Ask Marlena: Whatever Happened to the Marlena Awards?

cowardly lionBy Marlena De Lacroix

Hi everyone! I’m ecstatic to be snowed under with the many, many Ask Marlena questions submitted by all of you in the past week.  They are all intelligent and thoughtful and I am so flattered to hear from so many Thinking Fans I’ve gotten to know over the past year. I’m starting with just one great question today, and will try and answer many more in the days ahead. Plus, the letters have given me ideas for new features (see below). Feel free to submit more questions as soap events warrant.

Hey Marlena, I’ve been a fan of yours ever since the very first Critical Condition column in Soap Opera Weekly and I have a (hopefully) great question for the new column.  The month of March used to always mean two things to me:  the (blessed) return of warm weather, and the annual Marlena Awards.  Thankfully, the sun still shines, but questions like “Who was the best stand-alone actor of the year?” and “But who will win the always coveted Marlena Marlena?!” have sadly gone unanswered for years now.  So, my question for you is:  Whither the Marlenas?

Love always,
Brandon (your #1 fan!)

Thanks for remembering, Brandon, dearest darling.  I invented the Marlena Awards because I was so frustrated in the mid-late 90s by how out of the touch the Emmys were with the kind of soap opera I was watching every day.  The awards were also

The difference between the old Marlenas and the new Marlena Courage Under Fire Awards is that these new ones will be awarded, not just by moi, but by you Thinking Fans.

meant as a satire on how obsessed everyone was with their power to give out awards.  By then several other soap magazines were giving out awards that seemed more interested in saying  “look at me and my great taste” than in really honoring the winners.

I’ve grown over the years, and became more populist.  I no longer think that any one person (like me) has the right to give their own awards.  Awards are supposed to represent a consensus.

And look at how much the quality of soaps has degenerated since the late 90s!   Today I think the valor in daytime lies in the ability and versatility shown by soap actors who make bad scripts and illogical characters — and plots — come alive.  So I’m formulating the new Marlena Courage Under Fire awards, designed to recognize actors who have gone the extra mile and have been courageousJill Larson and inventive enough to meet the special challenges the deteriorating daytime world presents today.  In other words, let’s honor our favorites who are making some kind of dramatic sense of the improbable, the illogical, and the plain old uncomfortable plots and scripts they are handed.

For example, on All My Children, consider Jill Larson, whose Opal was always meant as comic relief to the late Jenny and Tad’s natural mom. Now, especiallyKim Zimmer with the death of Myrtle,Opal is the talk to of every young character on the canvas, whether she likes them or not! 

Likewise, although I am infamously not a Kim Zimmer fan, don’t you think she deserves special recognition for playing a 50-ish character who not only has cancer, but is pregnant?

And top soap star Tony Geary earns kudos, too, for having the grace and fortitude to play out 147 scenes in a row with an absolute soap character newcomer, Aussie Ethan Lovett, played by the nearly inaudible Nathan Parsons, to balance out weeks of Tony GearyFebruary scenes in which the hospital was afflicted with toxin gas and endless explosions and fires.

The difference between the old Marlenas and the new Marlena Courage Under Fire Awards is that these new ones will be awarded, not just by moi, but by you Thinking Fans. Since these awards will take a bit more brain work than merely picking people who are pretty, I invite all my Thinking Fans to make submissions from now until April 15th.  We’ll post all nominations right here.  So watch the shows and submit your picks to with “New Marlena Courage Under Fire Awards”  in the subject line.

And stay tuned for answers to more of your questions.


  1. New Marlena Courage Under Fire Awards – I love it! And ITA about Jill Larson. I was just watching the séance scene between Opal and Ryan (he of the bulging eyes and Angry Whisper) and I couldn’t help thinking Bless her heart for trying to make this stuff watchable, let alone believable.

  2. Love these awrds, and this idea! I would like to nominate OLTL’s Erika Slezak, as she continually helps to provide warmth and grounding to OLTL as Vikki, and in addition, has shown that she is able to stand up and express her opinion of writing and characterizations that were, shall we say, less than stellar. I love the fact that she knows her own character and the show itself so very well, and is not hesitant to stand up for both when she deems it necessary.

    Marlena says: Thanks Rebecca and great nomination. Marlena is proud to be a card-carrying member of the Erika Slezak Fan Club! What a pro she is!

  3. Terrific idea, Marlena! I’d like to nominate Darnell Williams from “AMC” and Hillary B. Smith from “OLTL,” a pair of blisteringly intelligent (and Emmy-winning!) actors whose formerly smart, witty characters have been robbed of no fewer than 40 IQ points (each!) in order to accommodate cliched, ridiculous storylines and plot points — Jesse’s logic-straining “secret family” of twenty years! Nora and Clint’s chemistry-less (and apparently sexless!) relationship — that are decidedly beneath their already proven talents and abilities. Any dramatist worth his salt would literally KILL to be able to write for actors like these, and the fact that they’re being so blatantly wasted on mindless tripe is as poignant and accurate an indication as any I can conjure about what is so hopelessly WRONG with this spiraling genre of television.

    Marlena says: Here, here! Where is a new storyline for Jesse and Angie on All My Children? Darnell and Debbi are doing nothing right now! And Brandon, I got such a laugh out of you nominating Hillary—years ago, right after Ms. Phelps became executive producer of OLTL I wrote a column called “The Thing That Stole Nora’s Brain” or something like that. Do you remember? It was when Nora, who had once been brilliant, purposely slept with Sam Rappoport (Kale Browne, a FOJ) so she could conceive a child that she and her husband Bo could somehow not conceive. That child of course was Matthew (who later turned out to be Bo’s) but it broke up her marriage to Bo and she may have also married Sam (does anyone remember?). Anyway, what intelligent woman would do that?

  4. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    My nomination for the Courage Under Fire Awards is General Hospital’s Kimberly McCoullagh who as Robin plays probrably the only character on the show that has any sense of realism attached to her. Though the character isn’t what it once was (as written in the 90’s) she still is able to convey the pain of AIDS in a realistic and truthful manner. She also rises above bad writing to make every scene she’s in worth watching.

  5. Great nominations! The current state of AMC hurts my heart, because I would love to be able to be happy about how much airtime Opal gets now. I can’t, because I’m always afraid she’s about to be killed.

    For Courage Under Fire, I will nominate Maura West, for somehow making the most heinous, poorly told, character-destroying plotlines salvageable, or trying to anyway. I stopped being a Carly fan a long time ago but I still empathize with Maura for the damage ATWT has done to her character, and how she still tries her best to make the character palatable.

    Marlena says: I’m a late convert to Maura West. It took me years to recognize the worth of her work, basically because Carly did the same old same old story time after time. I think I didn’t notice how good she was, because she did those stories so well. But I certainly do now. Anyone who can play so effectively against that wooden, wooden Jon Hensley (as Holden) last summer in that absurd I-wanna-sleep-with-my-best-friend’s-husband-in-a-cabin-at-our-kids-summer-camp-storyline …

  6. Oh man. I’ll fight Brandon over the title of ‘Your #1 Fan,” but let me give him a Courage Under Fire award for giving us the Marlena Awards back. I loved these.

    Second nominee, us fans. You’re right, the soaps have denigrated to the point it’s difficult to watch any one soap steadily. You go in and out, jumping among them as another one hits its stride if you happen to have more than one fave. Otherwise you just kind of wait until the writers get it together and read the recaps at soapcentral or soapoperadigest.

    Third nominees, our wonderful soap vets who can act but have to put up with the denigration in soap writing and increased hiring of cute not capable actors – (sorry I have to leave Zimmer off this list) like Ray McDonald, David Canary, Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser, Bob Woods, Hillary Smith, Jerry Van Dorn, Stuart Damon, Leslie Charleson, Jeanne Cooper, Peter Bergman, Christian LeBlanc, Tony Geary, Scott Holmes, Ellen Dolan, Elizabeth Hubbard, Maura West, Ron Raines, … I’m sure I left some off but no, I didn’t forget Days of our Lives. That was deliberate.

    Wow, I was having a really bad week between migraines and giving up ‘Y and R’ ONCE AGAIN. Permanently. ONCE AGAIN. lol. As usual, your column has lifted my spirits. Thanks Marlena.


    Marlena says: Renee, you never fail to cheer me up, too! Have you seen your doctor about the migraines? I don’t mean to sound like a commerical but there are medications that really help. (I had awful migriaines when my elderly parents were ill.)

    And your long list of nominees is terrific. LOL about Days, but there are many people who are still Days fans. As for me, no Days stars were as great or as overwhelmingly popular as Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes back in the 70s. (“The look of love….” What a profound and sexy love story for Doug and Julie! They were on the cover of Time Magazine!) Not only did the Hayes get screwed out of their superstar jobs in the early 80s, but they’ve been brought back time every once in a while … to be the show’s silly comic relief, most likely at bargain basement rates. To me, Bill and Susan have always shown true Courage Under Fire! Wonder how they felt when Deidre got the axe recently …

    I leaving the period of nominations for the Marlena Courage Under Fire Awards open to all until April 15th. Please contribute!

  7. Melanie says:

    Hmmm…speaking of DAYS, which is truly painful to watch now…

    I’d like to nominate Suzanne Rogers (Maggie, DAYS). She’s essentially become the “talk to” person for the young adults on the show — and that alone should qualify her for some sort of Medal of Honor. SR always brings depth and warmth to her scenes (regardless of the terrible dialogue, or silliness of the situation) and makes the most vapid “newbies” *almost* bearable. She’s a real class act and a pro, and rises above the crud that is DAYS.

  8. antmunoz says:

    I’d like to nominate Crystal Chappell (Olivia, GL) for being absolutely fearless in the way she has portrayed her character for a decade now. Chappell is not afraid to be unsympathetic, and just when you absolutely HATE her (as many GL fans do), she (and Olivia) does something that makes it impossible for you to NOT care for her, warped reasoning and all.

    Olivia started out as Prince Richard’s afterthought of a fiancee, but even though she lost the guy, she’d saved his son, Jonathan, years earlier by giving him to her sister to raise. Her turning up in Springfield afterwards made no sense, but choosing to pick up Josh after Reva discarded him yet again did. I liked her with Josh (and still would), but her lust for power propelled her towards Alan; later, lust alone would cause her to fall for Phillip.

    Olivia was rapidly losing my sympathy, especially when she claimed her unborn child had died, which drove Phillip bonkers. (But what choice did she have, with Phillip’s demon-spawn Lizzie trying to make her fall down entire flights of stairs?) But when Olivia turned up at Phillip’s mental institution with a small Christmas tree for Phillip and left it outside the door because she couldn’t bear to go inside, my heart broke for her just a little.

    When Phillip kidnapped little Emma, Olivia went back on the warpath, and it took her several years to calm down. Bland romances with Frank, who didn’t “get” her, and Buzz, who did, but still couldn’t tame her, didn’t take her edge off. Previously being abandoned by Bill, who’d committed to her and her daughter, didn’t help. And learning that Jeffrey was her date-rapist and father of her first child took Olivia to new heights of righteous wrath. (Chappell did the best she could with a story that seemed to want to make Olivia just as responsible as Jeffrey for what had begun as a rape.)

    Again, Olivia veered toward unforgivable. She tried to have her rival, Ava, killed…until she learned that Ava was her daughter by Jeffrey. Again, you felt for Chappell…even though her character had just, inexplicably, ordered another’s murder! (Usually Alan’s territory…) Olivia’s next heinous act, to immediately break up Gus and Natalia (who had just broken up Gus and Harley herself), started to test my resolve. Gus died, and a dying Natalia got his heart…but only literally. Figuratively, she still didn’t display much of one, and treated Natalia like her personal doormat for months.

    Natalia, either a saint, an angel, or a complete idiot, continued to do onto Olivia despite how Olivia did unto Natalia. This unconditional love has slowly, miraculously changed Olivia, something the love given her by all of the men in her life has failed to do. Despite the audience being told that this was NOT a lesbian love story, Chappell has played it with MUCH subtext. She’s been willing to go for it, no matter what, from the beginning, even though she must know that her corporate sponsors have not been 100% behind the gay pairing on her sister soap. Realistically, had (and it still could) this story bombed, it could have meant the end of Olivia.

    But that hasn’t stopped Chappell. She’s given her all, and more. She has raised the ball for the previously very green Jessica Leccia (Natalia), who is also bringing it to the screen. Chappell, as she’s mentioned in recent interviews, is committed to giving us a “love story,” whether romance or sex or anything physical ever comes into play. She’s obviously comfortable with taking it all the way, although the storyline may not go there. And that makes her fearless to me, especially in a time when I think most actresses of a certain age, in this economy, on an extremely struggling soap, would play it safe. Crystal Chappell is taking no prisoners–except the viewers who are more than willing to do time, one hour a day, watching her unfold more layers from her spellbinding Olivia Spencer.

  9. I have no suggestions, as I’ve pretty much given up watching all shows. I wish I could watch, as I love the genre…at least what it was…

    THANK YOU for your comment about Kim Zimmer. I’ve always thought that she is the most overrated actress on Daytime.

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