Critic’s Notebook: The 2020 Emmys Not Even Remote-ly Entertaining

Emmys 2020 Review
ABC/Image Group LA

Imagine if they gave an Emmy Awards and nobody came.

Oh wait, they just did. Let’s try this: Imagine if they gave an Emmy Awards and nobody watched.

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'You can't have a virus without a host,' he quipped during his opening monologue to an audience... which was really just old Emmy footage.

We won’t know the ratings until sometime Monday, but it’s hard to imagine many beyond the truly TV-obsessed who felt compelled to stick it out through a long and bizarre non-event with minimal entertainment value and even fewer surprises. (Though gotta say, didn’t see a Zendaya win coming.) Claim another casualty of the year of COVID.

Making the best of an awkward assignment, Jimmy Kimmel delivered his “Welcome to the pand-Emmys” monologue to canned applause and laughter and cutaways to clips of full houses of the past. The first time I laughed was when they cut away to an earlier (and clean-shaven) Kimmel in the crowd, erasing the illusion that the Staples Center was anything but empty.


Kimmel’s trademark of sheepishly biting irony couldn’t elevate the painful shtick of the few scripted in-house bits — the fire gag with Jennifer Aniston was especially ill-advised given the state of California these days — but given the night’s repeated themes of inclusion and racial representation, having one of late night’s white guys as host felt especially misguided.

On the plus side: Putting the spotlight on essential workers (a history teacher, UPS delivery driver, a rancher/shepherd, lady truck driver, brother-sister doctors) to introduce supporting categories was a nice touch. The taped testimonies of Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, America Ferrera on being seen and heard — or not — in Hollywood were forceful, and so was Tyler Perry’s very personal anecdote about his grandmother’s underappreciated quilt when accepting his Governors Award.

Tyler Perry Governors Awards Emmys 2020

Tyler Perry gets the Governors Award at the 2020 Emmys (ABC)

Otherwise, I found myself agreeing with repeat winner (one of several) John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, who could be heard declaring, “This is very creepy” off camera after accepting his Emmy, which burst out of a box on his desk. “This is so freakin’ weird,” Watchmen‘s Regina King (winning her fourth Emmy) laughed during her speech.

That it was.

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The Emmys delivered some interesting moments during its unorthodox broadcast as nominees videoed in from various locations.

At least the Schitt’s Creek cast seemed to be having a well-deserved blast at their socially distanced party in Canada, as they made history during the show’s first hour with their unprecedented sweep of all top televised comedy categories — or as Kimmel called it, a “Schitt’s-krieg.” (One of the funnier gags: The show’s naughty-pun title flashing on screen every time anyone said it aloud, a nod to standards and practices, “in case you’re wondering why network television is almost dead,” quipped Kimmel.)

Emmys 2020 Schitt's Creek

The cast of Schitt’s Creek sweeps the Emmys (ABC)

If only for Creek‘s achievement, this is one for the Emmy history books. But the show? It’s like we’re still waiting for it to happen.