"This is not a wake we're holding. It's a celebration." That's what exec producer David McKenzie is saying about the 38th annual Daytime Emmy Awards airing Sunday, June 19 on CBS. The kudocast, live from the Las Vegas Hilton for the second year in a row, comes at a time of seismic change in the daytime TV industry, what with the exits of Oprah Winfrey, Regis Philbin and Meredith Vieira, the demise of All My Children and One Life to Live, and rumors that Katie Couric's $40 million talk-show deal with ABC may sink General Hospital.
"We know the fans are hurting a lot right now and that they really care about what's happening to their programs," McKenzie tells TV Guide Magazine. "We're going to show them that we care, too." It was McKenzie's company, Associated Television International, that saved these awards when CBS suddenly dumped them in 2009. ATI found them a temp home on The CW, then brought them back to CBS in 2010 with renewed sass and energy and some spectacular Vegas production numbers.
Expect more of the same this year. McKenzie has booked such Sin City faves as Marie Osmond, Gladys Knight, Penn and Teller, Criss Angel and the Cirque du Soleil hit Viva Elvis. Wayne Brady, an Outstanding Game Show Host nominee this year for Let's Make a Deal, will emcee the awards and conduct a gospel choir of surprise celebrities.
The list of presenters includes Anderson Cooper, Carol Burnett, Marlee Matlin, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Nate Berkus, Rachael Ray, Dr. Travis Stork, Vanna White, Peter Marshall, Jillian Michaels, Kelly Monaco, Kimberly McCullough, Genie Francis, Galen Gering, Nadia Bjorlin, Darnell Williams, Debbi Morgan, Katherine Kelly Lang and Brandon Beemer. Look for several more to be announced soon.
As always, expect special honors: Oprah receives the TV Academy's Crystal Pillar Award, while veteran game-meisters Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek get Lifetime Achievement trophies. But don't look for any big, weepy farewells to AMC and OLTL. "We'll do something very special to acknowledge what's happened — something the fans are really going to love," McKenzie says. "But these soaps are still on the air and they'll both qualify for Daytime Emmys in 2012. We are not ready to say goodbye."