This time of the year is always an exciting one for the daytime community as it gets to celebrate the best of what it has to offer. Shows, actors, directors, writers, and the myriad of talented professionals behind the camera are honored for their individual crafts. Together, they help to create the shows that we watch five days a week, 52 weeks a year. And despite a nomination process that, while admittedly far improved than it once had been, is still not flawless, more actors in particular have an opportunity to be recognized for the brilliant work that they bring to the screen. "One Life to Live" certainly had reason to celebrate recently with the announcement of the major categories, and I am particularly thrilled for the actors who received some long, over-due recognition. Sadly though, I can't muster up enough excitement for its "Best Daytime Drama" nomination.
First, let's talk about the excitement generated by some of the acting talent that was recognized with an Emmy nomination. When Dan Gauthier (ex-Kevin) and Heather Tom's (ex-Kelly) departures were announced to fans, the outcry was overwhelming! With a hastily executed storyline involving Kelly and Kevin reeling from the death of Kevin's son, Duke, from the tornado last year, these two characters had a chance to shine in what could have been a blockbuster plot showcasing the long road to reconciliation. Unfortunately, ABC Daytime President (among other positions) Brian Frons, "claims" to have determined through focus groups that Gauthier and Tom's characters just weren't popular with viewers. What do I think? Gauthier may have been a little too honest in the press. But that's just my impression. Nonetheless, this lame-brain move led to disappointment and shock among both viewers and co-workers of the two actors. So, I am ecstatic that the two of them received recognition for some outstanding scenes that truly made 2007 unforgettable for them. I also think that Renee Goldsberry is always excellent, so it doesn't surprise me to see her included on the list.
One person whom I really felt was overlooked was Trevor St. John for his gripping portrayal of Todd during his execution storyline. At that time, I was blown away by the realism and the grittiness of his performance, and the episodes were absolutely phenomenal. To see him omitted from the final nomination ballot was confusing and strange. Of all the actors on the show this past year, St. John (who essentially carries the show on his broad shoulders these days) stepped up to the proverbially plate and hit a home run! It can be so easy to dismiss him as "Roger Howarth's replacement;" however, I feel St. John has earned his own place on the show and among his legions of fans for making this role his very own. Here's how I see it---Kassie DePaiva was overlooked the year the show did the "Live Week" when Blair found out that Jack was really alive. The entire industry raved about her performance, yet she wasn't nominated that year. Subsequently, she earned that elusive nod in the "Best Actress" category. I think the same will hold true for St. John. He may have missed the recognition this year, but I believe that if he remains with the show, he will find that in the not-so-distant future, his name will be read with a list of four other men for contenders in the "Best Actor" Emmy category.
The one nomination that did surprise me more than any other, though, was the show's nomination for "Best Daytime Drama." See, here is my quandary. "Best Daytime Drama" elicites a connotation of "simply the best." When a drama is bestowed that honor, it is a confirmation that the past year was one filled with all of the qualities that make a daytime drama riveting and enjoyable: angst, joy, laughter, conflict, suspense, satisfaction, romance. When I think of recent Emmy wins for "Best Daytime Drama," I think of perennial favorite "General Hospital" (especially during the Wendy Riche/Claire Labine regime) or perennial "bridesmaid" "The Young and the Restless" (always a class act!). What I don't really think of is "One Life to Live."
I know, I know. That sounds cruel coming from someone who is supposed to be an advocate for the show, from someone who has stuck with it and tuned in day in and day out for the better part of 22-plus years, and from someone who enjoys the genre and its form of storytelling. But I'm also someone who watches the show with a critical eye by nature, partly because I write this column and partly because I've seen just how GOOD the show can be. On the one hand, I'm thrilled for the cast and crew of the show, because a nomination (and a win) is an acknowledgement of THEIR talent and contribution to the past year's worth of work. These individuals work extremely hard throughout the year, and their combined efforts help give the show its identity and its reputation. On the other hand, I feel as though the show's overall direction and tone, from a production standpoint, has been so lop-sided and inconsistent that it can't possibly warrant recognition as the "best" daytime drama from 2007. Could it?
Let me provide an example. Without a doubt the highpoint of this year for me was the storyline involving Todd's "execution." From every single standpoint-camera work, dialogue, acting, lighting, music--the climax to this story was brilliant and unbelievable! It was realistic, suspenseful, and dramatic. To submit the episodes depicting Todd's wrongful lethal injection would definitely secure a "Best Drama" nomination, without a doubt! Yet, despite this masterpiece, everything else was hackneyed and cliché. John was misidentified as Hugh during a horrific car accident and lay in a hospital bed for months on end without anyone realizing the mistake? Spencer Truman growing increasingly and inexplicably irrational? Adriana designing underwear? Nora laying in a hospital bed and recovering from her medical maladies OFF-CAMERA? Cristian boxing? Jessica and her alter-ego integrating back into the same, boring personality that viewers remember from two years ago? None of these stories created the same balance, tone, or feeling that Todd's execution did. And in order to be called the "best," I firmly believe that a show must BE the "best." For me, this year just didn't cut it.
Where is the originality and the creative storytelling that existed back when Gary Tomlin executive-produced the show and won the show's very first "Best Drama" Emmy? Sure, many would argue that the show was campy and steered far from the socially responsible type of storytelling the show is famous for, but I happened to love the July 4th episodes featuring Lindsay in a special "Babes Behind Bars" musical-festival or the "Trading Places" episode featuring Rae in St. Anne's. Or what about Live Week during which every show that week was aired live and Kassie DePaiva gave one of the most unbelievable performances since Judith Light testified on the stand in the late 70's and Hillary B. Smith delivered an awe-inspired closing argument at Todd's rape trial in the early 90's. This was a performance for the books, and the show went on to be rewarded for its ingenuity and its creative vision. Fast-forward to 2007, and the same stories are being recycled: instead of Viki suffering from D.I.D. for the umpteenth time, it's her daughter Jessica; instead of "Character A" (take your pick from OLTL's history) going to jail unjustly for the murder of someone, it's Todd; instead of Carlo Hesser or Jamie Sanders wrecking havoc on Llanview, it's Spencer. Nothing is new, nothing is original, and nothing is inspired. Is THAT what should be recognized as "the best" in the daytime industry?
Look, I do not want to take away from the show's nomination one iota. For those not involved in the writing or production aspects of the show, especially, I am thrilled that they are part of an ensemble that is celebrated for what it was able to accomplish in the past year. I just hope that this nomination will inspire the writers and those in charge to take a hard look at its show and realize that they have to live up to the standards set by other great, fantastic shows included in that Emmy category: "The Bold and the Beautiful," "The Young and the Restless," and "Guiding Light." As the only non-CBS show to represent that category, OLTL has quite a heavy burden on its shoulders, and it has a responsibility to live up to its nomination.
Highlights from the Week:
I can't just ignore what happened on-screen this past week, as there were a few juicy items I just can't help but comment on!
1. How refreshing was it that Nora and Viki shared significant screen time this week talking as old friends? Someone recently told me that it has been close to eight years since Hillary B. Smith and Erika Slezak shared a scene together! I remember thinking that this possibly couldn't be true...could it? If so, boy, I never would have guessed. These two slipped right back into "good ol' friends" mode as Nora and Viki talked about their love lives as though they were back in the college dorm room. It's wonderful when the writers recognize the history that two characters like this share with one another, and quiet scenes like these scream so much louder than those that require lots of fire and explosions.
2. Talia is really (I mean really!) starting to grow on me. She's being introduced slowly, like any good newbie should be, and she's refreshingly different. I like her spunky attitude and her take-no-prisoners demeanor. This is one person I look forward to learning about much more!
3. Don't you just love it when Viki and Dorian go at it? This delicious arch-rivalry continues to make me smile. To have them fighting over Clint, of all people, is weird (knowing their history together), but it sure does make for some entertaining moments.
4. Holy moley! I couldn't believe the intense scenes in the ski lodge when Marty caught Starr and Cole together. YIKES!! Todd has always been a protective father to Starr, but I was always anxious to see how he would react to the premise of Starr having sex for the first time. Even though we know the two youngsters didn't follow through with the act (despite coming awfully close!), to see the rage and the fury in Todd's eyes made me forget for a moment this was a TV show and found me shouting at Cole to get the hell out of there...and fast!! Clearly, he hasn't seen Todd at his worst. I've said before that I really enjoy the history between everyone involved with this story, but I still just cannot accept Christina Chambers in the role...sorry! She seems like a lovely actress (and capable), but she's just not right for this role.
5. Was it wrong for me to laugh when Blair was shot by a stray bullet? First, I couldn't help get past the fact that she stood there for a few moments before dropping to the floor. Second, if I were anyone else in Llanview I would stay farrrrr away from this woman. She has the worst luck of anyone I know. Thrown from a rooftop, shot by stray bullets, thrown in the back of cars ready to be put through a car-compactor. This woman is marked, I'm telling you!
6. Blair and Cristian had sex? Blech. Enough said.
Enjoy your week,