The 72nd Emmy Awards, held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, kicked off with what was undoubtedly a confusing image for everyone watching the show at home: host Jimmy Kimmel walking onstage at the Staples Center to… a full audience.
“Welcome to the Pand-Emmys!” Kimmel said cheerfully. “Thank you all for risking your lives to be here… You know what they say: You can’t have a virus without a host.”
Of course, with social distancing a necessity, the 2020 Emmys audience was all a trick of television magic, pieced together from celebrity reaction shots at past Emmy ceremonies. Still, Kimmel kept up his monologue as he would every year, albeit with the usual timely zingers. (“Watchmen leads the nominations this year. The most unrealistic part of that show is how many people in Oklahoma are wearing a mask.”)
Eventually, though, Kimmel was confronted with a reaction shot of his own face in the audience, laughing back at him. “Wait, but if I’m down here, then how am I… up here?” he mused, as the camera cut again to reveal an entirely empty Staples Center. Only a few cardboard cutouts of the nominees (and a real-life Jason Bateman) sat in the stadium seats.
As bleak of an opener as it could’ve been, Kimmel reassured us that the nominees would still be present at the 2020 ceremony, via a gigantic “nerve center” of TV screens hooked up to Zoom calls with dozens of television actors, screenwriters, directors and producers. As he stood in the center of the room, Kimmel quipped, “I feel like I’m in a Best Buy.”
Watchman leads the nominees at the 72nd Emmy Awards with 11, followed by Succession with 10 and Ozark with nine.