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Soaps Shine at the Show

Apr 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Soap-opera aficionados can expect a parade of female finery, gushy acceptance speeches and fans screaming from the balcony seats in Radio City Musical Hall for “The 31st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards Show,” airing from 9-11 p.m. May 21 on NBC.
The event promises plenty of interest for casual fans and hard-core soap addicts, not to mention an array of competition in children’s programming, game shows and talk.
For most viewers, daytime serials are the draw. Many will be watching to see whether “The Bold and the Beautiful,” the last of the half-hour daytime soaps, can win its first-ever best-show Emmy. The series pulled out all the stops this year, even doing some filming in Italy, as it has occasionally done in the past. Its fashion industry setting is a major attraction to viewers there.
“Bold’s” supervising producer Rhonda Friedman said finally winning the big one would be something special. “It’s prestigious,” she said. “You’d feel so flattered to get one, because you’re receiving recognition from your peers. We all put our hearts and souls into it. We’re proud of our shows, and it’s so nice to know that other people in our business recognize the hard work.”

Of course, the series has been recognized in other categories in the past. Winning was oh-so-sweet in 1997 for the show’s Ian Buchanan, who won the fourth time he was he nominated for outstanding supporting actor. “I was totally taken by surprise,” he said, “because I had been nominated so many times and hadn’t won.”
Strong story lines are a key to winning a best show award, and producers know what audiences and academy members like. This year, every nominated series includes at least one “Who’s the daddy?” subplot.
Another trend: Former CBS nighttime soap stars have returned to the network in daytime. “Knots Landing’s” Joan Van Ark joined “The Young and the Restless,” while “Dallas”’ Linda Gray and “Falcon Crest’s” Lorenzo Lamas are in “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
But the hottest trend last year was serial killers, who’ve been slicing and dicing their way across Soapland. CBS had psychos on “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light.” On ABC, “One Life To Live’s” madman dispatched soap divas Linda Dano and Fiona Hutchinson.
There’s a method to this madness. Psycho-killers appeal to younger female viewers. And high body counts can help goose the ratings while also trimming talent costs.
On NBC’s “Days of Our Lives,” for instance, the Salem Stalker recently claimed a 10th victim, bumping off Frances Reid’s Alice, a beloved character on the show since its 1965 debut.
“Days”’ executive producer Ken Corday admitted that axing Ms. Reid was “the toughest call, tougher than the previous nine [actors, who were dropped] put together. It was the end of an amazing run.”
Sheraton Kalouria, senior VP of daytime programming at NBC, labeled this technique “shock-and-awe storytelling.” Indeed, fans were jolted, returning in droves to see what would happen next-especially after it was revealed that popular heroine Marlena (Deidre Hall) is the killer.
NBC is no doubt hoping the surge in daytime viewership will carry over to the awards ceremony. Last year’s telecast was up 9 percent from the previous year with an 8.6 million tune-in. Executives hope to increase those numbers this year.