Creative Arts Emmy Awards Review: Low Wattage & A Wasted Opportunity So Far

It’s going to a long, long week.

Dominated by Reality and Nonfiction categories, the opening night of the 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards was a rather stilted affair on Monday. Making almost every non-technical misstep possible, the Nicole Byer hosted show still somehow managed to be boring as well.

Streaming Monday to Thursday on the TV Academy website and airing on FXX on September 19, things started out promising and traditional enough with a nighttime crane shot from outside the organization’s North Hollywood complex.

“Ordinarily, we’d be having this show in a packed theatre somewhere in Los Angeles,” Nailed It host and Emmy nominee Byer said in the pre-record opening monologue. “But as we know, there’s nothing ordinary about 2020, it’s wild,” Byer added with understatement in a year that has seen the Creative Arts Emmys, Hollywood and almost everything else transformed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Honestly if you don’t like me now, you’re not going to like me for the next four days, I’m so sorry,” said Byer. Well, being that the YouTube livestream never appeared to top 1,400 viewers, there really aren’t a lot of people to apologize too, is there?

But here’s the thing Nicole, its wasn’t you, it was everything else.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

Your bit about fake categories for shows that had “Outstanding Achievement in COVID-19 Compliancy” and “Outstanding, But Questionable COVID-19 Compliancy” was simply insulting below and above the line. Not to be a killjoy, but there is nothing funny for an industry that has been riddled with mass unemployment and fatalities from the disease that has claimed over 200,000 American lives overall. The lack of laughs is multiplied when you survey all the hardships, safety protocols and risk that series going through right now as they try to restart production.

As a result, as a production itself, most of the opening night of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards seemed put together overnight.

With a game Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan virtually handing out from home the first Emmys and a pre-recorded dressed up EP Sarah Lavoie accepting the win for National Geographic Presents Cosmos: Creating Possible Worlds in the Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series, the pace of this miniseries ceremony was at least thankfully quick.

However, once it became clear from multiple wins by Apollo 11 sound editor Eric Milano that some of those very non-spontaneous and short speeches were on repeat, the whole thing stumbled. With more and more wins for the documentary on the historic NASA flight, the dead air when “the Academy accepted the Emmy on their behalf” seemed so unnecessary for a one-hour ceremony that has had almost three months to prep.

In that vein, there was the odd edit that produced a non-sequitur in nominee and NBA legend Kareen Abdul-Jabber’s introduction to an otherwise piercing produced segment about discrimination in the industry. Honestly, you expect glitches in the normal era of love awards shows, but this Bob Bain Productions ceremony had the advantage and hindsight of time and this is what they came up with.

At least September 20’s 72nd Emmy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and produced by Reginald Hudlin and others, just had their job made a lot easier in comparison – and they’ll have live(ish) acceptance speeches to deal with.

Also, With Michelle Obama’s Becoming doc and the Beastie Boys as nominees, I would have expected more star power on offering tonight

Yes, there was the sensational RuPaul as a marquee presenter, plus the likes of Life Below Zero’s Sue Aikens, Scientology And The Aftermath’s uncharacteristically staid Leah Remini and Survivor host Jeff Probst among the accepting winners. Yet, for the most part the on-screen wattage was low, even with a big win for Netflix’s Queer Eye. Contrast that to recent years of the Creative Arts Emmys which have seen the likes of an appreciative Tom Hanks praising the BTS teams that bring TV to life and a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of Star Trek series alums onstage at the Microsoft Theater.

Maybe coming off the intentionally low ranking categories of tonight, the star power and potency of the Creative Arts Emmys will become more energized for Tuesday’s Variety night and Wednesday and Thursday’s Scripted nights. Maybe, but like they say, you don’t get to make a first impression twice – even online.

The fact is COVID-19, its fallout, and renewed wide spread spotlighting of social injustice, police brutality and systemic racism forced the Creative Arts Emmys to go out of their comfort zone this year. Utilizing the best and the brightest in the amazing world of television, it could have been a truly unique opportunity to do something different and meaningful to the times and for the below the line talent

Instead, almost from the jump, Night 1 of the 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Awards was a wasted opportunity, and no one wants to watch that.

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