Like the quiet before disaster strikes, there was a strange moment of clarity about one-third of the way through Sunday night’s 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards. Host Jimmy Kimmel had just announced “Last Week Tonight” as the winner of Outstanding Variety Talk Series, and John Oliver was waiting to receive his trophy. For this particular bit, boxes had been shipped to each nominee, with only the winning candidate’s glossy black receptacle actually containing the coveted trophy. The rest were empty, which added an odd degree of suspense and trepidation to Oliver’s acceptance.
There he was — a winner in the category for the fifth year running, a veteran of awards shows of all forms — cowering in not-quite-anticipation, wondering if the box was actually going to open, and whether there would actually be an Emmy statue inside.
Going into the “Pandemmys,” no one really knew what to expect.