By Dom Serafini
The governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, should be nominated for three Emmys for his daily COVID-19 TV updates — a Daytime Emmy, a Primetime Emmy, and an International Emmy, considering that 59 million viewers from all over the world tuned in for the reports, which even became a regular feature on Sky News in the U.K. For their value, I’d also put Cuomo’s updates on a Cannes Lions Award nomination list for the best Public Service Announcement (PSA) category.
Cuomo’s worldwide audience included a good number of viewers who watched through digital media, with 4.7 million watchers on Facebook tuning in for this new brand of “must-see-TV.” For comparison, the highest rated U.S. TV program in 2020 was Sunday Night Football on NBC, which garnered 20.9 million viewers.
The Daytime Emmy nomination would be for his more than 110+ live half-hour morning broadcasts. The Primetime Emmy would be for his daily evening and nightly news clippings. And the International Emmy would be for his series’ popularity throughout the world.
The PSA award would be for promoting the use of facemasks. As the 62-year-old Cuomo repeated many times during his daily briefings, “You should wear a mask not to protect you, but to protect me. I protect you by wearing a facemask, and you protect me by also wearing a facemask.”
Indeed, the concept of wearing a facemask was not widely understood at first, as demonstrated during a national evening news telecast, when a young lady explained that she did not wear a mask because “I trust my immune system,” and the interviewer was unable to point out that the mask is not for her, but for others.
Cuomo began his 11:30 a.m. “Andrew Cuomo Show” as it was called on the East Coast, on March 2, 2020, and ended the “Coffee with Cuomo,” as it was called on the West Coast (where it aired at 8:30 a.m.), on June 19, after 96 straight days.
Here and there, some TV stations tried to skip the daily updates, which were officially called “press briefings,” but they quickly returned to the live coverage when their management realized that viewers moved to other stations in droves in order to get their daily dose of Cuomo’s bits of wisdom.
While the PSA award can be clearly categorized, plugging the Cuomo Show into the Emmys’ various categories is a bit trickier since each episode contained several different elements. Sure, they featured daily dramas — with the report on the number of deaths (which at one point reached 800 per day), the number of hospitalizations (with a peak of 30,000 in April), and the number of patients in Intensive Care Units (which reached 10,000 in April). But there were also humorous segments, especially when Cuomo video-connected with his younger brother Chris (an anchorman at CNN) for the sole purpose of teasing each other. “You know I’m our mother’s favorite son,” they would say to each other. There were even times when even their mother Matilda made video appearances from her residence in Florida, and they commiserated with each other about the difficulties brought about by the lockdown.
Other purely comedic moments included when Cuomo described his parents’ spaghetti-and-meatballs family meals, or his interactions with his three daughters (“I wish I had some control over them!”), all of whom spent the lockdown at his house, and who tended to criticize his “lack of communication skills.” There were also some bittersweet comments, like his closing lines during the Friday updates, “By the way, tomorrow is Saturday,” he would say, indicating how easy it was to lose all sense of time during the lockdown.
However, constants in every one of Cuomo’s briefings were: facts (“I bring you facts, not politics. The coronavirus is not Democratic or Republican,” he’d say); responsibility (“If things go wrong, blame me.”); science (“I’m not a doctor, so I consult with the world’s best experts.”); and outrage (“how dare [Senate majority leader Mitch] McConnell say that New York State shouldn’t benefit from Federal funds because it is a Democrat state when our State contributes to the Federal till more than it takes out!”).
In his final briefing, Cuomo reported that it “took 42 days to climb the mountain, and 69 days to get down,” and that on that day in New York State, which has a population of 19.5 million, 17 people had died from COVID-19 and 1,358 people were hospitalized, with 278 patients in the ICU. And, even though most of the State was on phase two out of the lockdown, he still reminded viewers, “Tomorrow is Saturday.”