Sunday, April 19, 2015

THE COLLAPSE OF THE DAYTIME EMMYS AND DAYTIME TELEVISION! A EULOGY

I remember the moment when Daytime television, no longer mattered. I was watching it that night, (I know, ironically it was on at night) and I gotta be honest, I actually did think that at the time that there wasn't anything really left for daytime, and sure enough, it's been all downhill ever since. Oh, if you guys never saw the moment I'm talking about, play the video below, it's one of the greatest moments in Emmy history.



Yeah, I know, a lot of people don't care about soap operas anymore, but folks, that wasn't always the case. In fact, daytime television, and soap operas in particular, really have created some of the longest-lasting and more culturally relevant moments in television history. Don't believe me, kids, go ask your parents where they were for Luke & Laura's wedding. In 1993 for instance, the Daytime Emmys had their highest ratings ever, over 22 million viewers, and a 16.4 rating. Last year, the show wasn't even broadcast on television. No, you didn't miss it, and if you really wanted to see it, it streamed live on the internet. (I'm told their airing on POP this year, which is the channel that used to be called the TV Guide Network)  I'm not gonna pretend that the Daytime Emmys were ever the biggest award show, but they used to be big. And it wasn't just soap operas either, the game show category was always competitive, even when their didn't seem to be that many game shows on, there was competitiveness. One of my favorite moments in recent Emmy history was seeing Ben Bailey win for Best Game Show Host for "Cash Cab". Hell, the talk show category was really huge and god forbid anybody actually beat Oprah, and when she started taking her name out, boy it really got competitive then. Children's show awards were big, not just the pre-school ones either, "Animaniacs", "Tiny Toon Adventures", "Muppet Babies", "Beetlejuice", you remember these shows. "Rugrats", "Arthur", now. I was ecstatic when "Where on Earth is Carmen San Diego?" pulled off a huge upset and won Best Children's Animated Series. I mean, daytime is just as much a part of television as Primetime, sometimes it's more than Primetime, even today. You know who makes the most money on television right now? No, not Oprah, it's "Judge Judy". Seriously, more than anybody and by a lot too. Don't think she's not important just because she has a judge show. One of, many judge shows on TV now, and that's  pretty much because of her. (Although, I'd like to think Judge Wapner might have something to say about that.)

So, what happened exactly? How exactly did daytime television, completely fall out of relevance? Hmm, let's see if I can start this at the beginning first with the Emmys though. The Daytime Emmys you'll notice, if anybody bothered to look up when they're being held this year, April 26th, btw. it's only the 42nd Annual Emmy Awards, and there's a few reasons for that. Before that, actually Daytime and Primetime were actually combined at the Emmys, although, they were still mostly looked down upon from Primetime, and only occasionally were certain stars and shows singled out. In 1972, "The Doctors", not the talk show, the old soap opera won the Best Daytime Drama Program over "General Hospital", and no other nominees. In fact, something curious about these '72 awards is that with the four Daytime awards, they all only had two nominees, and this was back when they weren't particularly caring about distinguishing between genres at that time, and that was the only award that was given in any of the Daytime categories. They nominated them, but didn't give the award out? They didn't forget, that was an option on the ballot, not to give out the award if they thought no one was worthy. (Shrugs) Figure that one out. The next year, they did change the rules a bit to honor more Daytime but led by Agnes Nixon, the great soap opera writer/creator of "All My Children" among many other accomplishments, the movement started to separate out Daytime programming for their own honors. This led to a split of the Television Academy. Yeah, unlike the Academy Awards, which are run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, there's actually two Television Academies. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which is based in Los Angeles and gives out the Primetime Emmy Awards, split from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences or N.A.T.A.S., is based in New York and gives out Emmy Awards for Daytime television as well the Sports Emmys, News Emmys, and something called "Public Service" Emmys, I don't know all the details of how they split the rights of ownership of the Emmys brand, but it's split between the two Academies. I don't know the exact legal specifics, but this is the cause of the separation between Primetime and Daytime, and it really is treated like these are two distinct different worlds. If you ever watch the Daytime Emmys, there's a lot of talk at those shows about supporting the "Daytime Community". It's actually kind of bullshit, especially in this day and age these days and age where's there dozens of channels to where you can pretty literally watch anything in the daytime or primetime hours now, it's actually kinda weird that these distinctions still stand. If you take away the look of the sets for instance and dismissed our traditional notions of brighter meaning day and darker tones meaning night, there isn't much different different format-wise between "The Ellen Degenerous Show" and "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon", but one's Primetime Variety-Talk Show and the other is a Daytime Talk-Entertainment Show, especially with these new rules changes on both sides about clarifying talk shows, but essentially you could switch the shows timeslots and not see that much difference format-wise anyway. And if you don't think soap operas have had an impact on modern primetime dramas, then you just haven't been paying attention, but I'll get to that later.

Okay, that's the history of the Daytime Emmys, but why is there this separation from daytime and primetime? Well, it's not really the quality of the television, it's actually the audience, at least it used to be. You gotta remember the early days of television, was a lot of just, finding things to put on and see what worked. This including a lot of radio programs which was the first big clue to television landscape 'cause that's where quite a few programs especially soap operas came from, many of them literally. "Guiding Light" went off the air five years ago, and if cared about the history of television, you went out of your way to watch the end like me. No, I wasn't a fan, but that show is the longest-running drama series in broadcasting history; it was the last show that originated on radio, dating back to 1937, and lasting a total of 72 years, and this show remember had five new episodes a week without breaks for things like Summer. Now, why did soap operas become the mainstay, well, it's because of the people listening to radio and then watching television, and yeah, not to generalize but they were mostly housewives. Remember, television started in the fifties and yeah, you gotta think about who was home during the day to watch television, and even after the women's lib movement came around, it was mostly still homemakers who didn't go to work and took care of the kids, who is the other major audience of daytime, kids who were too young for school, that led to these shows' success. Soap operas are the best example though, you need an audience who's able to be near a TV everyday, and able to have the ability to make the time everyday to watch a new story. It's from that starting place that other shows would come about, the cartoons, the game shows, later on the talk shows, now it's judge shows and curiously the culinary shows. Yeah, there's a whole category for that too now. Actually multiple categories, they separated Culinary from the generic Lifestyle category a few years ago. Hey, I actually love some of these shows, but yeah, the people who sit at home to watch cooking shows.

Well, here's the thing, that's kinda what's left, (and in the form of reality shows like "Top Chef", "Hell's Kitchen" and "Chopped" among others, that's moving to primetime too) Susan Lucci won her Emmy, in 1999 (Which btw, is still her ONLY EMMY, c'mon!) and it's a little hard to remember back but that was one of those years where the Primetime Drama Series were starting to use the formulas of Daytime, the serialized structure and eventually push out the more typical procedural dramas, which, while there were exceptions like "Dallas" or some of the Primetime Soaps of my youth like "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills 90210", this was when they were really using this formula and many of the tropes and turning that into quality shows. Even shows that were still sorta procedurals, like the previous year's Emmy winner, "The Practice", used long-form storytelling as well and frankly, it had been going this way for awhile. This was the first year "The West Wing" would win the Emmy, beating "The Sopranos" and "ER", "NYPD Blue" were around, hell, remember that "The Doctors" show that won the Daytime Production award at the Primetime Emmys I mentioned, if you go watch that now, and somebody does re-air that btw, it's basically "ER", just twenty years earlier. Bad patient or two comes in and creates drama about his/her survival and then moments between that is dealing with the personal problems and relationships between the people who save the lives. Basically, over time, Primetime television has pretty much overtaken much of the soap opera formula and they do it better. Soap operas have to write five episode a week, most of the year long, a Primetime series, is about 22 episodes and it's shorter for cable on average, that's more time to make the show as good as possible, while soap operas are, get the actors, shoot, move on. Long, very long days, lots of dialogue to memorize and it's frankly amazing anybody can get into a character at all. One of my old professors worked on a soap for a couple years in the eighties and he doesn't remember, anything about it. His character, what his character did, the roles, nothing. Like, it was really just, do what you need to for the scene, and move on. It's treacherous work, soap opera actors need to get more credit than they do. To be honest, by the time Lucci won her Emmy, I didn't know anybody who watched soap operas regularly in the previous five years. Up until about the mid-nineties they were still pretty popular and a lot of people watched them, both sexes btw, but when Primetime started basically creating better soap operas to a bigger, wider audience, then daytime soaps started to wane. Basically, the last thing left to do and the last thing that actually kept them relevant was Susan Lucci having not won up until then. When that happened, basically they started to completely fall of the map culturally and with audiences.

I know I'm focusing on soap operas, but really that kinda happened to almost every traditional daytime genre. Animation used to just be for kids but hell, does anybody do a Saturday morning lineup anymore? That's moved to Primetime primarily. Game shows for awhile, made a Primetime comeback, which led to a strange oddity that doesn't get brought up much with the Emmys where Regis Philbin actually won the Emmy for Best Game Show Host, for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" when the show was on in Primetime. They didn't have a daytime version back then, but they also didn't have any equivalent Emmy category for him either or the show, so they entered it in Daytime. Nobody thought much about that at the time, but now there's that Reality Show Host category and Howie Mandel was nominated for "Deal or No Deal" and Jane Lynch won that award last year for "Celebrity Game Night". (Hmm, this might be a cause for concern in the future.) This is on top of essentially reality-competition shows, replacing game shows in Primetime (And Daytime actually), And reality is basically a new version of a game show.

And all these things are on in both Primetime and in Daytime. All the time. That's another thing, there's a lot more channels now, but most of the cable channels don't put the time out to create new daytime programming. Actually, they usually end up running marathons of their Primetime shows. This dilutes daytime even more. There is no reality series Daytime Emmys, but that's only because they're a bunch of reruns that air in the day. Who hasn't sat through a "Pawn Stars" marathon because there wasn't anything else particularly on. And you can rerun anything and get that. Once you produce a lot of episodes of a show, usually reality 'cause they're the cheapest, but just re-air them during the day in marathons, advertise the new episodes at night and there you go. It might be extra channels, but most of them have figured out that Daytime can just be filler for Primetime and you know what, they're right, and yet they are missing an opportunity. I wrote a blog years ago about how cable could really reinvent the soap opera if they wanted to, using a telenovela-like structure which is more like a limited series just everyday, and really fill a void. Frankly, now, the Primetime Emmys have basically had to make rulings on that format.

I mean, if anything gets remotely popular or critically acclaimed in daytime, it seems like Primetime will swallow it up and do it better, somehow. I'm amazed there hasn't been a Primetime judge show now and it doesn't help with streaming being around either; catching up on "Real Housewives..." through a marathon, catching up on "Mad Men" through streaming, there really isn't that much difference, is there? You have an audience of housewives essentially, that's dying out, because more people aren't at home during the day, more sophisticated kids who aren't as interested in kids shows as they once were, and it's easier to watch anything you want any time of day than ever before, so you kinda have to go out of your way to watch these shows and really want to and while there's a few exceptions, Daytime just doesn't produce the quality of work that Primetime does, so why would you watch a "Days of Our Lives", when you can wait 'til evening and watch a "Hannibal", or watch it later on Hulu. They're trying, but.... There'll always be daytime programming, but in terms of the overall relevance it used to have, that's over.

I wish I can be a little more hopeful, but I don't see it, and that's 'cause of the death of soap operas' relevance. You know, as much as I appreciate Best Culinary Program Emmys now, or Best Judge Shows that are on and things like that, hell, even Best Morning Show, although god knows, those time-wasters are probably the biggest and most embarrassing assault on Daytime programming out there, it's not like, there's a lot of honors you can award those shows. At least with soap operas, you had six acting categories, (Yeah, they still have Young Actor/Actress Awards) writing, directing, series, basically most of these other genres, without getting into the Daytime technical awards, there's two basically, Best Show of the genre awards and maybe a Best Performer award of some kind. That's why the Daytime Emmys, basically lost all real relevance after Susan Lucci won. The tide was already against soaps and that was the only thing left to do, finally give her an award. They did that, and then nobody watched a soap again it seems like. Once upon a time, Luke & Laura's wedding rivaled Princess Di's as a television event. I remember when everybody thought Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame prophecy meant that everybody would inevitably get a talk show. Hell, I remember being apart of the last generation that had nothing but game shows on in the morning, dozens of them, all one after another. Hell, Children's programming used to be everyday with new episodes as well as being on Saturday mornings. Daytime really is a cultural wasteland of irrelevance now. And the sad thing is that, it wasn't always like that and it doesn't even have to be. It's not like people aren't watching these shows, they are, people do watch Daytime television, they do it everyday. Somebody's keeping "Family Feud" on the air through six hosts, in my lifetime, 4 of them in the last fifteen years. There's a new judge show every year now, those are as big as they ever were. Hell, Food Network figured it out, and frankly, when I don't see much on, I put on Create and hope I can fall asleep to somebody cooking something. There's great informational and even educational television shows out there on daytime, even some great stuff for kids of all ages but, it's hard now to treat these shows with the same respect and provenance anymore. Not even compared to Primetime, but compared to Daytime television in the past. I'm tired of skimming through channels and thinking, "Boy, I remember when I used to be excited for a new "Tiny Toon Adventures" everyday", and realizing that that's just not there, in any form, that feeling. Now it's, "Oh, another "Judge Mathis".

Still, unless somebody figures out a way to bring sitcoms or something else scripted to daytime again, (Really scripted, not reality scripted, yeah I saw the joke there too) as go soaps, so goes daytime. With soaps practically gone,... It's, well, daytime's practically gone. I guess it's good to know that Daytime has left it's mark, even in Primetime, but I gotta see this as sad and unfortunate above anything else. It's gotta take a helluva reinvention and I don't think it's impossible, but it's damn close. I've written numerous times on ways that Daytime programming can be exciting and relevant again, through multiple genres, but somebody gotta commit to it and frankly it's smarter and better to focus on Daytime as little as possible and instead put more into Primetime, and business I agree with that. I just hope that the importance and influence of Daytime doesn't get forgotten through time, especially since it does have a big influence on Primetime even if people don't realize it. If it helps to show and remind them that yeah, there's no "Hell's Kitchen" without a Julia Child, there's no "True Blood" without a "Dark Shadows", there's no "Agents of Shield" or "Daredevil" without there being dozens of superhero cartoons and series before, hell there's no "Real Housewives of..." wherever without there first being "The Jerry Springer Show". A lot of what we think of as Primetime really has a root of influence in Daytime and I think if more people were to recognize that, they'd think a little more highly of what Daytime can actually do.

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