The Daytime Emmy Awards telecast fought for its life this year. That could be felt during a scattershot, but thankfully stripped down event that could not have been more different from the last two years, and for that we must breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The Daytime Emmys, which serve programs whose ratings continue to dwindle, and which – particularly the soap operas – have been sent to the chopping block one by one, struggled even to find networks willing to air it.
It landed on the CW in 2009, and in 2010 and 2011 it returned to one of the Big Three networks (CBS), but at the price of gratuitous Las Vegas tourism promotions so irrelevant to daytime television that it appalled those who still cared about the industry. “The Young and the Restless” veteran actor Peter Bergman described the most recent show as a “vulgar, Vegas nightmare.” Said “General Hospital” star Nancy Lee Grahn, “It’s gotten to the point where even the nominees don’t care.” Grahn won Best Supporting Actress this year, her first Emmy since 1989, but she was not on hand to accept.
In contrast, this year’s telecast, broadcast on cable outlet HLN, had a shabby quality to it. Held at the Beverly Hilton, home of the Golden Globes, its scale was much smaller, its presentation more modest, with presenters who seemed barely to have rehearsed. But at least it can be said that the Daytime Emmys bought back their soul from the Las Vegas tourism board; refreshingly, the 2012 Daytime Emmys were about the Daytime Emmys.
The cramped two-hour show evidenced an organization in flux. After last year’s cancellations of “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” only four soap operas remain on the air: “Y&R,” “GH,” “Days of Our Lives,” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” In response to the decline of daytime dramas, the TV Academy introduced a broader range of categories to the telecast, including children’s shows, courtroom shows, and morning shows, whose awards had been presented at the Creative Arts Awards in years past.
This was good news in that it demonstrated an industry willing to adapt. It was also problematic: with so many categories covering such a broad range of content, no one really got the attention they deserved. No clips were shown of the nominated programs or performances, a crucial error made far too often at awards telecasts. If the hope is to promote the industry you’re honoring, aren’t you better served by showing the viewing audience examples of that industry
This was especially problematic when presenting categories whose nominees are less familiar to audiences. New Approaches in Daytime Entertainment was won by a web program called “Take This Lollipop.” What, you might be asking, is “Take This Lollipop”? I couldn’t tell you, because the Daytime Emmys didn’t tell me.
But that wasn’t nearly as bad as the short shrift given to the canceled soaps. Of the six soaps in contention for awards, “AMC” and “OLTL” were the only two that didn’t win any, but worse was a tribute segment that consisted only of “AMC’s” Cameron Mathison and Susan Lucci and “OLTL’s” Erika Slezak exchanging awkward banter about how thankful they were for their long-running shows, which sounded a bit like prisoners saying “Thank you” at the gallows. No footage was shown of either series. Lip service was barely paid to their history. The shows, their fans, and the stars who appeared to represent them deserved better.
These problems could have been solved by better time-management. Cutting down on unnecessary chatter by presenters would have helped; we heard the usual platitudes about how admirable the nominees are and how diverse their shows are, and how great an honor it is to be nominated, and so on.
We could also have done without the award for Best Viral Video Series, which was not an Emmy at all but a special award voted on by users of AOL.com. The nominees seemed mostly unrelated to daytime television, from what little we learned about them – the winner, “Kids React,” is as much a mystery to me now as it was before the show – and the award itself was redundant, presented right before the similarly web-themed New Approaches category.
Of the on-stage moments, one of the best came from the first winner of the night, Best Actor honoree Anthony Geary (“GH”), who joked pointedly about how his show was nearly canceled to make room for “Celebrity Boob Jobs Gone Wrong.” The worst moment came from presenters Jack Hanna and Debbie Gibson, who attempted to present two awards alongside a menagerie of animals. Struggling to read the teleprompter with a marmoset perched on her shoulder, Gibson lamented, “Who cares what I’m saying right now!”
Best Children’s Series Performer winner Kevin Clash (Elmo from “Sesame Street”) wasn’t on hand to accept his award, so Hanna placed the trophy on the stage beside an alligator, which caused a momentary panic when the alligator almost bit into the Emmy.
At that moment, the Daytime Emmys were almost literally devoured by an on-stage gimmick. There’s a lesson to be learned from that. But it could have been worse. It could have been the Blue Man Group.