Can the Daytime Emmys save ‘All My Children’?

As reports swirl that ABC is about to cancel daytime programming staple “All My Children,” one wonders whether it could be saved from the chopping block by the Daytime Emmys. The series has contended for Best Drama Series 22 times over the 37-year history of the Daytime Emmys, including last year. However, it has only won three of those races — 1992, 1994 and 1998. It reaped nominations every year from 1976 to 1982 and then again from 1984 to 2002. Since then, it has managed just three more bids in 2005, 2009 and 2010.

Even more startling than the lack of Emmy love for the show is the paucity of prizes for the performers on this one-time ratings powerhouse. It can boast of just two Best Actress wins — Dorothy Lyman as Opal Gardner in 1983 and Susan Lucci, who finally prevailed on nod 19 for Erica Kane in 1999. One year prior to establishment of the Daytime Emmys in 1974, Mary Fickett did receive a primetime Emmy for her work on the show.

Only two of the “AMC” leading men have won Best Actor. Darnell Williams won in 1985 as street-wise Jesse Hubbard, one-half of the first African-American supercouple on daytime. And David Canary racked up an impressive five wins for his dual roles as Adam and Stuart Chandler: 1986, 1988, 1989, 1993 and 2001.

Since the Supporting Actor category was introduced in 1979, “AMC” featured men have won this award five times beginning with Warren Burton (Eddie Dorrance) in 1980. Williams won in 1983 and then there was a drought until 2001 when long-time cast member Michael E. Knight prevailed for his performance as Tad Martin. Josh Duhamel won the following year for final season as Leo Du Pres. Most recently Vincent Irrizarry (David Hayward) won in 2009.

“AMC” supporting women have claimed that prize only seven times. Francesca James (Kelly Cole Tyler) won in 1980 followed by Dorothy Lyman (Opal Gardner) in 1982. There were four in a row beginning with Kathleen Noone (Ellen Dalton) 1987, then Ellen Wheeler (Cindy Parker) in 1988, Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard ) in 1989 as (tied with Nancy Grahn of “Santa Barbara”), and the first of two wins for Julia Barr (Brooke English) in 1990. Barr won again in 1998, the last “AMC” featured female to do so.

Despite being dubbed “All My Children,” the series has fared surprisingly poorly in the youth-oriented categories. Knight won Younger Actor in 1986 and 1987 and there have been three Younger Actress champs — Cady McClain (Dixie Cooney) in 1990, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Kendall Hart) in 1995 and Eden Riegel (Bianca Montgomery) in 2005.

“AMC” has suffered from inconsistent writing in recent years. A revolving door on the writers room has meant dramatically different tones to the show, with histories altered and characters fluctuating in tone and tenor. Megan McTavish served as head writer for three different periods: 1992-1995, 1997-1999 and 2003-2007. Her first two stints were well-received. The 1994 season saw a tornado sweep through Pine Valley, throwing the characters into disarray and this marked the first win for Best Daytime Drama. And McTavish was also at the helm for the second series win in 1998 and Lucci’s 1999 victory. She was aided by two strong executive producers — Felicia Meini Behr (1989-1996) and Francesca James (1996-1998).

However, when she was paired with Julie Hannan Carruthers (2003-present), the show suffered. For example, the once-riveting baby switch story went on too long and had an illogical climax. She killed off popular characters like Dixie Cooney Martin (Cady McClain) in ludicrous ways — poisoned pancakes no less. And shew rewrote history, most tellingly when Erica Kane (Lucci) discovers that her 1973 abortion never happened. Rather, it seems the doctor implanted the fetus in his wife and years later their son Josh shows up in Pine Valley and unknowingly ends up working for his birth mother. He was an underwritten character played by two actors — Scott Kinworthy and Colin Eggelsfield — from 2005 to 2008. Instead, McTavish lavished attention on the triangle between Greenlee Smythe (Rebecca Budig), Ryan Lavery (Cameron Mathison) and Kendall Hart (Alicia Minshew) at the expense of long-runnning characters like Brooke English (Julia Barr), Opal Gardner (Jill Larson) and Tad Martin (Michael E. Knight).    

ABC recently confirmed that they have re-hired one of the show’s most respected head-writers Lorraine Broderick. She was co-head scribe for two years beginning in 1986 and then soloed in the job until 1989. After being demoted, she left “AMC” in 1991 to be head writer for “Guiding Light” returning to “AMC” as head honcho in 1995 for another three years. Under her leadership, “AMC” racked up three consecutive writing Emmy bids. In 1996, she actually defeated herself, when “AMC” beat the writing team of “Another World.” Since 1998, Broderick has worked on “As the World Turns”, “Days Of Our Lives” and “Port Charles’, coming back to “AMC” for a brief stint from November 2009-March 2010. Known for her character-driven stories and her ability to mine the rich history of a show, Broderick is the perfect person to revitalize “All My Children.”

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