[Above: Emmanuel Acho celebrated at the 2021 Creative Arts Emmys after winning for “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man.”]
There’s a reason why event producer Bob Bain didn’t employ a host for this year’s two Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies. He has 45 awards to give out on Saturday, Sept. 3, and 48 categories to honor on Sunday, Sept. 4 — which means there’s little time for anything else.
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“If you think about it, the biggest challenge for a host is that once you have him or her, you have to justify them being up there,” Bain says. “For us to create, over the course of two hours, six or eight throws or standups for a host, just takes up more time than we feel we need to spend.”
Instead, the two Creative Arts ceremonies will open with short monologues, while other comedic breaks will be sprinkled throughout the shows. But Bain’s goal is to bring these shows in at between two and two-and-a-half hours, before sending the audiences on to the post-show Governors Galas (formerly known as the “Ball”) on each night.
“It’s pacing,” Bain says. “If I had to put my job into one word, that’s it. We’re still learning, but we’ve got it down to a science because we’ve been doing this now for six or seven years. It really is about moving through this material as quickly as you can and peppering the proceedings with very short variety pitstops, so that people don’t get too bored with the inherent monotony of the process.”
Bain doesn’t want to give away what those breaks might include, but he hints at comedic jabs at the way we watch TV today — such as a bit that will take on the ubiquitous “skip credits” button now found at the start of most streaming series.
The Creative Arts Emmys used to be a single night affair, but that ceremony would clock in at more than four hours. “I mean, it was complete drudgery,” Bain says. “And that’s one of the smartest things that I think the Academy has done since I’ve been here, is split these into two nights.”
This year, night one focuses on mostly unscripted fare, including reality and documentaries, as well as variety shows and specials. (Animation is also included on the evening.) Night two is devoted more toward scripted fare. The Creative Arts Emmys mostly focuses on the artisans behind TV — the people who are the backbone of the industry.
“All those thousands of nominees work an entire lifetime because they love their craft,” Bain says. “Not with the expectation of getting an award. So when you get the opportunity to be considered and be nominated, in addition to having had a great career that you loved doing, it’s that much sweeter. And that’s why I think the enthusiasm in the room for this event is so great. Because these people are not used to being awarded.”
High-profile awards on Saturday include animated program, character voice-over, documentary or nonfiction series, documentary or nonfiction special, exceptional merit in documentary filmmaking, music direction, narrator, short form comedy/drama/variety series, structured reality program, unstructured reality program, variety special (live) and variety special (pre-recorded). Keep an eye out for Norman Lear potentially becoming the first-ever 100-year-old Emmy winner, while President Barack Obama could win an Emmy for narrator, and Chadwick Boseman, Jessica Walter and/or Norm Macdonald could win posthumous Emmys in various categories.
On Sunday, awards include casting in various categories (which often foreshadow front-runners at the following week’s Primetime Emmys), as well as guest actor and guest actress in comedy and drama; original music and lyrics; actor and actress in short form; and TV movie.
Last year’s Creative Arts Emmys was actually carved into three shows over two days, but that was a function of safety and social distancing in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak. Of course, the pandemic is still a concern this year, and proper measures are still being followed.
“People can anticipate a COVID-safe, in-person event,” says Bain. But the show will feel a lot more like it did three years ago, before the pandemic switched things up.
“And for all of us who went through the years of virtual presentations, this is a dream come true,” he says. “It was just so difficult to try to do this during COVID. And it’s palpable. I mean, you can feel it. You can feel the excitement that people have, being able to gather and being able to dress up and being able to go to a gala.”
The Creative Arts Emmys will be back at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles’ L.A. Live complex, where the Primetime Emmys will be held the following week, on Sept. 12. The Microsoft’s usual theater-style seating will instead be decked with 94 tables, each with a capacity for 12 people. (Others will still be accommodated with traditional seats in the back.)
“We wanted to create this kind of nightclub environment,” Bain says. “And they’re basically being positioned around satellite stages, so that it makes it easier to get to a stage, depending on where your table is.”
Presenters this year include: Monica Aldama and Morgan Simianer (“Cheer”), Skylar Astin (“So Help Me Todd,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”), W. Kamau Bell (“We Need to Talk About Cosby”), Christine Chiu and Kevin Kreider (“Bling Empire”), Cat Deeley (“So You Think You Can Dance”), Colman Domingo (“Euphoria,” “Fear the Walking Dead”), Marcia Gay Harden (“The Morning Show”), Chris Hardwick (“Talking Dead”), Jon Huertas (“This Is Us”), Jane Levy (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”), Ralph Macchio and William Zabka (“Cobra Kai”), Simone Missick (“All Rise,” “Iron Fist”), Niecy Nash (“The Rookie: Feds,” “Reno 911!”) and Randy Rainbow (“The Randy Rainbow Show”).
Also on tap: Judd Apatow (“George Carlin’s American Dream”); Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness (“Queer Eye”); Ashley Nicole Black (“Ted Lasso,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show”); Rachel Bloom (“Reboot,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”); Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka and Shangela (“We’re Here”); Jeanette “JJ” Branch (“The Rookie: Feds”); Ryan Broussard and James Caverly (“Only Murders in the Building”); Nicole Byer (“Nailed It!”); RuPaul Charles (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”); Cristo Fernández and James Lance (“Ted Lasso”); Mary Fitzgerald, Emma Hernan, Chelsea Lazkani and Chrishell Stause (“Selling Sunset”); Melissa Fumero (“Blockbuster,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”); Jon Gabrus and Adam Pally (“101 Places to Party Before You Die”); Chip and Joanna Gaines (“Fixer Upper: Welcome Home”); Edward James Olmos (“Mayans M.C.”); Bill Nye (“The End is Nye”); Coral Peña and Shantel VanSanten (“For All Mankind”); Sam Richardson (“Ted Lasso,” “The Afterparty”); Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin (“Sherman’s Showcase,” “South Side”); Angela Sarafyan (“Westworld”); and Jason and Randy Sklar (“The Nosebleeds”).
Once the second show is over on Sunday night, Bain’s work is far from over. After that, he and his team must take two nights’ worth of footage — more than four hours of awards — and condense it down into a two-hour recap, set to air Sept. 10 on FXX. The special must be delivered to the network by Thursday, just four days later.
“That means we are jammin’ from the moment that this show is done,” Bain says.
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