Old tux jackets, designer pajamas, presenters in custom hazmat suits hanging outside the residences of nominees with the trophy, and a strong WiFi connection — that’s all that it took for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, or the Pandemmys, as host Jimmy Kimmel called it, to set the tone for this unusual year’s award season. With no physical audience, the first major COVID-era award show, that recognises the best in US primetime TV, was an at-home edition held over Zoom, that homed in on what was important — entertainment and reward — with a sidetrack of the political and personal thrown in.
From the time the lights came on at the empty Staples Centre, from where Kimmel hosted the three-hour programme, the event highlighted all the things that make entertainment an integral part of lives. There was glamour and glitz — 24-year-old Zendaya, best actress in the drama series category, and only the second black woman to have won it, served up two costume changes — but also the comfort of kicking off one’s high heels and watching a show in comfortable pajamas like nominees Jameela Jamil and Sameera Wiley. There was nostalgia, courtesy a reunion of the women from Friends, and reminders of all the things that make this such a critical political juncture in American lives: A hat tip to the Black Lives Matter movement with the Breonna Taylor T-shirts worn by winners Uzo Aduba and Regina King and Mark Ruffalo’s urgent appeal to Americans to vote in November.
Freedom from a formal space also made the award touchingly personal. Aduba, who won in the outstanding supporting actress category for her role in Mrs America, called out to her mother in the next room to announce her win, Stephen Colbert turned to his dog for a hug when he lost out to John Oliver in the outstanding variety talk show category and writer Cord Jefferson, who shared an Emmy with Damon Lindelof for Watchmen, thanked his therapist in his acceptance speech — a reminder that in this traumatic year wins and losses are only as good as the relationships and bonds that have held people together.
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