Drama, Emotion, Surprises

Feb 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

If they gave awards for award shows, the Oscars might win for sheer opulence and the Tonys for showmanship. But for a history of drama, theatrics and tears, well … the Daytime Emmys would own that contest hands down.
Fans of the genre are never disappointed when it comes to the show that recognizes excellence in daytime programming-soaps, talk, game and children’s shows.
This year’s show, the 31st annual, will be held May 21, and will be broadcast on NBC in prime time-live in the East and on tape-delay in the West. The telecast may be months away, but anticipation over who will be nominated is already mounting.
Over time the Oscar race has become somewhat predictable, but the Daytime Emmys, first broadcast at night in 1991, are always good for a shock or two. Some were concerned that once “All My Children” diva Susan Lucci finally won her best actress award in 1999-after 19 nominations-the awards show’s built-in suspense would wear off. Ha! Before or after Ms. Lucci’s much-deserved win, the Emmys have never lacked in the drama department.
There have been charges of sloppy balloting and bloc voting, network boycotts and last-minute disqualifications. In 1988 the creators and producers of “Santa Barbara” were involved in heated lawsuits with their production company and NBC. When they won for best show, in their acceptance speeches they charged the network with locking them out. In 1986 scribes from “The Young and the Restless” accepted the award for outstanding writing only to find out the next day there was an accounting error and the award was intended for “Guiding Light.” Audiences are still buzzing about the backstage boo-boo two years ago when Ms. Lucci was shoved out to accept a prize for best actress, only to learn halfway to the podium that the winner was actually a different Susan-Susan Flannery from “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
In three decades the awards show has had more than its share of glorious and touching moments. Talk show winner Rosie O’Donnell cried enough to float a cruise ship the several times she won, as did Joan Rivers when she won in the same category in 1990.
The same year Ms. Rivers won, “All My Children” star Julia Barr gave one of the sweetest acceptance speeches ever when she got the nod for best supporting actress. Peering into the camera, she hit an especially touching note when she said to her young daughter watching at home, “Yes, Mom won the `enemy’ award!”
The poignancy of that moment may have been eclipsed in 1996, when reigning daytime queen Oprah Winfrey presented a lifetime achievement award to retiring talk host Phil Donahue. The live audience could have heard a pin drop as Ms. Winfrey thanked him for “opening the door so wide-wide enough for me to walk through.”
Recognizing high drama when they see it, producers of this year’s spectacle plan to dole out no fewer than a dozen lifetime achievement awards instead of just one. If the show holds true to form, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.