I don't pretend to know how the votes are determined for awards shows. There's no accounting for taste as evidenced by the many shows I've loved that have been cancelled. And any given year, for any category of any awards show, there are no doubt several nominees who are deserving of any particular award and probably a few deserving of nominations who were neglected.
But I still wanted to see Crystal Chappell and Beth Chamberlin win Emmys last night.
I've been a fan of Crystal's since she was on One Life to Live as Maggie Carpenter. Her character was memorable because she wasn't a typical soap heroine and she played the character differently than most soap actresses would have. She was more real and I loved that. I was sorry when she left the show. But I did not follow her to Guiding Light when she moved on to that soap. I watched All My Children and One Life to Live whenever I could and didn't want to add more at the time.
It wasn't until February of 2009 that I watched Guiding Light for the first time because some of my online friends had told me about the wonderful way the story of the relationship of Olivia & Natalia was being played out on that show. I decided I'd tune in and see what Crystal was up to and maybe I'd watch, just for her scenes.
What I saw took my breath away. It was the day when Olivia was in a panic about Phillip coming back to town and Natalia had to get right up in her face to help her calm down. Grasping her hands and making Olivia look her right in the eye, Natalia told her "Trust me. We won't let anything happen to your daughter." I was amazed at the intensity between Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia and with the way the production style enhanced the story, bringing the viewer right into the room with the characters in a way that other soaps did not. I was sold, a confirmed "Otalia" fan.
What really surprised me, though, was what happened when I watched the rest of the show. The story was all about Coop's death. Now, I didn't know who Coop was or what his relationship was to other characters in the scenes or who they were to each other. Mother, daughter, sister, son, etc. didn't matter to me yet. I knew I wasn't crazy about the green walls of the hospital and the cheap look of the sets, but I didn't notice that for long. I was completely swept up in the remarkable performances of the actors. I didn't know who Buzz was or what his history with his son was all about, but I hurt for him as he watched his son die. I didn't know who Beth was or what had happened between her and Coop before that day, but my heart broke for her. I wanted to tune in the next day to make sure she'd be okay and to see how she and Buzz would rebuild their lives after such a profound loss. Again, the production model put me right in the middle of the scene and brought it all home to me much more effectively than the traditional style of other shows.
I was a Guiding Light fan.
I never missed a day of the show after that and was continually impressed by the quality of the writing, the performances of the actors and the creativity of the producers and directors as they brought us the show in new and different ways, challenged by their limited budget. That they were all able to present such compelling stories, such memorable characters, day after day under such constraints is remarkable. Other shows with many times their budget can't seem to get it right.
Which brings me to the Daytime Emmys that aired last night.
I do appreciate the fact that somebody, anybody, was able to bring us the Daytime Emmys and on a major network, too. But it was still sad to see that no network bothered to show any red carpet footage of this major industry event. It was also sad that there was no memorial segment to give tribute to stars like Frances Reid, James Mitchell and Helen Wagner after all the years they have entertained and comforted and challenged us.
I have always looked forward to seeing a glimpse of performers on shows I don't usually watch when the nominees are presented, but last night, no clips were shown as the names were announced. Instead we had a commercial for the city of Las Vegas and the travel industry. I'm glad they paid tribute to Dick Clark, a man who has truly changed the industry. More than just American Bandstand, he has produced numerous game shows that have aired on daytime television and this program was not just about soap operas. But I wonder if cutting just a bit from this segment would have left enough time for a decent tribute to As The World Turns, a show that has been a constant for CBS and millions of viewers for over 50 years. The tribute that was presented was less than Guiding Light received last year, which wasn't nearly enough. And although I hated the way the ovation for the cast of Guiding Light was rudely cut short by a commercial break last year, at least they were allowed to take the stage and be recognized by their peers. Not As The World Turns.
I was delighted to see Agnes Nixon honored and although I would love to have seen more time given to this segment I thought they made the most of the time they had. Susan Lucci's emotional speech on behalf of this amazing woman who had literally made all the difference in her life was perfect. And to see Agnes herself stand on the stage and deliver her own (beautifully written, of course!) acceptance speech brought a tear to my eye.
But I still would have liked to see Crystal Chappell win an Emmy last night.
Every soap opera fan can name two or three unforgettable moments in their favorite soaps, performances that are seared into our memories, some because of the pivotal point in the story, some due to the actor's performances, or maybe both. I think the one scene that has been played over and over again as an example of the best soaps have to offer is the scene of Karen Wolek's meltdown on the witness stand, as played by Judith Light on One Life To Live, a scene that is still used in acting classes.
Crystal Chappell's performance as Olivia Spencer, finally declaring her love to Natalia is one of the most riveting performances I've seen on television, daytime or primetime. I read the spoilers, I knew it was going to happen, I could feel the tension building during the scene. But when she screamed "I'm in love with you" I still came up out of my chair and screamed, too. And the way her hand shook as she said it again, this time with a whisper, laid bare the soul of this powerful woman, suddenly powerless in the face of true love.
Crystal connected powerfully with the hearts of the viewers as she portrayed Olivia Spencer, one of the genres most memorable characters. And isn't that what actors are supposed to do?