By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
The 32nd Annual Daytime Emmys was characterized by a combination of milestones and firsts, as ABC’s “General Hospital” and the long-running syndicated hit “Jeopardy!” set records for number of Emmys won, and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” capped a year of media attention and audience growth with wins for both outstanding talk show and outstanding talk show host.
For Ms. DeGeneres, it was her first Emmy in the host category and the second consecutive Emmy for her series.
“Early handicapping gave her a pretty good chance,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media TV. “But winning in both categories shows that she is in the groove during a period when there has been some question about the future of the genre in syndication.”
“General Hospital” was honored as the outstanding drama series for a record eighth time, while “Jeopardy!” was the top game show for a record 10th time, breaking its tie for that honor with “$100,000 Pyramid.”
The Emmy for “Jeopardy!” came on the same night its creator, Merv Griffin, was honored by the National TV Academy with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
CBS telecast the May 20 event live from New York’s Radio City Music Hall. According to Nielsen Media Research, the broadcast earned a 5.5 rating among all households, down from a 6.0 last year and continuing a downward trend.
“The Daytime Emmys have a specific audience,” Mr. Carroll said. “Except for Oprah [Winfrey] or to a lesser extent Dr. Phil [McGraw], who are cultural phenomena; only daytime viewers know these shows and personalities. But they are a loyal audience.
“The lower ratings for the show reflect that the importance of the Emmys to the audience has been further dissipated by the plethora of award shows,” he said.
Erika Slezak, who has portrayed Victoria Davidson on ABC’s “One Life to Live” since 1971, won her sixth Emmy for outstanding leading actress in a drama series. It was her first win since 1996.
The other winners in the acting categories all were first-time Emmy winners, including Christian Jules LeBlanc as lead actor for his work on “The Young and the Restless” (CBS), and Greg Rikaart, who portrays Mr. LeBlanc’s on-screen brother. Mr. Rikaart won as best supporting actor.
“I could say the clich%E9; thing about being surprised I won, but it’s totally true,” Mr. LeBlanc said. “I’d been nominated five times before and hadn’t won, so I was pretty used to practicing my loser smile.”
Outstanding supporting actress in a drama series went to Natalia Livingston of “General Hospital,” while the outstanding younger actor and younger actress awards were won by David Lago from CBS’s “The Young and the Restless” and Eden Riegel from ABC’s “All My Children,” respectively.
For the purposes of this award, a young actor or actress is defined as 25 or younger, according to Emmy rules. A performer who turns 26 during a given year and wishes to be entered for consideration in that category must submit work from before his or her 26th birthday.
Mr. Lago, who departed “Young and Restless” last year, was not the only winner no longer associated with a series for which he was honored. Hogan Sheffer was head writer for the “As the World Turns” (CBS) team that won a writing award, but he was let go from his position several weeks ago.
“Jeopardy!” has been on the air for 21 of the 32 years the Daytime Emmys have been in existence. “In some ways it’s harder for a show that has been around awhile to win an Emmy,” said Harry Friedman, who has executive produced “Jeopardy!” for nine years. “TV academy members might think, ‘I already know that show,’ and go for something new. But of course, we work hard to keep the show fresh for the audience, and I guess the Emmy judges see that as well.”
Meredith Vieira won for the first time as outstanding game show host for the syndicated version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” In doing so, she not only won her first entertainment-oriented Emmy, to accompany the six she has won for her work in TV news but she also became only the second woman to win in the male-dominated category (Betty White won in 1983).
Henry Winkler won his first Emmy ever at the Daytime Emmys. Mr. Winkler was honored for outstanding performer in an animated program for his voice work in the title role in “Clifford’s Puppy Days” (PBS). He was nominated for prime-time Emmys three times for portraying The Fonz on “Happy Days” and other times for other projects.
Including the nontelevised Creative Arts winners, ABC topped the network tally with 12 Emmys, just ahead of CBS and PBS, whose shows won 11 each. Syndicated shows won a total of 16 Emmys.
The win for Ms. DeGeneres’ show means that including the departed Rosie O’Donnell talk show Telepictures has won seven of the last nine Emmys for best talk show and seven of the last nine for best talk show host.