Michelle Stafford, Sarah Joy Brown
Only one thing is certain about the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards: My predictions will suck and as always I will blame it on those crazy blue-ribbon judges! Still, after re-watching each of the episodes submitted by the soap nominees, I can't resist my yearly exercise in embarrassment. So here goes.
Outstanding Drama Series: General Hospital. Though The Bold and the Beautiful could take it for the second year thanks to Betty White's moving farewell scenes, GH had us gasping with that brilliantly produced, adrenalin-pumped episode where Edward crashed his car into the town carnival. In this era of severely slashed budgets, where rehearsals and retakes are now a rarity, GH pulled of a frickin' miracle.
Outstanding Writing: As the World Turns. The canceled soap submitted a sharp, crackling hour that expertly blended a comic crime caper (Audrey "kills" James Stenbeck), heart-wrenching teen drama (Liberty's pregnancy) and a rip-snorting religious debate over abortion. Terrific! Likeliest upset: The Young and the Restless, for Billy and Chloe's loveless wedding, though any voter who gave a close listen could tell this was a merely-okay script made glorious by a kick-ass cast. How GH and Days of Our Lives failed to be nominated here is a mystery and a scandal.
Outstanding Directing: No contest. General Hospital, again for the carnival crash. Scott McKinsey, who helmed the episode, is as gifted at directing as his mama — the late phenom Beverlee McKinsey — was at acting. Whatever they're paying him, it's not enough.
Outstanding Lead Actor/Actress: The Young and the Restless' Peter Bergman (Jack) and Michelle Stafford (Phyllis). Each submitted episodes where their characters dealt with the fallout from Sharon's torrid sex spree, and each faces seismic Emmy opponents. He's up against As the World Turns' Michael Park (Jack), while she has big competition from ATWT's Maura West (Carly) and GH's Sarah Joy Brown (Claudia). Yep, I'm leaving out Crystal Chappell, though she arguably gave the performance of the year as Guiding Light's Olivia. Her chosen material — Olivia's declaration of love to Natalia — oddly seemed pale compared to the work of the others and executive producer Ellen Wheeler's cheap, ghastly production values didn't help. But let's get back to Bergman and Stafford. Prior to re-viewing their reels, I wouldn't have thought either had much chance to win, since both their characters were trashed by the current producing/writing regime. But, when it comes to nabbing an Emmy, it only takes one hotter-than-hell episode. And this duo delivered! There is a heft and a magnificence to their performances that leaves you breathless.
Outstanding Supporting Actress: Guiding Light's Beth Chamberlin (Beth). Wouldn't it be swell if she took home one final trophy for the team? This longtime star but first-time nominee did powerhouse work as her character suffered the sudden death of a lover, always zigging when other actresses would zag, and avoiding all the clichés and blubbery theatrics associated with this time worn scenario. What a way to go out! Also tremendous: Days star Arianne Zucker (Nicole).
Outstanding Supporting Actor: Y&R's Billy Miller (Billy). He was electrifying — and the focus of an entire episode — as a boozy, belligerent screw-up who has a New Year's Eve visitation from his dead dad. I need to see another rip-off of It's a Wonderful Life like I need a catheter, but Miller made this dusty plot twist shine like new. I don't think anyone else in this category has a prayer.
Outstanding Younger Actress: Make it two in a row for GH's Julie Berman, who was on fire as Lulu tore into her slutty pal Maxie for kissing (and possibly shtupping) Johnny. But you know who just might stage a freaky upset? Days' Molly Burnett! Her reel isn't all that substantial on the surface — Melanie gives Nathan the brush-off, then decides to date him — but Burnett is so fresh and adorable and marvelously offbeat that she could prove irresistible to voters. I'm rooting for her.
Outstanding Younger Actor: Sweet revenge! One Life to Live's Scott Clifton (Sky), unfairly fired just weeks before being nominated, will likely be the champ thanks to scenes where his schoolteacher character thinks he impregnated a stripper. Clifton's not the only axed actor here. In fact, this category looks like the Island of Misfit Toys, what with four of the five no longer playing the roles that brought them these nominations. Adding insult to injury, the Emmy producers — looking to save time for that Dick Clark tribute — didn't want the younger actor and actress winners to accept their awards on stage this year. Instead, they thought it would be better if they just waved from the audience. The networks bitched about it and — as of now anyway — the kids are back in the show.
The 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards air Sunday, June 27 at 9/8c, CBS.