The storyline seems like, well, something out of a soap opera: A family member gets killed off, leaving everyone feeling gloomy, but soon after, a grand announcement is made, and everyone’s attention turns to preparing for the big day.
In this case, the deceased is Passions, the NBC soap axed last month in another telling reminder of the tough times facing the soap community.
But the Daytime Emmys are coming June 15, and the nominations just about a month from now, on March 14. Those events give cheer not only to soap actors and writers but to scribes who cover the genre at a handful of magazines and several Websites.
“It’s the focal point of the year,” says Charlie Mason, managing editor of Bauer Publishing’s Soaps in Depth magazine, which is published in one version for CBS soaps, another for ABC’s. “It’s the time the rest of the world is reminded to pay attention to the incredible work being done in daytime.”
Lynn Leahey, editorial director at Primedia’s Soap Opera Digest (the company also publishes Soap Opera Weekly), says the staff is fixated on the awards. Emotions will run particularly high this year after the demise of Passions, Leahey says. “It’s an interesting time in the industry, but this is a time for everyone to commiserate—and to celebrate and to foster a sense of community.”
(It’s a smaller community than it used to be. Like many magazines in the Internet era, the circulation at soap-opera magazines has declined, probably also in part because viewership has gone down. Soap Opera Digest claimed a circulation of 850,000 two decades ago but only about 500,000 today.)
The editors say they don’t sway Emmy voters. But Soapcentral.com founder Dan Kroll says the site’s impact comes from its message board, where executives study fan reactions to figure out which storylines and actors to push in the Emmy’s pre-nomination process. Sometimes, it’s tricky. Last year, from reading soap publications, ABC got excited about an unusually heavy storyline on All My Children, but it was ignored by the Emmy nominators.
“We don’t change anybody’s mind when it comes to voting,” Soap In Depth’s Mason says, “but by awarding gold stars, especially to newer actors, or highlighting stand-out scenes, we’re providing little benchmarks and hopefully calling attention to them.”
Leahey concurs: “We hope that, with features like Performer of the Week, voters are swayed to at least take a look at other performers.”
Abbie Schiller, ABC Daytime head of public relations, says her network has started campaigning in the press for its actors. “Soap publications carry a tremendous amount of weight,” she says. “We don’t know if it wins the vote, but it wins the campaign of public perception. Daytime Emmys are a great exclamation point for the genre.”
Kroll says his experts usually guess only 30% of the winners. And Lesleyann Coker, columnist for Soapdom.com, says Emmy voters aren’t like real fans anyway: “The voters are often off in their own world.”