The MTV VMAs had the unenviable task of going first on August 30, and went for a virtual crowd on screens set-up with fake cheering, which while super-weird, at least provided some atmosphere.
The Emmys shocked everyone in September by opening with a packed maskless and non-social distanced crowd... before host Jimmy Kimmel revealed it was old footage in what was a tension-dowsing gag.
But on Wednesday night, the Billboards just went for it without the crowd altogether, and from the get-go it was hard for viewers to avoid cringing.
Even the ever-torrential energy of host Kelly Clarkson could not distract from the deafening silence that followed every sentence.
Instead of killing the tension straight away like Kimmel, Kelly didn't address the mute elephant in the room until after Nicole Richie had presented, Billie Eilish had accepted and Sia had performed — to a surreal zero reaction.
"So it is no secret that there is no audience here tonight, I think we gathered that earlier when I was like 'woooo!' and no one cheered with me," Kelly eventually lamented.
"So the producers and I were debating on whether or not we should have fake applause; makes me feel a little awkward, but I said the only way I would agree to it was if I could control it, 'cause I like control, so they gave me this."
Demonstrating her remote with canned laughter and applause on cue, she boasted it also had boos, for "basically any time the word Covid is mentioned, cause it sucks the life out of everything."
Case in point.
Uummmmm there is no audience at the Billboard Music Awards....this is kinda awkward 😳🤪 #BBMAS