Jimmy Kimmel referenced the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest that has marked much of 2020 as he opened an Emmys ceremony like no other.
The live broadcast took place from a largely empty Staples Centre in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, with the vast majority of nominees off-site.
Winners were scheduled to appear via video feed. After the TV broadcast initially showed a typical star-studded crowd, Kimmel revealed there was in fact no audience, because “this isn’t a Maga rally, it’s the Emmys”.
In his opening monologue, Kimmel made references to the trauma inflicted by the pandemic, welcoming viewers to the “pandemmys”.
He said holding the Emmys may seem “frivolous and unnecessary,” adding “what’s happening tonight is not important, it’s not going to stop Covid or put out the fires”.
The year had been marred by “division, injustice, disease,” Kimmel said, before saying TV had been a source of comfort for many during uncertain times.
He said: “The world may be terrible but TV has never been better.”
Jennifer Aniston made a surprise appearance on stage to present the first award, outstanding lead actress in a comedy.
Kimmel, wearing yellow gloves, sprayed the envelope with disinfectant and set it on fire to “burn the germs off”, before reading the winner.
Catherine O’Hara picked up the award for upbeat comedy Schitt’s Creek and it was revealed she and her cast mates were holding an Emmys viewing party.
Outstanding lead actor in a comedy was won by O’Hara’s Schitt’s Creek co-star Eugene Levy, who hugged his son and cast mate Daniel Levy.
Kimmel warned before the show the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards could end up a “beautiful disaster”.
While other post-Covid-19 ceremonies, including the BET Awards and MTV Video Music Awards, have relied heavily on pre-taped segments, Emmys producers insisted on broadcasting live.
Winners were asked to appear from their homes, with the US TV academy sending some 130 at-home video kits to stars around the world.
There was no red carpet, just one of the main differences between this year’s Emmys and previous ones. And they take place amid a tumultuous period.
The US has reached the grim milestone of more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths while social justice protests continue across the country.
Much of the West Coast has been ravaged by devastating wildfires and the most contentious presidential election in generations looms in November.
Plenty of British talent were in with a chance of winning during Sunday’s ceremony.
Olivia Colman was nominated in the best drama actress category for her portrayal of the Queen in Netflix’s The Crown, but faced A-list competition in the form of fellow Briton Jodie Comer, who won last year and was back again for Killing Eve.
Aniston was nominated for her role in Apple TV+’s The Morning Show, Laura Linney was up for Ozark, and Comer’s Killing Eve co-star Sandra Oh also grabbed a nod.
Normal People’s Irish star Paul Mescal, 24, scored his nomination for lead actor in a limited series or movie in recognition of his portrayal of Connell.