In an era when soap production budgets have been drastically cut, showrunners are facing even tougher choices when it comes time to choose which episodes they’ll submit to win the Daytime Emmy for drama series.
But this year’s quartet of contenders say the decision ultimately comes down to an age-old strategy — aim for the heart.
There was a time when daytime serial producers had a lot more money to spend and the flashiest (read: priciest) episodes would typically be slamdunk Emmy submissions. Nowadays, showrunners are singling out the episodes that deliver emotional wallops.
“When the Emmys come around it takes a while to reflect back on the year before,” says “General Hospital” exec producer Frank Valentini. “We do quite a few episodes a year so we have to be very self-actualizing.”
“GH” went with the first episode from its annual Nurses Ball (which had numerous entanglements) and also the shocking episode in which Franco’s aborted wedding to Carly set the scene for the revelation that Michael’s biological dad A.J. was murdered by stepfather Sonny.
“That day had the combination of pathos, humor, and heartbreak,” says Valentini. “Chad Duell (Michael) and Laura Wright (Carly) brought it to a place that was very realistic and emotionally satisfying.” Both thesps are nominated in acting categories this year.
“The Bold and the Beautiful” submissions feature an interrupted marriage ceremony and a derailed love match. International sensation “Bold” still manages the unique feat of taping overseas multiple times a year, and this year’s Emmy episodes highlight location shoots in Abu Dhabi and France.
That may provide a bit more panache than its rivals, though the episodes are still focused on characters and relationships, such as Ridge stopping arch-rival Bill’s marriage to Brooke.
“There are great sparks between Don Diamont (Bill) and Thorsten Kaye (Ridge),” says Bradley Bell, a three-time Emmy-winner for executive producing “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
The other “Bold” submission includes villainous Quinn disrupting Liam and Hope’s romantic rendezvous in Paris by callously shoving Ivy into the Seine. “You can only have a good villain on a show with an exceptional actress,” says Bell. “Rena Sofer (Quinn) has brought her talent to this program. She is frightening and intelligent in her performances and it drives stories.”
“Days of Our Lives” exec producer Ken Corday selected Sami finding her beloved E.J.’s “dead” body, and Will and Sonny’s marriage ceremony, the first gay male wedding in daytime.
“The (episodes) were polar opposites in the dramatic scheme of the show,” Corday says. “One representing happiness and celebration, the other representing the dramatic power of grief and lost love.”
Poignant wedding speeches helped make the nuptials installment a standout. “I have chills just talking about Caroline’s speech,” says Alison Sweeney, a lead actress nominee for her role as Sami.
Sweeney is nominated in the same category as Peggy McCay (Caroline), her TV grandmother, whose character, afflicted with Alzheimer’s, reflected on a time when two men couldn’t publicly acknowledge their love in order to demonstrate how much progress has been made.
“Bryan Dattilo (who plays Will’s father Lucas) also gave such a great toast,” adds Sweeney. “If ‘Days’ wins then he needs to have his hand on that trophy.”
“A lot of people who saw that show will open their eyes,” says McCay of the show’s gay wedding.
As for the more tragic submission, Corday notes, “Alison’s performance as the grieving widow was awesome.”
“The Young and the Restless” won last year’s top prize for episodes involving the hit-and-run death of little Delia Abbott and continued the storyline this year.
This year’s submission includes an episode in which Delia’s father, Billy, has a showdown with the driver, Adam.
“What Adam did wrong was not coming forward about an accident,” says Jill Farren Phelps, “Restless” executive producer, a nine-time Emmy-winner for producing three different daytime soaps. “The performances we had in those shows last year were outstanding.
“In my experience, a show I have won an Emmy for has evoked an emotional response from the audience,” adds Phelps. “That’s what I look for when I decide what to submit.”