Don Diamont and Heather Tom Don Diamont and Heather Tom

Best Soap: The Bold and the Beautiful

How can one show be both gloriously uplifting and dirty as hell? That's the marvel of B&B! After back-to-back Emmy wins as best soap, this CBS serial should make it three in a row thanks to its daring lung-cancer plot involving big mama Stephanie Forrester (Susan Flannery) who nearly chose death over life. Episodes with Stephanie visiting the homeless on L.A.'s Skid Row, and giving them a chance to tell their life stories, made for important and transcendent TV. At the same time, B&B shocked us silly with its trashy, oh-no-they-didn't scandals — young Oliver accidentally shtupping Brooke (his girlfriend's mother!) at a masquerade party; Brooke's slow-burning attraction to her stepson Thomas — and that made us realize how dreadfully safe and sane other soaps have become. B&B is not without its problems, and they are major. Executive producer-head writer Brad Bell has a horrible habit of casting his young stars for sexiness, rather than acting chops — in fact, some of the kids on this show are achingly, gaspingly bad. Bell also fails some of his finest actors, most notably Emmy winners Heather Tom (Katie) and Sarah Brown (Agnes), by giving them little to do that's meaty and worthy of their talent. But we forgive! This mind-imploding mix of the sacred and profane is fresh, freaky, dazzling entertainment. We can't ask for more than that.

Best Actor: General Hospital's Jonathan Jackson (Lucky)

I'm going to do this guy a favor and forget that recent dippy, dopey plot in which he played his own Irish doppelganger and remember, instead, his earlier work in 2010 when Lucky found out about the affair between Liz and Nikolas. Jackson's performance in those episodes was seismic, full of fury and anguish and a soul-wrenching complexity that left me breathless. I don't for a minute think GH will push him for one of the two lead actor slots on the Emmy pre-nom ballot — certainly not with alpha dogs Tony Geary (Luke) and Maurice Benard (Sonny) taking up space — so he'll likely be dismissed to the supporting category. But make no mistake about it: Jackson was more brilliant and memorable than any other leading man in soaps.

Best Actress: The Young and the Restless' Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki)

Nobody does hot mess better than this fantastic, never Emmy'd diva who took her character, a recovering alcoholic, on a sad, pathetic train to Boozetown. Sobriety? Meh. We love our Nikki drunk as a skunk! This has been an extraordinary year for women in soaps, what with B&B's Flannery, All My Children's Debbi Morgan (Angie) and GH's Kimberly McCullough (Robin) all doing the work of their lifetimes. But there's something so grand and poignant and outrageous about Thomas Scott's triumph: Several months ago she was sent to Y&R's back burner after she balked about a salary cut and pretty much became an extra. The actress refused to admit she was being punished by her bosses or rant about the situation in interviews (Lord knows, I tried). Instead, she was the ultimate pro. Thomas Scott simply waited (and waited) until Nikki's next hot plot finally came around and saved her screw-you for the screen.

Best Supporting Actor and Actress: As the World Turns' Don Hastings and Kathryn Hays (Bob and Kim)

Watching these timeless vets send ATWT off the air with class and grace made the loss of a great soap so much more bearable. Hastings played the wise, stalwart, hopelessly busy chief of staff. Hays was his devoted yet frustrated wife. No showboating here. This was pure, unfussy acting, straight from the heart. Man, how I miss them already! When ATWT concluded its run, we didn't just lose two fine stars in Hastings and Hays — we lost two members of a rare, vanishing breed of east coast actor who proudly spent their lives in daytime drama. It's what they knew. It's all they wanted. They didn't need to go be big shots in prime time to prove their worth. We were enough for them, and that's why we loved them so damn much. And it was a very long love affair indeed! Hastings spent 50 years in Oakdale, Hays was there for 38. The fact that neither of them was ever nominated for an Emmy during that time is a crime of epic proportion.

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!