.J. Watt

Lena Waithe

Oprah Winfrey

Singer-songwriter and Grammy winner H.E.R. will make her Emmy debut to perform during the show’s “In Memoriam” segment.


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