If there’s one word that makes everyone groan and roll their eyes these days, it’s “virtual”.
Generally, it appears in front of activities which used to be fun. Virtual pub quizzes, virtual film festivals, virtual stag and hen parties and virtual concerts all became the norm during lockdown.
The latest awards ceremony to go “virtual” amid ongoing lockdown restrictions was Sunday night’s Emmys, which saw Watchmen, Succession and Schitt’s Creek win big.
But the ceremony was actually a lot more successful than many expected.
“The Emmys themselves are not eligible to actually win an Emmy, but the Herulean task of pulling this off the way they have would deserve one,” said Deadline’s Pete Hammond..
Here are seven highlights from this year’s digital Primetime Emmys.
1. Viewers were treated to (half) a Friends reunion
For best actress nominee Jennifer Aniston, the Emmys were the perfect opportunity to invite some Friends round.
While Aniston chatted with Kimmel during a relaxed moment half-way through the show, a familiar figure wandered into shot.
“Oh! Courtney’s there?” asked Kimmel after spotting Courtney Cox, who played Rachel’s roommate Monica for a decade on the comedy series.
“Of course I’m here, we live together!” replied Cox. “Yeah, we’ve been roommates since 1994 Jimmy, hello?” added Aniston.
And then, as if it couldn’t get any better, Phoebe made an appearance to complete the triptych, and the internet promptly went into meltdown.
“Lisa Kudrow, you live there too?!” asked Kimmel in a state of disbelief. “Uhh… yeah? Where else would I live?” the star replied.
Sadly the boys were nowhere to be seen but you’ve got to take what you can get in 2020 and half a Friends reunion is better than no Friends reunion.
2. Jimmy Kimmel struck the perfect tone
Overall, Kimmel did a great job of keeping everyone entertained while still acknowledging the bizarre nature of this year’s ceremony.
The empty chairs in the eerily-quiet Staples Centre in Los Angeles were filled with cardboard cut-outs of celebrities, to make up for the lack of an audience.
Footage of previous Emmy audiences laughing and cheering was cut between Kimmel’s jokes in an attempt to give the show some atmosphere, which worked surprisingly well.
Here are some of the talk show host’s best lines from the opening monologue:
- “Hello and welcome to the pand-Emmys!”
- “No-one is in the audience, I’m up here all alone. Just like prom night.”
- “The big question I guess we should answer, is why would you have an awards show in the middle of a pandemic? ‘Why’ is a question I’ve been asked a lot this week. But you know what else seems frivolous and unnecessary? Doing it every other year.”
- “The network censors have decided that every time I say the words Schitt’s Creek, we’re required to put the spelling on the screen [he wasn’t joking about this]. You know, just in case you’re wondering why network television is almost dead.”
- “Watchmen is a superhero show but it also feels very realistic. Except for the part where anyone in Oklahoma is wearing a mask.”
- “Congratulations are in order for a young Emmy upstart named Quibi, which has 10 nominations this year, including dumbest thing to ever cost a billion dollars.”
- “We have live feeds to and from more than 100 locations from around the world. You know how hard it is to get your parents to Facetime? Multiply that by a lot.”
3. Zendaya was euphoric about her win
Zendaya made history with a surprise win for best drama actress, becoming the youngest ever winner in that category.
The 24-year-old, a former Disney Channel star, triumphed for her portrayal of drug addict Rue in HBO’s dark high school drama.
The actress and her family’s ecstatic reaction to her win provided one of the most gif-able moments of the night.
Euphoria tackles complex issues including drugs, sex, identity and trauma, and is hugely popular with young audiences.
“I know this feels like a weird time to be celebrating, but I just want to say there is hope in the young people out there,” Zendaya said.
“I know our TV show doesn’t always feel like a great example of that, but there is hope in the young people, and I just want to say to all my peers out there doing the work in the streets, I see you, I admire you, I thank you.”
4. Dan Levy’s excitement was adorable
Anyone watching the first hour of the Emmys would’ve wondered why the ceremony hadn’t been renamed The Schitt’s Creek Awards.
The Canadian comedy series dominated the early part of the ceremony, winning in the first six categories to be announced.
The series hasn’t done particularly well at the Emmys in the past – but the Academy often heavily rewards shows in their final season in an apparent effort to make up for lost time.
Schitt’s Creek swept up in all the acting categories; best comedy actor (Eugene Levy), actress (Catherine O’Hara), supporting actor (Daniel Levy) and supporting actress (Annie Murphy).
“I will forever be grateful to Eugene and Daniel Levy for bestowing on me the opportunity to play a woman of a certain age – my age – who gets to fully be her ridiculous self,” said O’Hara, 66, as she collected her trophy.
Daniel, who writes, stars in and co-created the show, was perhaps the most visibly excited, leaping out of his chair in disbelief as each award was announced.
“Okay, the internet is about to turn on me, I’m so sorry,” the actor joked as he took to the stage to collect best supporting actor, worried that viewers were becoming bored with all the show’s wins.
On a more serious note, he said: “Our show, at its core, is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance, and that is something we need more of now than we’ve ever needed before.”
Several critics agreed. “The Schitt’s Creek Emmys sweep proves the power of comfort TV in terrible times,” said Variety’s Caroline Framke..
“It’s a warm blanket of a show that assures its audience that every episode will make them feel good by the final credits. Is it any wonder that this is the show that got such a decisive stamp of approval this year, of all years?”
5. Ramy Youssef revealed what happens when you lose
Ramy star Ramy Yousseff lost out to Eugene Levy from Schitt’s Creek in the best leading comedy actor category.
But this year, when you lose your category, it’s a little more awkward than usual.
Emmy producers were dispatched to the houses of all the major nominees this year – in a hazmat suit for protection from Covid-19.
Once the winner was announced, they would receive a knock at their door and their Emmy would be presented to them live.
Unfortunately that means that anyone who doesn’t win has to watch the Emmys team leave their house – taking the trophy back with them.
Poor Ramy managed to capture this moment on video, as he waved his statue off into the distance. So near, yet so far.
6. Guest presenters kept the mood light
Actor Randall Park from Fresh Off the Boat was upstaged by his co-host as he presented one award – an alpaca wearing a bow tie.
“When you read an email too quickly, the phrase ‘You’re presenting with an alpaca’ looks a lot like the phrase ‘You’re presenting with Al Pacino’,” he joked.
Elsewhere, Jason Sudeikis presented the award for best comedy series while apparently undergoing a coronavirus test live on air.
Sudeikis tried to stay focus while a nurse wearing scrubs, gloves, mask, and a face mask appeared and placed a swab up his nose.
“Don’t worry, you won’t even notice she’s here,” the actor said, before attempting to continue with the prize.
After being interrupted by the nurse, who asked for his date of birth, Sudeikis said: “I don’t know anymore. I think you dented my brain.”
7. Jennifer Aniston should be a firefighter
Aniston was one of the few stars to appear in person at the Emmys, cropping up to help Kimmel in the early part of the ceremony.
(This was before she dashed home to join her Friends co-stars ahead of her own category, which was near the end of the show.)
Kimmel explained that the Emmys had to adhere to strict health restrictions, dousing the envelope in his hand in sanitiser to emphasise the point.
He threw the envelope into a rubbish bin and set it alight, in an effort to “burn all the germs” off the envelope.
It was all part of a pre-rehearsed gag – although the sanitiser proved to be more flammable than Emmy producers anticipated.
After Kimmel had picked up the burned remains of the envelope with a pair of metal tongs, the small fire reignited – and an off-stage producer could be heard telling the pair to “put it out”.
Fortunately, Aniston was more than capable of dealing with sizeable bin fires, and repeatedly used the fire extinguisher to get rid of the flames.
It seems Rachel has learned a thing or two since that time she burned down Phoebe’s apartment.