The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to wreak havoc around the world with new outbreaks daily and no end in sight. It also is upending the industry’s awards seasons. As TV and movie production begins to ramp up ever so slowly, the Television Academy on Monday announced changes for this year’s Emmy shows, while at the same time later today the Motion Picture Academy’s board of governors is Zoom meeting to reportedly set a new later date for the 2021 Oscars and perhaps extend eligibility dates into next year.
Both the Emmys and Oscars are being broadcast by ABC, and the network is working with both academies to come up with solutions on how best to proceed.
Most urgent are the Emmys, which actually have three different ceremonies to hand out those statuettes. In that regard, the Creative Arts Emmys, which were originally set for September 12-13, will instead be done virtually over several unspecified nights in September. The actual format for these shows — which honor over 80 or so categories, mostly craftspeople — is still being developed according the the TV Academy. The annual Governors Balls that follow those shows and the Primetime Emmys on September 20 are being canceled for the first time in history. Instead, the TV Academy is making a $1 million donation to The Actors Fund COVID-19 Relief Fund. HBO already announced on May 22 that it was canceling its huge annual Emmy bash and also donating $1 million to various COVID-19 relief causes.
“This has been an incredibly challenging time for our industry; and though we are now making plans to get back to work, we know there are many still suffering from the work stoppage caused by the coronavirus,” said Television Academy chairman and CEO Frank Scherma. “As we strive to do the right thing for our community with these changes to our annual events, the Television Academy is also pleased to support those still in need with a $1 million donation to The Actors Fund COVID-19 Relief Fund.” Scherma notes that as the industry begins to re-emerge, the Academy will continue to support over 24,000 members and the community through the donation as well as Academy programs and resources.
As for ABC (it is the alphabet network’s turn in the Emmy broadcast network wheel this time around), they are working with the TV Academy to continue to plan for the 72nd Primetime Emmys on September 20, but so far have offered few details about just what they are considering. Discussions regarding the look and feel of the show, and whether it too will go the virtual route, are still ongoing, but you can bet it will be a far different event than we have seen in recent years. Already, a sister show, the Daytime Emmys, has announced a return to network TV and CBS primetime with a virtual format June 26, so I am sure they will perhaps be looking at that for ideas as well.
As I mentioned in our TV Talk podcast episode Thursday, being forced into some new innovation could actually benefit the Emmy show as it tries to come back from its lowest-rated show ever in 2019. Certainly not only the voters, but also the public, have been feasting on TV during this pandemic quarantine, and it’s likely there will be more interest than ever in the outcome of the contest this year. Scherma said both the Academy and ABC are all in for a telecast that will spotlight the medium’s “unparalleled” role throughout 2020 in bringing people together in different ways, as well as the current movement and national and global demand for social justice and equality. As we have seen in the way ABC was able to do a live singing contest with American Idol in going to contestant homes, as well as the way the NFL draft went virtual, there are opportunities to produce compelling television, maybe even improve on the same old-same old. This could be one of the most memorable Emmys ever if they get it right.
As for that other Academy, after announcing an ambitious new program of equity and inclusion initiatives on Friday, as well as expanding the Best Picture category to a firm 10 nominees again beginning in 2022, the AMPAS Board of Governors will again be meeting today to approve plans for the 93rd Annual Academy Awards, an urgency you wouldn’t normally see around this time of year.
It is no secret the organization and ABC plan to move the broadcast from its current date of February 28 to perhaps as much as two months later. When I first wrote about this several weeks ago, I noted the NFL’s Super Bowl coronavirus contingency plan laid out the possibility that the game of games could move to the 28th from the 7th if there is any delay to the announced season schedule.
Of course, AMPAS doesn’t want to take that chance, but even more pressing is the uncertainty about movie release schedules and theater openings which are fluid to say the least. To have the Oscars, you have to have the content, which is one problem the Emmys don’t have. Kicking the can down the road as it were gives the Academy a more safe space. As I pointed out, since the Oscars started broadcasting in 1953, the industry’s biggest night has taken place as late as April 18, and an Oscar show somewhere around then next year, perhaps with an expansion of the eligibility period into 2021, might be the golden ticket. It certainly would allow members time to see the movies, which are likely to get crushed even more than usual into year-end slots.
If the Oscars do go into April, and the season does get lengthened, expect all the precursor awards shows to follow suit. We are awaiting word on the final plans for the Oscar date change, so watch this space for continuing Oscar and Emmy developments.