Soap Operas Shine at the 39th Daytime Emmys
Talk show stars barely made a showing
HLN came in at the eleventh hour to broadcast the Daytime Emmy, but the annual gala was announced in late March. Apparently, the majority of the daytime talk show talent didn’t mark their calendars, including Outstanding Talk Show Hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa and Outstanding Morning Program anchors Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Kathie Lee Gifford, etal. On camera executive producer Michael Gelman picked up the first time award for “Live! With Regis and Kelly,” while behind the scenes players represented “Today” and “The Dr. Oz Show.”
Barbara Walters made the trip from New York to honor Lifetime Achievement winner Bill Geddie, but the co-hosts from their show, “The View,” didn’t make it out.
Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper, the cast of "The Doctors” and the West Coast hosts of “The Talk” represented the genre, along with Outstanding Culinary Program winner Bobby Flay. Those in attendance, however, didn’t bother walking the red carpet. Bethenny Frankel even left the show as soon as she had done her spiel in front of the cameras.
Debbie Gibson and Jack Hanna’s animals worked the stage during the children’s programing awards. Kevin Clash (Elmo, “Sesame Street”) wasn’t on hand to accept Outstanding Performer, so Hanna’s alligator tried to take a bite out it.
In contrast to the rest of the stars of daytime, soap stars from “Days of Our Lives,” “General Hospital,” “The Bold and the Beautiful,” “The Young and the Restless” and even canceled “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” came out in full force. Stars like John McCook ("The Bold and the Beautiful"), Supporting Actor winner Jonathan Jackson ("General Hospital"), Suzanne Rogers ("Days of Our Lives") and Melissa Claire Egan ("The Young and the Restless") worked the red carpet, toasted each other and even stopped to pose with fans on their way out.
With the number of soaps now down to four, there was a sense of community in the Beverly Hilton ballroom. The Golden Globes-like setup, with the familiar table seating, allowed for an event that was laid back and elegant, at the same time.
The show, too, was more reserved than the recent Las Vegas extravaganzas. Instead of seeming an advertisement for the city of sin, with flying circus acts and Blue Men, the night was all about daytime. Icons like Erika Slezak (“One Life to Live”), Susan Lucci (“All My Children”), Eric Braeden (“The Young and the Restless), Finola Hughes (“General Hospital”), Deidre Hall (“Days of Our Lives”) and Oscar the Grouch (“Sesame Street”) represented the history of daytime.
There was also an ongoing tribute to “One Life to Live” and “All My Children,” with former cast and crew talking history and Emmy. Lucci took the stage to honor her infamous character. As with the nominations, these nods would have benefited from a fun clip package.
The future of soap opera was also embraced and personified by the younger actor and actress nominees, who came out in sets to present the awards to the lead actor Anthony Geary (“General Hospital”) and actress Heather Tom (“The Bold and the Beautiful”).
In the face of the dwindling number of daytime dramas, the atmosphere was a positive one.
“People need to reinvest in these shows and stop saying their dying, because they’re not,” “One Life to Live” turned “General Hospital” executive producer Frank Valentini told MSN TV. “‘Dallas’ had 7 million viewers in the season premiere. People want romance. They want drama, adventure and intrigue. We need to concentrate a bit more on the job at hand and keep moving.
“It takes a lot of ingenuity and creative thinking,” Valentini added. “Just last week, we did a giant fire - There’s a little scoop! Nobody knows we did that. That was very exciting. There’s a lot of production value in the show now, and you have to figure out how do to it efficiently and in a way that’s going to be exciting for the audience.”
Amid the festivities, there were a few uncomfortable turns. With soaps fighting to survive, the 2011 season saw many shakeups. Two of the biggest awards of the night, Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team, went to teams whose key players have been replaced.
The head scribes who led “Days of Our Lives” to its first Outstanding Writing win in 20 years, Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, Jr, didn’t attend the show. Associate headwriter Rick Draughon, who accepted the award, thanked the current regime and didn’t even mention the ousted players.
When asked about the former headwriters, Draughon hedged by bringing the attention back to the team. “This show is like GM: It’s like a factory,” he said. “We’re always producing new material. Sometimes things work, sometimes things don’t. You just go with what you’ve got. We’ve got great writers. Everyone’s talented in their own way and we just keep it going.”
Jill Farren Phelps, who led “General Hospital” to the Outstanding Show win with ousted headwriter Bob Guza, also referenced the team effort. She was on-hand to accept and directed the acceptance speech to her replacement, Valentini, closing with a bit of advice.
“Somebody told me that the best stories are the ones that never end,” Phelps said. “So from the old guard to the new guard and to all of my friends, keep the magic going.”
In the wake of these wins, it’s natural to question the industries recent efforts to save shows by instituting massive behind the scenes overhauls. Daytime Emmy Awards, however, don’t equal ratings and for better or worse, ratings are what count.
“This year ahead is an incredibly important year for all of us to work together, the networks, the producers and the distributors in the room tonight, to maintain daytime drama,” “Days of Our Lives” executive producer Greg Meng told MSN TV. “Daytime drama is the only genre that has as many as four generations of women in a family watching – not together, but at the same time. We have a responsibility to keep the genre going.”