Daytime Emmys: Go West, Old Girl

Mar 13, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Michael Maloney

Special to TelevisionWeek

There hasn’t been this much buzz about Daytime Emmy’s new home since she landed on Susan Lucci’s mantel back in 1999. This year “The 33rd Annual Daytime Emmys,” which airs April 28 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC, is breaking tradition and will be broadcast for the first time not from New York but from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

“We had looked at doing a show on the West Coast for the last several years,” said Peter Price, president and CEO of the National TV Academy. “At least half our community lives and works on the West Coast, [so] it’s not only fair to give them a better crack at attending the show but it’s also creating some new energy.”

“It’s a great idea,” concurred Brian Frons, president of ABC Daytime. “I’m hoping that there are people who will come to the Emmys for the first time. It’s not just for people in front of the camera, but behind the camera too.” Then there’s the showbiz glamour factor. “It may give actors a jolt to be on the same stage where performers are collecting Oscars,” Mr. Frons said.

Nominee Bradley Bell, the executive producer and head writer of the West Coast-based “The Bold and the Beautiful” (CBS), agrees. “I think it’s wonderful and it’s time,” he said. “With most of the shows being produced out here, it’s going to be great to have the Emmys in L.A.”

Mr. Price cautioned, however, that the change isn’t necessarily a permanent one. “We’re going to see how this goes and re-evaluate and talk to our network for next year,” he said.

Maurice Benard, a nominee for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his role as tortured mobster Sonny Corinthos on ABC’s “General Hospital,” probably wouldn’t mind if Emmy made L.A. her new home for good. “I don’t like to fly, because I’m claustrophobic,” he said. “Still, there’s nothing like New York; the feeling there is fantastic.”

Kim Zimmer, nominated for outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her role as Reva Lewis on CBS’s “Guiding Light,” hopes the move is a positive one for both her and her show. “[Previous venue] Radio City [Music Hall] hasn’t been very lucky for me,” said the actress, who has won three times but always when the Emmys were held at other locations. Ms. Zimmer last took home the gold in 1990, back when the Daytime Emmys were awarded at an industry-only luncheon. “Maybe the Kodak will shake things up. We haven’t had [an acting win] since Crystal Chappell won [for outstanding supporting actress in 2002].”

The Kodak is guaranteed to be lucky for Caroll Spinney of “Sesame Street” fame. The puppeteer, who has voiced the characters of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969, will receive the academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “I’m elated and amazed to receive this honor,” Mr. Spinney said.

NBC did not fare well in the major categories. Its top nomination is for “Days of Our Lives” for outstanding directing in a drama series. “It’s been difficult for ‘Days’ to find nominations, [but] we have a few this year that we haven’t had before,” said Ken Corday, “Days'” executive producer. “We have a wonderful directing team, and I’m thrilled for all of them.”

Even though his show is not nominated for outstanding drama series, Mr. Corday still may walk away with a golden statue; the executive and composer received a nod for outstanding achievement in music direction and composition for a drama series.

East Coast shows must make a cross-country trek to participate in the ceremony. “The West Coasters have been coming east for so many years,” acknowledged Christopher Goutman, the executive producer of CBS’s “As the World Turns,” which is nominated for outstanding drama series. “Now it’s our turn. We’re looking forward to it. We feel very lucky to have been invited to the party.”

“Party” being the operative word. Because the three-hour broadcast will be fed live to the East Coast, it, like the Oscars, will start in the late afternoon. The last statue should be handed out just before 8 p.m., West Coast time. Mr. Price points out that having the awards at the Kodak and post-event festivities at the nearby Renaissance Hotel “allows people who are staying at the Renaissance to just go to their rooms at the end of the night; they won’t have to grab taxicabs. It’s one-stop shopping.”

Whether or not they leave with a gold statue, members of the daytime community look forward to the annual awards ceremony because it allows people in the soap world to take a night off and reconnect with one another.

“I find myself being in a room filled with people who have either fired me or been fired by me,” quipped Jill Farren Phelps, a veteran producer of five daytime dramas, including her current charge, “General Hospital,” which is competing for outstanding drama series. “[The awards ceremony] is a celebration of what we do. I always enjoy going to New York, but having it at the Kodak will be lovely. Let’s give the show as much glitter and glamour as we possibly can.”

ABC plans to rally fan interest in the awards broadcast. The network is partnering with Sears for “Sears Presents ABC’s Road to the Daytime Emmy Awards.” Bob Guiney (“The Bachelor”) will host a five-week coast-to-coast mall tour from March 11 to April 15 to generate interest in the program among soap fans. Viewers can log on to abc.com (keyword: Emmy) to enter to win a grand prize, which includes a trip for two to Hollywood and VIP seating next to the red carpet outside the Kodak. Also, there are plans to set up a viewing area in the adjacent Hollywood & Highland complex where fans can watch the show and cheer for their favorites.

Traditionally, some West Coast soaps shut down production for an entire week to enable the cast and crew to take part in pre-Emmy events in New York. But don’t expect the East Coast-based shows to follow suit. “We’ll come out to L.A. either Thursday or Friday,” Mr. Goutman said. “I wouldn’t necessarily categorize [taking less time off] as ‘East Coast versus West.’ We celebrate our way; they celebrate their way.”

Ellen Wheeler, executive producer of New York-based outstanding drama nominee “Guiding Light,” joked, “We’re going to do Rodeo Drive for an entire week.” The two-time Emmy-winning actress turned producer/director then clarified, “We will probably take some time off, but it will not be a week.”

Another break in tradition, though not an unheralded one-ABC did an expanded telecast in 2003-is that this year’s kudo-fest will run three hours. This is good news to viewers who lamented the absence of acting clips on last year’s two-hour-long broadcast. “We want to get more tape into the show this year,” Mr. Frons acknowledged. “The audience wants to see what the actors have submitted in order to be nominated.”

Having spearheaded ABC’s previous three-hour Daytime Emmys show, Mr. Frons said he has learned what works and what doesn’t-from well-intentioned musical numbers that hit false notes to ensuring the theater is adequately air-conditioned. “It’s [also] very important to keep the energy up and give a lot of visual stimulation to the audience,” he said.

White Cherry Entertainment has been hired to produce the awards broadcast. “They are-and this is my word-edgier,” Mr. Price said. “They did a great job for us a few years ago and we’re hoping that they do a great show this year too.”

The plan is to make the broadcast appealing not only to soap fans but also to devotees of other kinds of daytime programming. “I think in the past [the Daytime Emmys] was a totally soap opera-driven audience,” Mr. Frons said. “It’s very important that talk show fans and service show fans all come to the program.”

The executive revealed that there are plans to produce pre-taped segments featuring nominees who have emotional off-camera tales to tell. Candidates include parolee-turned-nominee Martha Stewart, talk show host nominee Ellen DeGeneres, and nominees for outstanding younger actress in a drama series Jennifer Landon (daughter of the late actor/producer Michael Landon) of
“As the World Turns” and Leven Rambin, who plays an autistic heroine on ABC’s “All My Children.” “I went to the Primetime Emmys after my dad passed away [in 1991],” Ms. Landon said.

Another story with familial ties is Mr. Bell’s. The “Bold and the Beautiful” scribe is nominated for outstanding writing in a drama series. His father, daytime legend William Bell, who passed away April 29, 2005, has received posthumous nods as part of the producing and writing teams for CBS’s “The Young and the Restless.” “It’s exciting and is the last time that this can happen,” Mr. Bell said of the father-son dual nominations. “He is still so much a part of both shows. He’s with us through his characters.” Nominee Kay Alden, who succeeded the senior Mr. Bell as head writer at “Young and Restless,” warmly concurred: “I am profoundly moved [by seeing Bill’s name on the ballot.] I could not be more pleased.”

Critics have commented that host networks often use the Daytime Emmys broadcast as a self-promotion platform, a statement with which Mr. Frons disagrees. In fact, he said, ABC plans to acknowledge rival soaps “Days of our Lives” and “As the World Turns” in honor of their respective 40th and 50th anniversaries.

“There will certainly be moments where we take the opportunity to highlight some ABC stars; we’d be foolish not to,” Mr. Frons said. “At the same time, you can’t really do an Emmy show without recognizing some of the great achievements of the year by all different parts of the daytime community.”