Seth Rogen was the first presenter of the Emmys, and he looked great. Rogen has had about as good a pandemic as a person can, just sitting at home, throwing pots and expanding his weed company to the US and releasing a best-selling essay collection. He’s also looking good these days, his long-time affability paying off with that glow, like a cute pumpkin spice latte in his orange and brown tux. But he got the night off to an interesting start, as he called out the location for not being very safe for a large gathering during COVID: “Let me start by saying there is way too many of us in this little room! […] They said this was outdoors—it’s not!”
The Emmys was held at LA Live, but instead of being inside at the Microsoft Theater, as they have been in recent years, they relocated to the event deck, a rooftop space that is open-air, but can be easily tented. The Television Academy opted for a tent, which defeats the purpose of moving to an open-air venue. And as Rogen pointed out, even with a reduced guest list, there were a lot of people in the tent, with no effort made to socially distance. There was a vaccine mandate in place, but the vaccine isn’t a silver bullet. Have we learned nothing in the last 18 months? Just don’t put up an enclosed tent, it’s that easy.
But that’s not the only production snafu of the night. Prior to the ceremony, the Television Academy responded to an ADA complaint letter that they were building an ADA-compliant ramp for the Emmys stage, and that it would be visible on camera. However, looking at the stage on the telecast, no such ramp is visible. The stage had two sections, so it’s possible the accessibility ramp was backstage serving the second, rear stage, but that defeats the purpose. The whole point was to have a visible ramp, a sign of greater inclusion and equity for people with disabilities working in the industry. James LeBrecht, co-director of Netflix’s Oscar-nominated documentary Crip Camp and and who sent the ADA letter, tweeted his disappointment with the lack of a visible ramp:
Well, the @TelevisionAcad and @CBS decided that it was better to continue to have a stage that excludes people with disabilities from seeing the possibility that they could get on that #Emmys stage. I was lied to. just knew I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up for true equity.— James LeBrecht (@JimLeBrecht) September 20, 2021
We’ve seen some disastrous award shows during the pandemic, and the Emmys were hardly that bad. But while the stage looked great on camera (per Lainey’s post), the issue with the ramp—which seems like a minor detail, but honestly, the film industry is awful regarding accessibility issues, so small signals like including a ramp can go a long way to raising the baseline for everyone—and the tent vs. open-air location point to ongoing production problems in the COVID era. Undoubtedly, tenting the event deck at LA Live eliminated some issues with, for instance, ambient sound, particularly helicopters, during the broadcast. (I was at an event at that venue in 2019 and ambient noise is a challenge.) But it also falls in line with the overall air of desperation that permeates everything, at least in America, to get back to business as usual.
No one wants to deal with the fact that we’re still in a pandemic, can we PLEASE just pretend it’s all back to normal? Finding a way to solve the ambient noise problem and utilize an open-air venue is too much being IN the problem, we want to be PAST the problem. And then the nonexistent or invisible-at-best ADA ramp reminds us that going back to “normal” just returns us to an inequitable world. Business as usual SUCKS. There’s no reason to go back to that.