For another view of the Daytime Emmys, read the post following this one by Marlena’s longtime friend and colleague Ed Martin. A veteran TV industry journalist and analyst, Ed is a columnist for JackMyers.com.
By Marlena De Lacroix
From out of a dying soap industry, from out of a cable network I never watch, last night arrived the most unexpected shock of my decades-long soap watching/journalism life: a Daytime Emmys that was pretty good. Who know that after most of us gave up the fight and moved on to other lives that daytime would finally get what we (the actors, the press, and hopefully the fans) had fought for forever: a Daytime Emmys that wasn’t condescending to daytime soaps!
Hooray! No soaps-are-stupid jokes! It’s taken the always awkward Daytime Emmys since 1974 — the year they were first broadcast by themselves — not to make fun of what they’re celebrating. Even though this year’s ceremony was on
Best of all, without the traditional sneering and disrespect for soaps, many moments of actual warmth emerged. It’s called professional showmanship with heart, and the producers of the Emmys this year have it! Yes, yes — emotion — that’s what daytime soaps are all about. And used to be about.
such a small scale, it grew large because it finally treated soaps with dignity. They are not, as most people in the world think, and we soap fans know in our hearts — a punch line!
Unlike in past years, the host wasn’t sleazy or smarmy (like Bob Barker) or totally miscast (as Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott unintentionally were the year they hosted.) Vanessa Williams, who has no ties to daytime save for starring in a night time “soap” Ugly Betty, was perfectly fine as host. She’s gorgeous; she can act, sing, dance, and she has authority! The show moved fairly well, with its only failings minor mechanical ones. The Guiding Light tribute was cut off. The Bold & Beautiful best soap winners were denied a speech. Problems like these are inevitable and forgivable in a live awards show struggling to stay on schedule. Well, certainly not for B&B fans who waited 22 years for this night!
Best of all, without the traditional sneering and disrespect for soaps, many moments of actual warmth emerged. I laughed when I heard that the Emmy people were sending Tony Geary, Susan Lucci, Kelly Monaco and Montel Williams to Africa to visit starving children served by the Feed the Children charity. What showboating, I thought, what a bunch of showbiz phonies. Well, how wrong was I? The tape shown on the Emmy broadcast of Tony Geary and Susan Lucci both so poignantly crying over those kids will stay with soap fans like me long, long after anything we’ve seen on soaps this year, or for the last 15 for that matter!
It’s called professional showmanship with heart, and the producers of the Emmys this year have it! Yes, yes — emotion — that’s what daytime soaps are all about. And used to be about. Oh, well. If you quit watching soaps years ago (before they became so plot-centric and went round the bend in the 90s) and watched just this one Emmy show last night, you might not even know that … yes … soaps are dying. That’s a huge achievement for the CW and a new executive producer I never met named David McKenzie. A moment of real … theater.
But enough Marlena gush! Okay, I guess I could have thrown water on all of the above by mentioning the only award that I thought was totally inappropriate — and disgusting: Best Writing to Bob Guza and company at General Hospital. How could they? That sexist, misogynist, twisted ugly show! Worse, during the Emmy show, ABC chose to advertise GH‘s upcoming story, something malevolent with an evil fortune teller that starts at a carnival in Port Charles. Wasn’t a carnival (complete with a malevolent fortune teller named Tabitha?) exactly the way Passions premiered in 1999? (Guza and the late Jim Reilly were friends.)
Except for that sour note of ugliness, there were many sweet moments to enjoy. I loved Vincent Irizarry‘s graceful speech when he won Best Supporting Actor (in a tie with Guiding Light‘s Jeff Branson) thanking his soldier son in Afghanistan and everyone on all the four shows he’s been on. I remember interviewing him when he first exploded onto GL as Lujack. He was fresh from Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island and still living in the back room of the 13 St. Theater then! We then-young hotheads (both Italian-Americans) actually had words over Italian stereotyping on TV. That was so long ago! Over the years, Vincent’s gone from overnight GL sensation to someone who, by his talent, soap experience and sheer exertion, greatly helps to save the sorry mess that is Chuck Pratt‘s miserably written All My Children now. He’s the kind of seasoned, skilled actor who saves mostly dreadful soap watching for me now.
There were many other good awards and speeches I could mention here. But there’s someone who didn’t win an award I’d like to mention because she exemplified the rare class of this year’s presentation. Yes, still serenely smiling, still looking absolutely gorgeous (dressed in white décolletage like a miniature Gina Lollobrigida) at age 62, Susan Lucci still reigned over the entire broadcast. She whose personal graciousness piloted so many awful years of the Daytime Emmys (her 18 unsuccessful nominations publicized the Emmys until she finally won Best Actress in 1999) was still here last night in all her radiance. In a fashion segments, in going to Africa, in presenting awards, Susan was still showcased by the savvy producers as exactly who she is.
A few weeks ago someone reported in a story about AMC moving to the West Coast that the network didn’t regard her as the star of the show and the one they were worried about relocating was Thorsten Kaye. In a pig’s eye, as we Italian-American kids used to say in Queens. In her beaming, charismatic presence, Susan Lucci is still the most famous and classiest performer in soap opera history — and the forever Queen of a now much improved Daytime Emmys.