3rd Annual Sentinel for Health Award Presented in LA
Finalists Bold and the Beautiful and Young and the Restless Compete for Coveted Award
Agnes Nixon Honored for Very First Ever Medical Awareness Storyline
You have to admit—as soap fans, all we really want is to be entertained. We want to see our favorite heroine fall in love with our favorite leading man, and vice-versa. We want to see compelling stories, nail-biting cliffhangers, and most importantly, a reason to make a long-term investment in our shows. But within that equation lies another reason to watch soaps—and whether it is a conscious decision or not—the truth is, we are touched and moved by what appears on our screen. From breast cancer to rape to alcoholism and diabetes, soaps have managed to weave important medical awareness into entertaining and realistic storylines.
Saturday, October 26th’s luncheon at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, California brought many of the storylines full circle. The 3rd Annual Sentinel for Health Award for Daytime Drama was presented. The Award recognizes exemplary portrayals of health issues in daytime dramas and is administered by Hollywood Health & Society, a partnership between the USC Annenbery Norman Lear Center for Entertainment and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the two nominated soaps, The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless, it was a validation for their time and research spent into developing compelling medical awareness storylines. For the rest of those in attendance, it was a relief that even with shows such as “The Osbournes” and “The Anna Nicole Show,” there is still television out there that’s as socially relevant as it is entertaining.
Developed to recognize superior achievements of daytime dramas that help inform, educate, and motivate viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives, the Sentinel for Health Award grew out of the Soap Summit, an annual gathering of the soap industry’s top brass, including producers, writers, and network execs, and members of the medical profession who meet specifically with the mission of incorporating medical awareness into daytime storytelling. The Soap Summit was initiated seven years ago by Sonny Fox (eastcoasters will remember Fox as the host of Wonderama) after seeing much success in developing countries using soap storytelling as a way to impart medical awareness. In 2000, the 1st Sentinel for Health Award went to One Life to Live for the “Viki’s Breast Cancer” storyline. In 2001, The Young and the Restless was awarded the top prize for their convincing portrayal of a teen with juvenile diabetes (“Raul’s Diabetes”).
This year, two Bill Bell soaps competed against each other as finalists for the Sentinel for Health Award. The Bold and the Beautiful was nominated for “Tony’s HIV,” while The Young and the Restless was nominated for “Ashley’s Breast Cancer.” Master of Ceremonies Judith Light (ex-Karen Wolek, OLTL) graciously gave up her Saturday afternoon (she was flying to Australia for a month the next day) to honor the best in daytime. Light explained her reason for being at the luncheon by saying that “I’m very grateful to be part of the soap opera world . . . it changed my life.” In addition to awarding one of the two CBS shows with the award, Light also didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to honor longtime friend and former boss, Agnes Nixon (creator, All My Children & One Life to Live), as Nixon received the 1st ever Sentinel for Health Pioneer Award.
But first, Light presented a short clip show featuring highlights from B&B’s “HIV” storyline. Light commented that B&B aired a PSA regarding HIV that generated an exceptional amount of phone calls to the CDC. Tracy Lindsay Melchior (Kristen, B&B) and John McCook (Eric, B&B) accepted the finalist award. Melchior explained that “sometimes we forget how many people we touch, but this is the reason that we become actors.” McCook echoed those statements by saying that “I’m thrilled to be in this story. (For that matter), I’m thrilled to be in any story!”
Next, the Young and the Restless received their finalist award after showing clips of Ashley (played by Eileen Davidson) facing life after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Co-head writer Kay Alden accepted the finalist award, but no Y&R cast members were present. However, Alden made a point to say that Eileen Davidson could not be at the luncheon because “she is unfortunately ill.” After praising Davidson and co-star Don Diamont’s work (Brad, Y&R), Alden said that “there needs to be an awareness of how difficult it is to have this dreaded disease.”
As those in attendance acknowledged the finalists, Light presented the Sentinel for Health Award to the Bold & the Beautiful for “Tony’s HIV.” Seen by hundreds of countries around the world (approximately 110)—namely Africa (where HIV exists in epidemic proportions)—B&B’s producers talked about the importance of doing storylines such as “Tony’s HIV.” Judges commented that the storyline “provided useful information on impact and accuracy of the disease, especially transmission, stigma and discrimination,” as well as “excellent information about responsibilities of HIV-positive persons; testing, treatment and safe sex.”
Agnes Nixon Honored with First Ever Sentiniel for Health Pioneer Award
After honoring the medical best that 2001-2002 had to offer, the day’s events took a look into the past—40 years ago to be exact—to honor Agnes Nixon’s storytelling of “Bert’s Pap Smear” on Guiding Light in 1961-62. “Bert’s Pap Smear” was the first health storyline ever in daytime drama. The character of Bert was a housewife and mother who learned she was in the early stages of uterine cancer. At the time, Nixon said that studio execs first balked at her story. “You would have thought I asked to burn the studio down!,” Nixon exclaimed. “They didn’t want words like cancer, uterus, or hysterectomy said on television, so I wrote out of context and said things like ‘irregular cells’, etc.” Proof that Nixon’s persistence paid off came in the form of countless letters from women who received Pap smears because of Bert’s story.
Showing that Nixon hasn’t lost her flair for relating to today’s younger audience, she said that “If you had told me I’d be here 40 years ago, I would have asked you what you were smoking!?” Appropriately enough, the CDC recognized what us soap fans have known all along: Agnes Nixon is a true pioneer, to which we should all be grateful.
Winning is BitterSweet
Following the luncheon, Soapdom caught up with B&B’s Tracy Lindsay Melchior (Kristen) to discuss the importance of the day’s events. However, the award for B&B’s portrayal of “Tony’s HIV” was bittersweet for Melchior, who learned a few months ago that her character was being moved to recurring status. In the world of daytime, recurring status often means backburner, non-substantial storyline. Although Melchior is grateful to B&B for the wonderful opportunities she received on the show, she admitted “that watching the clips at the luncheon only confirmed the importance of the work that we did.” For that, Melchior expressed some sadness for not being able to continue such a well-written and acted storyline. “So many countries see (“Tony’s HIV”) storyline, that it only reaffirms its purpose,” Melchoir said.
Even as the award-winning “Tony’s HIV” story is now back-burnered, the luncheon was far from bittersweet. It was a wonderful reminder at how far we as a society have come in diagnosing and treating illnesses and how daytime dramas play a major role in instilling awareness. That in itself deserves a toast to all involved, and Soapdom congratulates you. Keep up the wonderful work.
Why B&B Backburnered Tony’s HIV, the Sentinel for Health Award-Winning Story
After congratulating B&B Producer/Director, Cindy Popp for winning the Sentinel for Health Award this year, we then wanted to know why the award-winning storyline was just backburnered.
“The Bold and the Beautiful is a half-hour soap opera,” Popp said. “And with a half-hour, there is a certain amount of a story you can tell. (Tony’s HIV) story went on for six months, and it was very front burner. So now, as with all the stories we always tell, it’s time to put this one on back burner, and bring someone else to the front.”
Popp also noted that stories rotate. “(Tony and Kristen) didn’t move away. Nobody died. The characters are still around, they are just on recurring status.”
On the up side, Popp said that stories will rotate again, and they may come back to the forefront. “Meantime, he’s leading an active, productive life, and we do see the two of them together, so there’s still hope!” she said with a smile.
As far as what’s coming up for B&B, Popp said that everyone was very excited about the shoot of the fashion show in Portofino, Italy, and the Forrester v. Forrester storyline. “The Portofino shoot involves about 20 shows,” said Popp. “The Forrester v. Forrester story pits father against son,” she said. “It’s going to be very exciting. Stay tuned for that!” Additional reporting by Linda Marshall-Smith
- Soap Summit VII Addresses the Role of Women in Soaps
- Official Press Release for 3rd Annual Sentinel for Health Award
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