Deep Soap: Recount?

This is a week of unexpected results. I should have seen it coming Wednesday night, when Kris Allen beat out Danny Gokey on American Idol. For weeks I’d hoped that America would put the go in Gokey. But after weeks of the show and the media telling me that the Gokey/Lambert finale was a done deal, I was stunned when justice prevailed.

But that debunking of conventional wisdom was nothing compared to the surprise of the 2008 daytime Emmy nominations. These Emmys have been cursed from the day CBS decided not to air them. The best show category has been dominated by The Young & The Restless and General Hospital. This year, neither show made the ballot. There are only three nominees this year, which seems like some sort of clerical error, since there are five nominees in almost every other category. They are The Bold & The Beautiful (understandable when you factor in the show’s excellent production values), All My Children (huh?) and Days of Our Lives (what the hell?) For the first time since 1990, Y&R was not nominated. DOOL’s nomination was its first in a decade. (The show won once, in 1978.) One Life To Live, which had numerous brilliant moments in 2008 was also ignored. I am stunned. My initial reaction was that the Daytime Emmys have lost what little credibility they have left. Then I took a deep breath, and started thinking about how the unexpected occurred.

These awards are for material that aired in 2008. That is an eternity in soap time. Last year, Guiding Light was unwatchable. Y&R focused on the interminable Victor-Sabrina romance for the first half of the year. It was also a year that was significantly impacted by the writers’ strike. Though it was settled in February, the fi-core and scab written shows aired well into the spring. When the headwriters returned most shows went through a bumpy transition. In some cases, there was lingering bad blood behind the scenes which could have impacted some individuals’ votes.

The best show category has always been problematic. The only thing worse than the old system of selecting a winner based on two episodes is the new one of selecting a winner based on one episode using a single round of voting to determine both nominees and the winner. Unless the voters decide to go rogue and vote on the year as the whole, none of the elements that make a soap great are judged. It’s impossible to evaluate longterm storytelling and day-to-day quality from a single episode. In an interview Brad Bell said he submitted the outstanding B&B episodes where Storm killed himself so Katie could have his heart. (Due to an arcane rule half-hour shows can submit two consecutive episodes so their submission is the same length as the hour long shows.) B&B has never won in this category, and this may be its year.

DOOL submitted the expertly directed and produced plane crash episode. I suspect former Executive Producer Ed Scott is quite pleased that his work was recognized by the Academy. That episode was fairly self-contained, a traditional recipe for Emmy success. It bore little resemblance to the typical 2008 DOOL episode.

AMC apparently submitted one of the tornado episodes, which may have had enough shock and awe to impress voters. Some people liked the CSI. Personally, I think the episode where Jesse and Angie saw each other for the first time would have been a stronger choice, but there was plenty of drama and excitement.

Y&R submitted one of the episodes from the Paris location shoot. Other shows have stumbled in the past by picking shows that they spent a lot of money on that weren’t especially dramatic. That could have been what happened here. It is quite possible that it just missed being nominated. The academy did not explain why only three shows were selected this year.

GH’s omission undoubtedly made numerous disgruntled viewers happy. The show is known for blowing its budget on short term sweeps stunts, then using those episodes to win Emmys. It has won five of the past ten years, including last year. 2008 was a terrible year for the show. Even the stunts fell flat. I am glad that the show wasn’t no0minated in this category.

GH was, however, nominated for best writing. I am of two minds about this. The show’s longterm storytelling is abysmal. But the dialogue is excellent. Since, like all the other categories, it’s truly an award for an individual episode, I can’t fault the voters for including it. At least OLTL was recognized here. Y&R was not recognized in this category either. I’m surprised because I think a lot of shows from the final quarter of 2008 deserved to make the cut.

The acting categories, to me, were the usual mixed back of tricks. There are always going to be some talented performers who aren’t nominated. Fortunately, there were not any truly egregious actors who were. There were a refreshing number of first time nominees. I’m tired of seeing the same people nominated year after year whether they had the material to merit it or not. Some actors chose to enter themselves in the wrong categories. Alicia Minshew is unquestionably one of AMC’s lead actresses, while Susan Haskell’s Marty is written like more of a supporting character. Peter Reckell acknowledged that Bo rarely has storylines anymore, yet he was nominated as a lead. Traditionally, lead and supporting were code words for “highly paid veterans” and “b-list/newbies.” I was glad to see GL’s Daniel Cosgrove in the lead category because it shows that a relatively young actor can be nominated.

This is shaping up to be the strangest year in Emmy history. First there was the scramble to find a network to air it, then there was the decision to postpone the telecast until late August. I was surprised that Vanessa Williams signed on to host the show. She has nothing to do with either daytime or the CW, but she’s a major celebrity who stars on a soapy primetime show. She may do a great job. The telecast’s new production company is sending a representative to visit all the soaps. Perhaps this year’s Emmys could actually turn out to be a surprising, interesting awards show.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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