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Daytime Emmys Preview: Soaps Still Top Draw for Kudos

Variety logo Variety 4/27/2017 Michael Maloney
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For the third year in a row, the last four broadcast soap operas are all nominated for best drama at the Daytime Emmys.

David Michaels, senior vice president, Daytime Emmy Awards & Events for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, says as few as three and as many as four serials can earn a nom, and the reason that all four serials made the cut this year is because once again there’s a slim difference between the number of votes received by the shows that have ranked in third and fourth place.

“It seems crazy to have four nominees out of four contenders,” says Tom O’Neil, founder and editor of Goldderby.com. “In general, showbiz awards reflect at most two-thirds of contenders, but that’s not etched in stone. No one believes any of these four soaps are unworthy.”

“It’s never completely a given you’ll be nominated,” says Bradley Bell, who has three Emmys for helming “The Bold and the Beautiful.” “Some years we feel we’re delivering better shows than others, but one never knows. Being nominated is still fun.”

“In this day and age, nothing’s a given,” says Frank Valentini, executive producer, who won “General Hospital” its 12th statuette for best show last year. “It’s always fun and exciting to be nominated.”

While there may not be as many rivals at the Daytime Emmys, the battle to win eyeballs has never been greater. “You want to be the best whether there are 12 shows or four,” says Mal Young, executive producer, “The Young and the Restless.” “There’s a golden age of television going on right now and we’re a part of it. Our competition isn’t game shows — it’s people calling up a whole season of ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘The Crown.’”

Young, a BAFTA award-winning producer who’s helmed both primetime and daytime serials in the U.K., selected episodes that took place months apart to earn “Restless” this year’s nomination. “We submitted Adam’s departure with the explosion, and also the New Year’s Eve episode that was more of a character piece,” he says.

“Bold,” the genre’s sole half-hour drama, exercised its option to submit a pair of back-to-back episodes featuring a Monte Carlo remote. “We chose them because they were beautifully acted and directed,” Bell says. “They have comedy, action, romance and intrigue to hopefully keep viewers and the [voting] panels engaged.”

“General” submitted back-to-back episodes featuring ingénue Kiki’s shooting and wheelchair- bound Sonny leaping into action to take down a gunman. “What I like to put out there is the depth and diversity of the show, and I like to show as many cast members as possible,” says Valentini.

Days of Our Lives” sent in two episodes that aired less than a week apart, but featured two distinct story- lines — the show’s heroes bringing down evil Yo Ling and charismatic serial killer Ben Weston grabbing Abigail’s son.

Two hours can’t fully represent an entire year a soap has had — especially when some shows experience producing and writing regime changes during the eligibility period. Young’s not opposed to shows submitting 10 episodes for review to give voters a better idea of a show’s overall vision, but he acknowledges that’s asking for a lot of viewing time.

“Even [10 episodes] is a small fraction of the year,” Bell says. “What we submit now is a good and proper amount. It gives you the flavor of the show.”

Few would disagree that winning awards is enjoyable and something to be proud of, but perhaps gold statuettes are most useful as a motivator for shows to continue to do their best in today’s competitive market.

“It’s very easy to say, ‘Oh, we’ve been around for 44 years and we have all these viewers,’” says Young. “But the minute you think like that, you’ve lost sight. You have to think, ‘We’re only as good as yesterday’s episode.’”

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