Upsets, First-time Winners and No-Shows at Daytime Emmys

Soap great Anthony Geary accepting his Emmy Saturday night on HLN (Photo: Getty Images)

First-time winners and upsets dominated the 39th annual Daytime Emmy Awards.

As expected, “General Hospital,” which was nominated for 23 awards, won Outstanding Drama Series.

However, infrequent Emmy winner “Days of Our Lives” won the award for Outstanding Writing Team for the first time since 1976, in the biggest upset of the night.

After 22 nominations, “Live! With Regis and Kelly” won its first award for Outstanding Talk Show Entertainment.

Regis Phibin and Kelly Ripa also won for  Outstanding Talk Show Host, but neither was there to accept.

They were not the only absentee winners. Other no-shows included: Nancy Lee Grahn, who won Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role as Alexis on “General Hospital”; Dr. Oz, who again won the award for Outstanding Talk Show Informative; the on-air talent from NBC’s “Today” show, which won for Outstanding Morning Program; the recently fired headwriters of “Days of Our Lives”; and Kevin Clash, who won Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series for voicing “Sesame Street’s” Elmo.

There were plenty of surprise winners. A little known series chronicling an Arkansas drug court, “Last Shot with Judge Gunn,” won Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program, while Todd Newton, who hosts “Family Game Night” on fledgling cable network The Hub beat Wayne Brady and Meredith Viera to win Outstanding Game Show Host.

Other winners included “General Hospital’s” Tony Geary, who won the Outstanding Lead Actor award for the seventh time, and “The Bold & the Beautiful’s” Heather Tom, who won Outstanding Lead Actress, becoming the first performer to win in all three Daytime Emmy acting categories.

It says a lot about the state of the Daytime Emmys that a bare-bones awards show with a cheesy set and no host on a small cable network was a huge improvement from prior years.

This year’s telecast, which aired live nationwide on HLN, was, on the whole, a respectful tribute to daytime television.

Instead of the Las Vegas infomercial that aired in 2010 and 2011, the 2012 edition featured standard-issue award-show patter and reasonably long acceptance speeches.

For the first time in Daytime Emmys history, the show was allowed to go over its allotted airtime by seven minutes instead of abruptly cutting off after two hours.

The ceremony did have a few oddities. Awards were handed out in an illogical order. The awards for Outstanding Lead Actor and Lead Actress were given out before the award for Outstanding Younger Leading Actress. What was ostensibly a tribute to the canceled soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” came across like a tribute to Susan Lucci — given by Susan Lucci. An alligator, who was part of a staged bit with Jack Hanna, stole the show when it attempted to eat an Emmy award.

Here is a complete list of winners, annotated with their juiciest press room quotes:

Outstanding Actor – Tony Geary, “General Hospital”: Geary, who won the first award of the night, quipped in his acceptance speech that the soap was nearly canceled and replaced with a reality show about celebrity boob jobs. He won the award for a bleak storyline in which his character Luke drove drunk and accidentally killed his grandson. He had no concerns that his character came across as unsympathetic, saying, “I have been begging Bob and a couple other producers to explore Luke’s dark side. Bob came up with an amazing dark story. I love the audience, they have been very good to me, but I don’t work for them … They didn’t like Luke raping Laura, that’s how I started.”

Outstanding Game Show Host – Todd Newton “Family Game Night”: Newton gave an emotional speech, saying, “Being a game show host is all I ever wanted to do.” In the press room, he said that he loved being a part of a show that lets families watch together.

Outstanding Game Show – “Jeopardy!”: “Jeopardy!” Executive Producer Harry Friedman said, “The show we submitted was the one [where people competed] against the computer… It was something that came to us by way of IBM.” He credited the show’s writers with its continued success. “I think ‘Jeopardy!’ is relevant because we have these guys and gals… They’re every good at taking the pulse of the [audience] and turning it into something relevant.”

Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program – “Last Shot with Judge Gunn”: The unusual program focuses on a drug court, which allows addicts to avoid prison if they successfully complete a rehabilitation program. Said Judge Gunn, “Our [show] is about people who are either going to the pen or going to drug court… These people are brave and courageous.” Gunn hopes that her program will educate America about the lifesaving work of drug courts.

Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team – “Days of Our Lives”: Associate headwriter Rick Draughon, who accepted on behalf of the team, thanked NBC for continuing to support the low-rated soap. He said of the show’s recent decision to replace Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas Jr., who were responsible for the show’s first win in this category in over 20 years, “The show is like GM. Everybody is talented in their own way.”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series – Jonathan Jackson, “General Hospital”: Jackson, who started on “GH” as a child and will star in the new series “Nashville” on ABC this fall, summed up how the show has impacted him. “I came in as an 11 year-old-kid and [Geary] never treated me like a kid. … The same with Genie Francis. They’re both with me in every scene that I do.” He said of his Emmy-winning episode, “We really pushed ourselves as much as possible in 2011. I ended up going with the episode that was just Tony and I talking in a room. I spent a lot of time in his dressing room just digging and digging. It’s a gratitude for the time that I had with Tony.”

Outstanding Culinary Program – “Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction”: Flay said of his Emmy win, in which he beat other programs on the Food Network, “It’s bittersweet because everybody on the Food Network is my TV family.” He also joked that he will never act again after guest-starring on “Entourage,” saying, “I actually killed that show.”

Outstanding Younger Leading Actor – Chandler Massey “Days of Our Lives”: Massey, who played a closeted teen, joked, “I’m going to Disneyland after this.” He revealed his secret for choosing an Emmy reel. “I chose that episode because I asked my Mom what her favorite episode was. It was scenes with Will and Marlena sorting through why his relationship with Gabi didn’t work … It was not really dramatic, but I like that stuff where it’s a heart-to-heart [conversation].” He said of his groundbreaking storyline, “It’s an honor to be just a small splash on the canvas. I’m honored to be part of the [show’s] first gay storyline.”

Outstanding Lead Actress Actress – Heather Tom, “The Bold & the Beautiful”: Tom, the first performer to win in the Younger, Supporting and Lead categories, mused, “It’s kind of crazy that I’ve been doing this long enough to actually have a shot at that.” She said of her decision to move from the supporting to the lead category, “I felt like I had a story that warranted a lead actress try. I felt like I’ve been doing this for 22 years, so why not?”

Outstanding Talk Show, Entertainment – “Live! With Regis and Kelly:” Said the producer who accepted the award,”We submitted Regis’s last show … It highlighted not that one day, but years and years of terrific performances … Regis had a great run on our show. He was 80 years-old … He said to me he didn’t really want to keep doing this five days a week.”

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series – Nancy Lee Grahn, “General Hospital”: Grahn, who did not attend the ceremony due to a scheduling conflict, tweeted her acceptance speech: “OH MY FRIGGIN GOD … I had arranged for Tony Geary to accept the award. I’m sad that didn’t happen.”

Outstanding Drama Series Directing Team – “General Hospital:” Said director Bill Ludel in the show’s acceptance speech, “As a team we’ve shot 5,000 out of the 10,000 shows of ‘General Hospital.’ Our goal is to shoot at least another 5,000.”

Outstanding Younger Actress In A Drama Series – Christel Khalil, “The Young and the Restless”: Khalil was the most outspoken winner, admitting in the press room, “I’ve had a little too much champagne. I probably shouldn’t be up here.” She said of her Emmy-winning episode, “When I did that scene even when they said cut, I stayed in Daniel’s arms because I couldn’t stop crying.” Khalil said of her character Lily, “Lily is just a doormat … She has daddy issues.” Khalil spoke candidly of the recent addition of actors from “All My Children” to the show’s cast: “The only [bad] thing is that means less stories for us.” Khalil added that her ex-husband was taking care of her child for the evening, “for once,” and joked that instead of celebrating her win with a trip to Disneyland, she was headed to the bar.

Outstanding Drama Series – “General Hospital”: Jill Farren Phelps, who was replaced as the show’s executive producer at the end of 2011, said in her acceptance speech, “From the first floor to the fifth floor and all the incredibly talented people in between, this award goes to you …  Someone told me that the best stories are the ones that never end. From the old guard to the new guard…”

And the rest: Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host: Sandra Lee; Outstanding Animated Children’s Program: “Penguins of Madagascar”; Best Viral Video: “Kids React”; Outstanding New Approaches In Daytime Entertainment: “Take This Lollipop”.

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