Daytime Emmy Awards: Two for Two

Um… yeah. They fucked it up royally again. If you thought last year was bad (and it was), you ain’t seen nothing yet. Once again, no clips of the talented actors who were competing for the hardware. Indeed, no clips at all of soaps from the past year. Plenty of time for Oprah though and a “we just invented it second lifetime achievement award.” I really have nothing against Oprah, but she wasn’t even there! Yet Celine Dion took up what felt like two hours to sing her a song played out from the moment it hit the charts. Perhaps if the producers had used that time to show us the actors at work, we might have been able to recall why or how Brittany Allen, formerly of All My Children, took home a trophy. And what was with all the ties? Every other category had two winners! Find a way to make a choice for crying out loud!

On the plus side, it was awesome to see General Hospital’s Laura Wright finally get some long overdue Emmy love, and the absent Michael Park’s win (he’s currently on Broadway in the revival of How to Succeed) was kind of a sweet sayonara to the departed As the World Turns. But overall, last night’s show gets my vote for the worst televised award show of all time, a title it will likely hold until next year’s debacle, if the thing even makes it to air with only four soaps and too many talk shows left.

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38th Annual Daytime Emmy Nominations

Today’s announcement of the Daytime Emmy nominations yielded some joy (hooray for Colleen Zenk, Laura Wright, and Emily O’Brien!). But come on! All One Life to Live gets are nods for the currently enjoyable, but often aggravating, Bree Williamson and Brian Kerwin of the overacting and dashing out of scenes like a freight train (but I will admit that his showdown with Kim Zimmer last week was pretty powerful stuff)? I won’t even waste adjectives on All My Children’s Brittany Allen. It’s encouraging to see webisoaps Gotham and Venice take their places at the table, but all in all, it just feels like another depressing day for beleaguered soap fans.

Telephoria’s Favorites: 2010

Time to count down our favorite episodes of 2010, the ones that stuck with us when all was said and done. So without further ado…

HONORABLE MENTION:

THE OFFICE – “The Delivery”

Not the strongest of days for the Scranton crew (although Season Seven is finally starting to pick up some steam). Still, the birth of little Cecelia Marie Halpert featured an unraveling Jim, a mad dash to the hospital, Pam breast feeding the wrong baby, and the sweetest Andy/Erin moment to date. Long awaited, it was classic Dunder Mifflin.

10. SHERLOCK – “The Great Game”

This re-imagining of the classic mystery series (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson, respectively), did not substitute 21st century technology for plot but rather used it to enhance familiar stories and make them seem more relevant than ever. The season finale saw Holmes investigating a slew of seemingly unrelated crimes all engineered by the sinister Moriarty (a truly scary Andrew Scott). Funny, thrilling, and closing with a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more right now.

9. PARKS AND RECREATION – “Telethon”

I haven’t yet blogged about this show because it kind of crept up on me during NBC’s Thursday night line up. Little by little, it won me over, so you can imagine my displeasure when NBC bumped it for Outsourced. Thankfully, Leslie and Co. are on their way back. This episode, penned by series star Amy Poehler, focused on a diabetes fundraiser so lacking in talent that Andy’s band, Ron’s skill at caning a chair, and ultimately Leslie’s recollections of her favorite Friends episodes had to fill the void (all because Tom is delayed in bringing guest of honor Detlef Schrempf). This zaniness combined with Mark’s doomed proposal to Ann gave every character a moment to shine, and if you’re not watching yet, tune in as soon as it’s back on the air where it belongs.

8. CAPRICA“Things We Lock Away”

Gone too soon. Sure Syfy burned off the remaining episodes of this Battlestar Galactica prequel, but lost is the opportunity to delve deeper into the origins of the Cylons and the spiritual divide between monotheistic and polytheistic humans. I enjoyed most of the first part of the first and only season, but “Things We Lock Away” stood out. Zoe and Tamara, after a particularly brutal fight, come together to reshape V-World, and Amanda became a spy in the Willow household. But it’s her husband Daniel, manipulated into killing business rival Tomas Vergis and then calling on the Adamas to wash the blood away, who best suggested the compromises these characters could and would make in service of their own needs, their own survival. Think of the magnitude of suffering witnessed on BSG. And while Caprica lacked the action sequences of its predecessor, how fascinating and terrifying to contemplate that it was the result of the whims of a few longing to reclaim parts of their pasts and work them into their futures. Shame we won’t get to see more of that.

7. FUTURAMA – “Lethal Inspection”

Science Fiction of a far lighter variety, ostensibly this was the story of robot Bender seeking revenge on the inspector who sent him out into the world flawed, unable to download into a new body, and therefore mortal. What followed was a road trip where Hermes aided Bender in his quest for answers and ultimately helped his friend to focus on living for whatever time he has rather than dwell on the fact that it’ll all end someday. Food for thought to be sure, but then came the revelation that Hermes himself saved Bender from the scrap heap, valuing the little robot’s life over policy, and he accompanied Bender on his journey to keep the secret. Not quite “Jurassic Bark,” but pretty damn close.

6. COMMUNITY – “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

I loved the character work of “Cooperative Calligraphy,” but this was such wild take on Christmas specials that I have to rank it. Abed, abandoned by his mother and their tradition of watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, descends into a stop-motion fantasy and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is a feeling that translates into video games, liquor, and, ultimately, just being with the ones you love. You have to appreciate the skill that crafted the episode and the heart at its center.

5. BOARDWALK EMPIRE – “A Return to Normalcy”

I almost went with “Nights in Ballygran,” the episode that really made me a fan, but the first season finale did what all season finales should. I can’t wait for the show to come back. I want to see Nucky and Margaret in the next phase of their relationship, Van Alden coping with his and Lucy’s unexpected baby, and Jimmy scheming with the Commodore and Eli to take back Atlantic City. I tuned into Season One in large part because of the hype, but I’ll be back for Season Two for the promise of what’s to come.

4. KIDS IN THE HALL: DEATH COMES TO TOWN – “Dead Man Walking”

How great was it to have KITH back on our screens, doing the kind of intricate comedy that SNL barely remembers? This series about a small town plagued by murders and secret lives climaxed with morbidly obese hero Ricky battling and defeating Death during a public execution (bow down to the genius that arrived at such a conclusion). But the entire outing was obviously the troupe having fun, shocking each other and the audience, and let’s hope they have similar projects planned for the near future.

3. AS THE WORLD TURNS – “Finale”

The final months could have been stronger given the length of time between the cancellation notice and our last glimpse of Oakdale. Still, that last episode was satisfying. Tom and Margo were solid while Katie and Chris were just starting out. Carly and Jack prepared for a new child while Janet and Dusty celebrated Baby Lorenzo. Paul and Emily got their happy ending, and Barbara and Henry danced the night away. Maybe Lily and Holden, like Luke and Noah, remained estranged, but reconciliation seemed in the cards in an unseen future. But it was patriarch Bob Hughes, retiring at long last and reflecting on a life well-lived, who quietly summed up the journeys of these characters (and that of the loyal audience). An ending is always a beginning. Goodnight, ATWT.

2. IN TREATMENT – “Sunil: Week Seven”

Yeah. It’s the twist that stayed with me. Paul’s sessions with Sunil were an elaborate con. The patient knew how to push the right buttons to force his therapist to punch his ticket home. As a result, you have to re-watch every Sunil episode in a different light. And that’s good television.

1. MAD MEN – “The Suitcase”

Nothing else matched it. Peggy and Don’s all night duet addressed all the love, resentment, gratitude, and frustration between mentor and protege. Low blows (Don using the fact that he quietly supported Peggy post-pregnancy as an excuse for taking her for granted), laughs (they found Roger’s memoir and learned about Cooper’s… surgery), and punches (both witnessed on TV and pathetically delivered by Don and an equally drunk Duck) were just the prologue to the main event. Don admits what he’s known for the entire episode (Anna is dead), and he cries to Peggy who picks up the pieces and assures him that he is known by someone else who loves him in her own way. About as perfect an episode as you’ll ever find, and I’ll wager that Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are assured Emmys for their efforts.

So here’s to 2010. Let’s hope 2011 is as exciting and rewarding.

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Goodnight

Just finished watching the last episode of one of the greats, As the World Turns. Can’t really find the best words. Overall, it was a fitting tribute to a landmark show. Nearly every character received an ending that was about new beginnings, which might not satisfy some. In other words, a lot was left open. There are obviously more stories to tell (Carly and Jack’s baby, Barbara and Henry taking over Metro, Paul and Emily as “normal” parents, etc.). It’s sad that these tales will only ever come to pass in our collective imagination. But the globe keeps spinning. I’d like to think that we can all take comfort from that final image. We fall in love, we start new careers, we lose loved ones. But something greater, something we cannot define is always moving life forward. The worst moment of someone’s life is the high point of another’s day. And the next adventure is only a step away. I hope to come back with a more intelligent analysis of the final episodes very soon. But for now, it’s not goodbye to Oakdale. It’s just goodnight. See you in the morning.

Daytime Emmy Awards: What Happened in Vegas

So did you watch last night’s Daytime Emmy telecast on CBS? If so, you must admit there were a few positives (nice to see so many As the World Turns winners in light of the show’s cancellation, especially “Carjack’s” Maura West and Michael Park, and Billy Miller of The Young and the Restless more than deserved his trophy). But beyond that? Where to start…

It should have been a celebration of the actors, writers, and directors who produce quality scripted television 52 weeks a year in an age of reality shows and shorter seasons (I love me some Mad Men, can’t wait for it to return, but 13 episodes every 12 months can’t compare to the daytime grind). Instead, it began with a 20 minute Dick Clark love fest. I’ve got nothing against the guy, and he seemed genuinely moved by the tribute, but wouldn’t something like that have made more sense at the Grammys? You know, an awards show celebrating music? But the worst was yet to come. We were shown no clips of the nominees (actors or shows), daytime legend Agnes Nixon’s lifetime achievement award seemed like an afterthought, and the afore-mentioned ATWT got a 90 second salute after 54 years on the air. The evening devolved into a commercial for Sin City. On a practical level, I know that it’s all about ratings and that daytime is not what it once was, but is turning the program into a travelogue really the way to go? On an emotional level, what happened in Vegas fills me with despair. Soaps are being cancelled left and right, SOAPnet is about to go the way of the dinosaur, and CBS couldn’t spare two measly hours of programming to properly honor these consummate professionals? For shame!

Feel free to rant, and check this out. It’s a little taste of when the ceremony had class.

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Some Favorite Couples

Time is running out for beloved soap As the World Turns. Let’s not waste any more time and start looking back at some of the best (and worst!) moments of this iconic program beginning with just a few of the love stories that fueled the fire.

Lucy and Dusty

It wouldn’t last. It didn’t have the staying power of other soap romances. In the end, there were too many obstacles to overcome (the age difference, the “class” difference, her father, etc.). But for a few magical months, Dusty and Lucy were the ATWT couple. While on the run from a faux kidnapping engineered by her clingy father, he was the knight in shining armour to her spoiled princess, and she brought out the softer side that would serve him well in his later relationship with Jennifer and her son (also a strong coupling, but I have to give this one a slight edge). Grayson McCouch had chemistry with every woman on the show, but is wasn’t until “Lusty” that Peyton List came into her own. Watching her now on Mad Men her talent is evident, but ATWT didn’t get it right until this pairing. Everyone needs a little rescuing sometimes. “Lusty” rescued each other.

Noah and Luke

Forget the fact that they’re gay. If you look back at how they got together (Luke liked him, Noah was frightened by his own emotions and opted for something “safe” with Maddie, Noah’s father complicated matters by his mere presence, etc.), it’s obvious that this could have been a heterosexual tale with very little rewriting. That’s why it was such a milestone. It wasn’t a gay story or a straight story. It was simply a love story. Admittedly, the Powers that Be never quite got a handle on what to do with Noah and Luke once they were officially a couple and shied away from scenes that were too racy lest their conservative viewers jump ship. And now with Reid in the picture, it’s not a foregone conclusion that “Nuke” will ride off into the sunset together. But for a time theirs was the most compelling and most believable coupling in all of Oakdale.

Paul and Emily

Damaged goods. The son of resident psychopath James Stenbeck and the needy Barbara Ryan first found love with his father’s young mistress many years ago. They drifted out of each other’s orbit for a time, but eventually they threw caution to the wind with an intensely passionate affair. When Paul refused to marry Emily, she did what any girl would do – shot him in the back and rolled his body off of a cliff. Paul recovered with the help of nurse Meg, Emily lost it, and when Paul and Emily’s unborn daughter died, so too did it appear the relationship. Then something special happened. Paul’s memory loss led him back to Emily, the only person with whom he could feel free. Of course his memory returned, but by that point he’d given up on the gloom and doom that was much of his relationship with Meg (sorry PEG fans!) and recommitted to the girl he had been “passionate” about for so long. Their wedding wasn’t a soap spectacle. It was a victory just for them. So often the town pariahs, Paul and Emily no longer needed to pretend to be what they’re not for others. There’ll be more angst in these final months, but I think it’s pretty obvious that these soulmates will wind up right where they should be – with each other.

Jack and Carly

I clearly remember when “Carjack” first met. Up until then, Carly was little more than a bitter bad girl and Jack was… well, boring. From minute one their chemistry was off the charts, but there were always obstacles (Hal, baby Parker, Mike, Julia, etc.) Once Jack was revealed as Sage’s father, the pair renewed their vows in Big Sky Country and for a time had Oakdale’s strongest marriage. Jack’s presumed death, amnesia, and romance with yet another Julia threatened their union, but in the end Carly and Jack found their “true north.” In recent years, the writers have failed this pair miserably (Carly abandoned her children for Simon and lied about a brain tumor; Jack became incredibly sanctimonious as he wed Katie and later Janet). But the recent death of his brother Brad, while tragic, forced Jack to realize where he wanted to be and who he wanted to be with. Jack and Carly are that couple who bring out the best in one another, which explains why the characters have a tendency to become unlikable when kept apart. I don’t think that’s going to happen again. Carly and Jack aren’t home free, but at least they’re finally trying to work through their problems together. And that’s how it was and how it should have been for a long time.

Tom and Margo

Simply the best. Recounting every moment in the story of Tom and Margo would take far too long. They’ve been married forever despite affairs, health scares, and the appearance of children they never knew they had or thought were dead. That’s almost unheard of on a soap. He’s a lawyer and she’s a cop, so many a time their work brings them together, and as a result the audience has seen the immense respect and trust they have for one another in all areas of their life. Too often we see soap couples whose faith in one another stops once they’re out of bed. And they take care of one another. Not that there’s anything wrong with the damsel in distress or the redeemed bad boy as such, but Tom and Margo are the everyday couple who stand out and above the rest.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know.

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Good Night, Dear

Another soap legend is gone. It kind of makes you wonder if the dawn of this decade is signaling the end of the genre. First James Mitchell. Then Frances Reid. Now Helen Wagner. Somehow this one stings the most. Wagner’s Nancy Hughes was in many ways the heart and soul of the soon-to-be-departing As the World Turns. I had the honor of meeting her on the set once. A sweeter, more beautiful woman you could not find. Wagner opened the show over 50 years ago with the line “Good morning, dear,” and how many of us were hoping that the last glimpse we’d have of Oakdale would be Nancy wishing us a good night. Now I know that ATWT films well in advance of its air dates, and it’s possible that pieces of the last episode are already in place. Scrap them. Too often when a soap star passes, viewers are treated to one day where familiar faces return, candles are lit, and everyone goes back to loving and/or hating each other the very next day (that’s essentially how All My Children dealt with Mitchell’s passing). Morbid as this might sound, ATWT has actually been handed an opportunity to wrap up the show with several episodes devoted to Nancy’s death. If they follow through, it could well prove a teary, cathartic way to say goodbye to Oakdale. Send Wagner and the show off in style, Writers. Until then, check out this clip, a fine example of the quiet emotion Wagner brought to her portrayal of Nancy. She will be sorely missed.

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Julianne Moore Pays Tribute

As promised, Telephoria is preparing to count down the best and worst of the soon-to-be-cancelled As the World Turns (sigh). But before that, let’s take a moment to celebrate the recent cameo of ATWT alum Julianne Moore. Before she became one of the country’s most respected film stars (for the love of God, where is her Oscar?), she was Frannie Hughes, daughter of Oakdale’s first family. Moore returned to her roots to celebrate the wedding anniversary of her fictional parents, Bob and Kim. The event actually started this past Friday, and while I love the show, and it’s always fun to see old clips, I have to admit that there was something a bit sloppy about the set up. See, Bob and Kim have endured the torments that befall all soap couples (kidnappings, affairs, disease, etc.). But they’ve also been on solid ground for the past several years. So it was a little strange to see the couple suddenly sparring about Bob’s devotion to his work. I just didn’t buy that Kim felt neglected; more often than not they’re in scenes together, and a recent catastrophe at their grandson’s failed wedding showed them as in love as ever. But at least we got to look back with some carefully chosen scenes of the couple in their prime. Um… I know soap fans have to suspend belief at times, but seriously. Despite their tiff, would Kim really flashback to Bob’s father’s death, and would Bob recall his affair with Susan Stewart and his first marriage to the legend that is Lisa on this particular day? All of this was in service to a plot twist where Bob’s son and his wife, the fabulous Tom and Margo, suddenly revealed that Bob and Kim were never legally married, but wouldn’t this be a great chance to legally tie the knot that was already present in their hearts? Kim would agree, right? Right?
 
On Monday, things got back on track. Bob and Kim recalled their earlier vow renewal (and Bob still got a moment to look back to his marriage to Lisa, but this time she was tricking him into remembering the woman he truly loved), and the pair got hitched for real. The flashback worked as it served the story where Dr. Bob realized what was most important to him (Kim), and she acknowledged that she couldn’t tear him away from his life’s work (but it wouldn’t hurt if he made a bit more time for her). Then Frannie, in her most famous incarnation, appeared to toast the newlyweds as they prepared to [continue] to make a go at it. It was short, sweet, but important.
 
Moore’s appearance was brief, but you have to give her a major amount of credit. So many actors, too many, treat their soap history as if it were something shameful and dirty once they’ve crossed over to film or prime time television. That’s ridiculous. Critics will say that soaps are a silly medium where no one is ever truly dead, everyone sleeps with everyone, and an inordinate amount of people forget that they had a child who suddenly shows up in town fully grown and ready to rumble. And while that’s true, what about the fact that a soap is an opportunity for an actor to stretch every kind of muscle imaginable? On a given day, on just one soap, audiences can watch mysteries, romances, corporate intrigue, comedy, and sometimes even sci-fi. What a great opportunity for actors to play the classics in the confines of one program. Add to that, the work load on a soap is beyond intense. Nothing against nightly dramas, but it’s a far different animal if you’re mounting one show a week a few months out of the year as opposed to the everyday, yearlong grind that is a soap. With such a schedule, there are bound to be a few clunkers, but if you watch closely, you’ll also see sublime scenes. Julianne Moore recognizes this and decided to pay a visit to Oakdale one last time before it’s too late. Ratings and accolades are beside the point. Moore is paying tribute to every actor who keeps these shows going. Class act.

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Does it have to be goodbye?

As many a soap fan knows, As the World Turns is scheduled to come to an end after over 54 years on the air this September (posted above is the first opening I can remember). Fans have mobilized in an effort to save the citizens of Oakdale. We can hope that another network picks the show up before autumn hits, but after the fate of Guiding Light, I’m not holding out too much hope.

ATWT was my Nana’s soap, my mom’s soap, and my sister and I were watching well before we completely understood the intricacies of each plot (so Lily is Iva’s daughter and Iva is Holden’s sister, but only by adoption, so Lily and Holden can kiss?). I’m not going to give up until the fat lady sings (here’s a good place to start if you want to save the show), but in the event that the end is at hand, I don’t want to wait until the last minute to celebrate this landmark show. Starting soon, I’ll pay tribute to the best and worst of ATWT (top couples, silliest storylines, best recasts, etc.). Bear in mind that the majority of my choices will be from the past 25 years or so (I would’ve watched it from the beginning if I’d been around in 1956). Feel free to chime in with your own favorite memories. And maybe, by some miracle, there will be more in the years to come.