How the Emmys 2020 Awards Show Will Look Different Amid COVID

Jimmy Kimmel returns to emcee the ceremony, but he'll be the only star broadcasting live from Staples Center on Sept. 20.

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards are still happening in September, but it'll look markedly different from what's been presented in the past due to COVID restrictions

Host Jimmy Kimmel will return to emcee the primetime ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 20, only he'll be broadcasting live from Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles instead of onstage from the Emmys' usual home in nearby Microsoft Theater.

The awards show will be following strict social distancing guidelines, which means there will be no live audience, no red carpet and no pre-show on Emmy night.

"The Staples Center makes sense because it's so big," Michael SchneiderVariety's Senior Editor of TV Awards, tells ET of the Emmys' new location. "If you want to socially distance your crew, keep them safe, that's a huge venue."

But without nominees present to collect their awards in person, the Emmys is adopting an alternative solution: going to where the nominees are. 

Producers are planning to use up to 140 live feeds from the nominees' various locations -- whether it be at their home in the U.S. or abroad -- that will beam in live into Staples Center. State-of-the-art cameras will be provided to ensure high-quality feeds will be available for the broadcast. Translation: No grainy Zoom videos here.

"The idea is to bring a camera operator to each house or wherever a nominee is," Schneider elaborates, adding that there is discussion of having a handful of stars at Staples to present specific awards. "The producers are talking about maybe bringing in some celebrities to the Staples Center as presenters so you may see a few. Maybe they can even interact with host Jimmy Kimmel."

After the Emmy nominations were announced in July (perhaps an early preview of what the ceremony may look like), producers sent a letter to select nominees about their plans for the virtual ceremony.

“As you’ve probably guessed, we’re not going to be asking you to come to the Microsoft Theatre [sic] in downtown LA on September 20th,” the letter read, as obtained by multiple outlets.

The producers “are assembling a top notch team of technicians, producers and writers to work closely with Jimmy Kimmel and with you and your team, to make sure that we can film with you (and loved ones or whomever else you choose to be with) at your home, or another location of your choice. We’re going to make you look fabulous -- we’re exploring the cutting edge of technology to allow to use good cameras and lighting and look forward to working with you to produce your unique 'on screen' moments," the letter continued.

This is Kimmel's third time hosting the Emmys after leading the 64th and 68th Emmy Awards in 2012 and 2016, respectively. 

The Creative Arts Emmys, which are usually held over the weekend before the Primetime Emmys, will be held virtually from Sept. 14-17, and will forego its annual Governors Ball events. Nominees in categories being presented during the Creative Arts Emmys have been asked to submit acceptance speeches ahead of time, with only the winner's broadcast during the show.

Watchmen is the year's most-nominated program with 26 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Regina King and more. Other top nominees include The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Mandalorian, Ozark, Schitt's Creek and Succession. Tyler Perry, along with his charity, The Perry Foundation, will receive the Governors Award.

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live Sunday, Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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