No matter how hard one tries to avoid it, the Daytime Emmys always bring about one nagging question: Will Susan Lucci win the Emmy?
As much as I enjoy Susan Lucci's work---I feel she is an incredible actress---I really hate how the Daytime Emmys have become a breeding ground for jokes and speculation about her fate. The Daytime Emmys are an event that honors the best in daytime television. These are not nor have the ever been the Susan Lucci Awards.
One Life to Live's Erika Slezak (Viki Carpenter) has won five Emmy awards. Our very own David Canary (Adam and Stuart Chandler) comes next in line with four. Susan Lucci has been nominated twice as many times as these two performers have won awards. Eighteen nominations is an incredible achievement regardless of her inability to take home one of those funny little statues.
The problem with not winning---I refuse to use the term "losing" because Susan Lucci has not lost an Emmy, she's simply never had her name announced as the winner---is that some people automatically assume that Ms. Lucci is not a good performer. I mean, she's gone empty-handed eighteen times, right? How does her name get on the ballot every year? Is there an army of Susan Lucci fans who petition the Emmy committee to add her name? Do her colleagues pity her and feel that they have to nominate her? Is it some type of running joke among the voters?
The extremely talented Angela Lansbury, who's won a Tony among her many other honors, was winless in her every nomination for a primetime Emmy. Her work on Murder, She Wrote obviously warranted attention---she was nominated ever year. But she never won an award. Does that make her less of an actress? Do her other awards somehow become tarnished because she's never won the little golden angel with a globe in her hands? While I'm sure that Ms. Lansbury would have loved to have won at least one Emmy, I really doubt that anyone would consider her less of an actress because the Emmy board overlooked her talent.
Victoria Wyndham (Rachel Cory) was nominated on several occasions for a Daytime Emmy. She's never been awarded for her three-decade effort on Another World. For those of you unfamiliar with the NBC soap, Rachel is the leading female character. In fact, the list of people who have not won an Emmy actually seems more impressive than those who have won Emmys.
So who decides who should win an Emmy or even who should be nominated? Every performer decides whether or not they should nominate themselves for an Emmy. Let's suppose that I appeared on All My Children this year and I think that I had a pretty good year. It appears that only contract roles are eligible for nomination, which would explain why a Jennifer Bassey (Marian Colby) or Ben Jorgensen (Kevin Sheffield) never seems to get nominated. I know that my storyline might have been front-burner, but I know that if I were to nominate myself as a Leading Actor, I might have to go against the perennial bigwigs like David Canary or The Young and the Restless' Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott) or General Hospital's Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer). So I might opt to stick my name in as a Supporting Actor. This will explain to you why some performers in the past have been in a Supporting category rather than Leading. Eva LaRue Callahan, for example, was in last year's Supporting Actress category. While her front-burner storyline merited a nomination in the Leading Actress category, she might have felt that she'd had a better shot at winning in the Supporting Actress category. Moving on. Everyone who is nominated gets placed on a huge nomination ballot. Then anyone who works in daytime television receives a copy of the ballot. Usually this includes all of the technical people, writers, and their ilk---but the rules have changed recently. Those receiving the ballot mark off their choices and return their ballot to the Emmy people. The ballots are cast and the top five vote-getters in each category are placed on the final ballot. This will show you another reason why selecting the right category comes in handy. If everyone on a show were to nominate themselves in the Leading categories, the votes for the performers on that show would end up being split and then you might have a situation where no one from that show makes the final cut. Once the final ballot is drawn up, the nominees are asked to review their work over the past twelve months and select two episodes in which they feel they offered their best work. These episodes must be back-to-back. An episode from March cannot be paired with one from August. These episodes are most likely edited to remove the other scenes from the tapes and sent off to the secret Emmy voting panel. These professional---none of whom are known ahead of time---review each of the submissions and vote for whom they believe offered the best performance. Once all the votes are cast, the accounting firm tabulates the votes and a winner is reached.
So how about all those "why hasn't she won?" questions. It is my opinion that the media has placed a big dark cloud over Susan Lucci's head. Their annual "will she lose again?" speculation turns her nomination into something trivial and laughable. This constant negative attention probably sticks in the back of the voters' minds and they automatically pass over her work without real consideration. "Oh, her again?" they probably ask themselves as they discount her entry and move on. This is obvious not a very professional move and I am not making any allegations of fraud or incompetence. It's simply speculation on my part. I do not believe that there is a conspiracy to keep her from losing. I'm sure you've heard the rumor that the Emmy board cannot allow Susan to win because her losing streak is good for ratings. It's foolish to believe that people tune into the Emmy broadcast solely to see if Ms. Lucci will win. Let's face it, if you do not like soap operas, nine-out-of-ten chances you're not going to watch the Daytime Emmys. While the sadistic tendencies of the media tend to promote this mentality, I don't believe that anyone takes pleasure in seeing Ms. Lucci denied year after year.
So why doesn't she just take her name off of the ballot and spare herself the frustration on Emmy night. "It's an honor just to be nominated," forced smiles chirp every year at every awards ceremony. Do they really mean it? A nomination isn't handed to someone on a silver platter. One's peers have to distinguish you from your fellow actors. For twenty-eight years, Susan Lucci has been distinguishing herself from her peers. And in eighteen of those years she was fortunate enough to receive an Emmy nomination. No one else has racked up this many nominations and it seems unlikely that anyone else will. Why should she sacrifice a nomination to spare a supposed heartbreak when her peers nominate her year after year after year? Perhaps she's never been announced as a winner at the Emmys, but without a nomination she'll never hear her name called.
Even in these circumstances, Ms. Lucci has always managed to show class and grace. She hasn't called it quits or thrown a tantrum. This is a woman who obviously enjoys what she does and has found that entertaining millions of fans each day and earning their admiration and respect is the most precious award that one can receive.
Dan J Kroll