Last year, ABC's 44-year-old daytime drama "One Life to Live" and its 41-year-old sister show "All My Children" were simultaneously canceled by the network. While "All My Children" has received a farewell nomination for Best Drama Series at this year's Daytime Emmys, "OLTL" did not.
This slight is all the more significant as only six soaps were eligible for nominations and four were nominated. The two shows left out in the cold: "OLTL" and, surprisingly, three-time defending champ "The Bold and the Beautiful."
But this snub of "One Life to Live" did not come as a great surprise to anyone who has watched the Daytime Emmys closely for the last several years. It and fellow ABC dramas "General Hospital" and "All My Children" have all been on the air for longer than there have been Daytime Emmys to honor them. Since the Daytime Emmys began in 1974, "One Life to Live" has won Best Drama Series only once -- in 2002, on the third of its fifth nominations. Compare that to three wins (out of 30 nominations) for "All My Children" and a record 10 victories (from 22 bids) for "General Hospital."
The disparity is just as pronounced in the acting categories, where "One Life to Live" has won 16 awards, compared to 27 for "All My Children" and 34 for "General Hospital." In the last fifteen years its track record has been the worst. Since 1997, "One Life" has only been honored twice for acting, while "All My Children" has won eight and "General Hospital" has claimed a remarkable 24.
CBS's "The Young and the Restless" is also far ahead, with seven Best Drama Series wins and 27 total acting victories (19 in the last fifteen years). Even "Y&R" spinoff "The Bold and the Beautiful," which has only been on the air since 1987 and thus has had far fewer years in Emmy contention, has begun to lap "One Life," winning three Best Drama Series prizes (2009-2011) and claiming a dozen acting trophies since 1997.
Of TV's remaining soaps, only NBC's "Days of Our Lives" has poorer Emmy results. That series has often struggled for respect due in part to its campier storylines -- including demon possession, mind control, and a secret island full of supposed murder victims -- resulting in only a single win for Best Drama (1978) and eight wins for its actors, the most recent of which – a pair of acting prizes in 2009 for Supporting Actress Tamara Braun and Younger Actor Darin Brooks – were the show's first acting prizes since 1988.
"One Life's" relative shortfall doesn't seem to be a matter of its quality. Our Emmy expert Nelson Branco lamented this year's snub while analyzing the Best Drama Series race (read his take here). TV Guide Canada, in its annual Soap Opera Spirit Awards, has awarded "One Life" Best Drama twice (2008, 2010) in the last four years. And our message board posters, who arguably know the soaps better than most Emmy voters, have frequently honored "One Life" in their annual awards.
Back in 2002, when "One Life to Live" won its only Emmy for Best Drama Series then-executive producer Gary Tomlin openly criticized the Emmys for its disregard for the show's actors, none of whom were nominated that year. "Not a single ['OLTL'] actor was deserving of an acting nomination?' Tomlin said at the time. "The nominees are fine, fine performers, but more of the shows need to be represented."
Since then, the Daytime Emmys have instituted a pre-nominations round to prevent bloc voting by shows with large casts, and "One Life to Live" has received multiple acting nominations, but almost all of them have lost.
However, one category has been exempt from "OLTL"'s poor Emmy fortunes: Best Actress. Five leading ladies have won Emmys for the show a total of eleven times, more than any other show. Robin Strasser (1982), Hillary B. Smith (1994), and Susan Haskell (2009) all won the category once. Judith Light won twice in a row in 1980 and 1981. And Erika Slezak has won six times (1984, 1986, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2005).
Slezak is tied with Anthony Geary ("General Hospital") and Justin Deas ("As the World Turns," "Santa Barbara," and "Guiding Light") for the most Daytime Emmy wins for an actor, and she stands alone among women. Slezak is nominated again this year, and it's always risky to bet against her; in the last 20 years, she has only been nominated four other times, but she won all of them.
It's unusual that Slezak has done so well when "One Life to Live" has struggled elsewhere. But this may not be the end of the road for the canceled sudser. The series ended its run on January 13, 2012, and its final nine episodes are eligible to compete for next year's awards. If "OLTL" enters the race and wins, it would be a back-from-the-dead twist of fate worthy of the soaps themselves.
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