Emmys May Benefit From Some Fresh Air, as the Show Moves Outside (Column)

I don’t think anyone, including the Television Academy, expected to be back where we are in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. But thanks to the stubborn fools across the country who have refused to be vaccinated (and the new super-contagious delta variant), we’re back to a spike in cases and wondering what an in-person Emmy Awards ceremony will look like this year, and who might or might not attend.

This much we know: There will be a Primetime Emmys telecast, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, on CBS on Sept. 19, as well as three Creative Arts shows the weekend before. And the limited Emmy audiences will feature nominees and their guests, all of whom must show proof of vaccination before they enter. (Nominated teams will be kept to just four tickets.)

We also know there won’t be any Governors Ball events, and as far as we know right now, there don’t appear to be any plans for a major after-party by any of the networks, studios or streamers. There won’t be a red carpet at the Creative Arts shows, and only a limited one (with just a dozen outlets) at the primetime show. And there will be no on-site media center, just a virtual one. (Which means I’ll be covering the Emmys at home in pajamas again this year.) The TV Academy is still figuring out its peer group nominee celebrations, which will be small gatherings but at least one way for Emmy contenders to toast and recognize one another.

Late Tuesday, another bombshell dropped: The TV Academy announced that the Primetime and Creative Arts Emmys would now be held outdoors, on the event deck at L.A. Live, the complex that includes the Microsoft Theater and sits across the street from Staples Center, where last year’s show was held. [Aug. 23 update: Per the Academy, the ceremonies will be held in an air-conditioned tent on the events deck.]

It’s unfortunate that the country has backslid to the point where the Emmys continue to shrink, and are starting to feel a lot like last year’s event. But at least it means getting out of the stuffy Microsoft Theater and taking advantage of vibrant downtown Los Angeles, something the Grammys and last year’s BET Awards did to much success.

I was pleased to report last month that Reginald Hudlin and Done + Dusted (including Ian Stewart and director Hamish Hamilton) were returning to executive produce this year’s Emmy telecast after they pulled off quite a feat last year with host Jimmy Kimmel. They took advantage of the unusual year, including sending camera kits to nominees around the globe, and made it an entertaining event. Awards shows desperately need to be reinvented, and they have the chance to do it again this year.

When my colleague Danielle Turchiano recently spoke to comedy nominees Tracee Ellis Ross and Kenan Thompson, she managed to get a few tongue-in-cheek ideas out of them: First, turn the show into a potluck. “Instead of hiring a stylist and getting dressed, everybody could make a dish, bring a dish — we could sit around a table,” Ross said. “We could have bagels; we could have pasta; somebody could bring the flowers. We could have a meal together.” Ross also suggested turning it into a game night. Added Thompson: “I think we need to produce the Emmys.”

They may have been joking, but I would watch all of these ideas. Reggie, Ian and Hamish: Take notes!

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