This year’s Emmys did a bit better in the ratings than the one before. Perhaps that had to do with it mostly being an in-person affair again, with only a few (like The Crown winner Olivia Colman) beaming in from elsewhere. (And no one accepted an award in their basement in a kimono this time.) But it didn’t all go off swimmingly. One of the breakout moments came early on, when presenter Seth Rogen ranted against the show for being indoors, in a “hermetically sealed tent” with a roof.
Now we know two things: a) Rogen went off-script, and b) the show’s producers were pissed. Ian Stewart and Reginald Hudlin gave an exit interview with Variety, and they went off about the ad-libbed screed.
“We have worked for months and months to make that a safe space,” Stewart said. “We’ve worked with all the health authorities. We were signed off by LA County, we came up with a plan with them. Those tables were distanced. Everyone was vaccinated. Everyone was negative tested in that audience. And also he had rehearsed. So he knew exactly what it was. So, I just felt it was an unfortunate misdirect from him. Because it wasn’t just our decision. This is the health authorities’ decision as well, to say that it’s a completely safe environment if you do all those things.”
They tried to put out the fire by asking host Cedric the Entertainer and DJ Reggie Watts to point out all the safety protocols they put in place. But the damage was already done.
“It made three months of very hard work and many, many discussions to get it absolutely right feel a little bit wasted, really,” Stewart says. “And then we just sort of played catch up. Because we wanted the audience to know how safe it was in there. We work in this industry, we’re desperately aware of COVID. I’ve done 50 productions nearly in COVID and no have people get sick. So, it’s deeply frustrating.”
Rogen wasn’t the only one who enraged Stewart and Hudlin. The Queen’s Gambit writer/director/co-creator Scott Frank’s four-minute-plus speech also drew their ire. As Stewart put it:
“It’s a simple equation. These people are professionals. They understand what’s going on, it’s their industry. It’s not a sports awards. So they know what they are doing and the simple fact is, they know there’s only a finite amount of time. I’d love them to be able to speak for half an hour if they wanted to. But we don’t have that time. So it’s a simple equation. If you think that you have to speak for four or five minutes, that means somebody else can’t. It’s just incredibly disrespectful to your fellow nominees.”
One smaller headache: The show ran so long — almost three-and-a-half hours — that they wound up cutting a pre-taped bit that included Bernie Sanders. But there were lots of things that, to them, went well. They had nothing but praise for Conan O’Brien randomly heckling TV Academy CEO Frank Scherma as he tried to give a speech, though they did struggle to get a shot of the late night legend as he loudly shouted. “I love those moments, that’s what we love as producers,” Stewart said. “When those things happen that you didn’t know was going to happen. And you know he was only doing it in good humor.”
Oh, and Rita Wilson rapping, which puzzled a lot of viewers? That was Hudlin’s idea.