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August 29, 2015

How The Daytime Emmys Will Survive

by Michael Maloney, posted Jun 26th 2010 2:00PM
Emmy AwardLike most awards shows, the Daytime Emmy Awards have suffered from low ratings over the last several years.

Fortunately, it's harder to hit a moving target and the kudofest honoring the best in soaps, game shows, talk shows and other programs has stayed on the go.

After decades of being broadcast from New York, the awards show moved to Hollywood in 2006, hoping to spark new interest among viewers. This year, it's changed locales again.

The 37th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards is going to be held in Las Vegas and broadcast live on Sun. June 27 at 9PM on CBS, complete with musical acts including a performance by the Vegas-based company of 'The Lion King.'

Producers are hoping to draw eyeballs to the set by making it an entertainment program show first, an awards show second.

And if that's what it takes to keep the program alive, then so be it.

There's nothing wrong with making an awards show more entertaining. For years, Oscar fans looked forward more to seeing Billy Crystal spoof the nominated films than to see which movies actually won.

There was a time when the awards themselves had enough backstage drama to sustain viewer interest. Back in the late '80s, Bridget Dobson, who won for producing 'Santa Barbara,' aired a real-life conflict she was having with NBC and New World, the show's distributor. "They locked me out of the studio, but not the Emmys," Dobson said from the winner's podium.

Viewers could always count on some kind of drama. The writers of 'Another World' and actress Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, 'The Young and the Restless') lost out on winning awards because there'd been a problem with the tapes that had been submitted on their behalfs. (Improper editing or dubbing had been done, preventing the nominee's full work from being shown.) In 1986, an accounting error created the biggest faux pas in awards show history ever when the 'Y&R' writers were incorrectly announced as the Best Writing in a Drama Series winners. In reality, 'Guiding Light' had won.

The longest-running drama in Daytime Emmy history was Susan Lucci's quest for the gold. After 19 nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress for her role as 'All My Children's' Erica Kane, the actress was finally awarded her overdue statuette in 1999.

Once that drama climaxed, it was like the Red Sox finally winning again the World Series. There was less to root for. viewers had less of a reason to tune in. Fans have pretty much seen all their favorites get an award. 'The View' hosts won for Outstanding Talk Show Hosts last year. Jeanne Cooper (Katherine, 'Y&R) took home a golden girl two years ago.

While ratings have been down, the awards show got a bump a few years ago but that was attributed to the show's lead-in, a prime time episode of 'The Price Is Right,' hosted by Bob Barker, who transcends demographics.

Last year, the show was pretty much dead until Associated Television International (ATI) hammered out a deal with The CW to keep it on network television.

It used to be that awards shows would get high ratings because they were special occasions. But now, there's a new self-congratulatory production on the air practically every week. All awards shows have suffered as a result of that.

The Daytime Emmys used to be a huge deal, ratings-wise. Back in 1991, when it first went into prime time, it was one of the top-rated shows of the week.

The encouraging sign is that the show, thanks to David McKenzie and Jim Romanovich at ATI, is remaining on network TV. Sure, it may look like a two-hour commercial for Las Vegas, but the reality is that audiences aren't as interested in awards shows as they used to be.

While overdue recipients have finally taken home Emmy gold, there are often a few new kids on the block that can help rejuvenate interest in the show. Soaps, however, are still the 'money shot' for the Daytime Emmys. The biggest three awards (Best Show, Lead Actor, Lead Actress) are usually reserved for the last half-hour of the program.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which administers the awards, however, may want to adjust some of the categories and the number of nominees to keep pace with the times.

'As the World Turns' goes off the air in September, but just as 'GL' was this year, 'ATWT' will be able to get on next year's ballot. After that we're left with six shows. There were a mere four nominees for top soap back in 1971 when there were over 15 serials on the air. Do we really need four best show contenders when there are only six or seven soaps? Probably not.

Also, the same goes for acting contenders. Three actors and four actresses competed for Best Actor and Best Actress honors in 1974. Today, there are five candidates in three times as many categories and the competition is far less because there are far fewer shows.

The younger categories themselves could be reconsidered. They debuted in 1985 and were designed so that younger players wouldn't have to compete against season veterans. Past winners include Oscar-nominee Julianne Moore ('As the World Turns') and the multi-faceted Anne Heche ('Another World.') (Neither of who were present to accept their trophies unfortunately; they were already off working on new projects.) Perhaps it's time, however, that younger actors go up against their elders; if the talent is there, the nomination will come just as it did for young movie stars Tatum O'Neal ('Paper Moon') and Anna Paquin ('The Piano.')

Fewer candidates make for tighter races and could lead to greater viewer interest.

To get part of its core audience back, the Daytime Emmys could also consider showing more clips. The video montages for Outstanding Drama Series are upbeat and entertaining, but there was a time when serials would show a clip of an actual scene from the show, often involving merely two to four people. They didn't include everyone from the show as the video montages do, but those scenes were always compelling. Viewers would think, "Hey, maybe I should give that show a shot?"

NATAS has made attempts to keep with the times. In 2006, the organization added awards for news and documentaries on Internet, cellphone and PMPS (portable media players).This year, categories for New Approaches - Daytime Entertainment and New Approaches - Daytime's Children are part of the awards.

As NATAS continues to look to the future, committee members may want to include a category for Outstanding Drama Series on the Internet. There are enough of them now -- 'Venice,' 'Gotham,' 'The Bay' -- for them to warrant their own award.

Daytime has such unique programming (game, soap, talk, children's) that it will always need its own awards show. There wouldn't be time to add all the different genres within the daypart to the already over-crowded nighttime Emmys.

With that in mind, there are many in the industry who wouldn't mind seeing the Daytime Emmys return to a daytime broadcast. From 1974 to 1990, the show was held in the afternoon and was, for the most part, an industry-only event. There are many in the community that long for the Daytime Emmys to return to their origins. Perhaps then the show will return to its former glory.

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