If it feels like details about this year’s Emmy Awards are coming in very last minute, well, that’s because they are. The rise in COVID-19 cases around the country due to the delta variant (and stubborn Americans who refuse to do the right thing and get vaccinated) has kept everything fluid with this year’s production, including how to accommodate an in-person audience.
Normally, the Emmy producers would be able to preview the annual telecast by now. Not in 2021. Beyond host Cedric the Entertainer, details about this year’s slender Emmys (the Slimmys?) are still very elusive. As we’ve reported, all three Creative Arts Emmys and the main Emmys ceremony on CBS have been relocated to a high-end tent (like the one used in recent years for the Governors Balls) on the L.A. Live events deck, next to downtown Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater. Originally there was going to be room for every nominee and a guest, but after consultation with health and safety advisers, the TV Academy decided to limit the number of attendees for the Sept. 19 telecast to around 600 and closer to 500 for each of the Creative Arts shows. That meant a max of four people per nominated production team — and a lot of hurt feelings.
“I do think it’s like pretty shitty to be nominated for an Emmy and not invited,” one producer told me. “I don’t know if this will happen again. It just feels like this huge moment in my career comes with a big asterisk on it.”
TV Academy president Maury McIntyre knows the situation isn’t ideal, especially as he hears from publicists and awards consultants struggling to figure out how to allocate those limited tickets.
“I’ve been here since 2013, and this is probably the most difficult year I’ve experienced,” McIntyre says. “Things change hourly, if not daily. We realized we couldn’t be at the capacity we wanted to be. … We’re disappointed we weren’t able to include them all. That was certainly not our intention going into this. It is just something that has come up with all these conversations with health and safety that we can’t accommodate that number within the tent.”
Audience members will be seated at roundtables, rather than the show’s usual auditorium configuration. By limiting the number of people in the tent, the hope is that members will be able to take off their masks while the cameras are rolling. That, of course, may wind up not being officially determined until the actual day of air.
Vaccinations and proof of a negative COVID-19 test are now required for each attendee, but the window to get those test results is fairly narrow. “The thing that keeps me up at night is probably the testing issue,” McIntyre says. “We will be providing resources to nominees for where they might get tested and where they might be able to get even a rapid test. We do want to make sure that we are giving all of our nominees and their guests or any attendees as many resources as possible so that they can get their stuff done. I completely acknowledge it’s a new frontier for all of us.”
Meanwhile, although there isn’t enough room for all nominees under the Emmy tent, the Academy has been celebrating those who were tapped via 11 in-person receptions at its North Hollywood headquarters. And the org is planning its first-ever viewing party, to be held the evening of Sept. 19 at the Jonathan Club in downtown L.A. Let’s improve those vaccination levels so next year the Slimmy Emmys can bulk up.