March 10, 2000 was definitely a night to remember for both fans and the daytime TV soap industry, as Soap Opera Digest presented the "16th Annual Soap Opera Awards" live from the Hollywood Palladium Theater. Hosted by Access Hollywood's Nancy O'Dell and broadcast on NBC, there was a mixture of excitement and anticipation in the air as cast members, nestled at individual round tables representing their respective shows, waited to hear who would be chosen for this year's awards.
Unlike Soap Opera Awards in the past, where soap fans in attendance could be counted upon to contribute their share of applause and lung power to the evening's atmosphere, this year's ceremony was strictly an insider industry affair. There were only a handful of fans gathered outside the Palladium parking lot gates to welcome their favorite celebrities, and all five of them seemed to want a glimpse at beautiful McKenzie Westmore, the actress who plays Sheridan Crane on "Passions" – and for good reason. Westmore stood out from among a crowd of the beautifully beaded, naval and thigh-revealing ensembles. Bedazzling in a china red satin strapless ball gown with gold flower embroidery reminiscent of dresses worn by imperial ladies in ancient China, she possessed that Hollywood touch of glamour and youth that seemed to die when Gloria Swanson took her last breath.
Other fashion standouts include the jaw-dropping outfit of Finola Hughes (Anna Devane, AMC), who wore a daring Jennifer Lopez-ish torso revealing white silk blouse that showed a wonderfully sculpted body, and Renee Jones (Lexie, DOOL), in a strapless indigo raw silk gown so distracting for its opalecent luminecense. Undoubtedly, Josh Ryan Evans (Timmy, Passions) was the hands down most handsome in his Matrix tux.
While this year's ceremony was leaps and bounds improved over last year's award show, which had an odd assortment of soul singers and Aretha Franklin's "Daydreaming" to accompany each show film clip, it was still slow, too segmented and featured some rather odd sequences including a "Mothers & Daughters" homage which, pieced together, was an exercise in screaming and tears. Whatever impact this segment was to make on "Mothers & Daughters" or soaps in general was lost, which is unfortunate since the featured scenes could have otherwise focused upon what was undeniably some of the best acting of both daytime and prime time television.
Among the show highlights:
– The very promising opening sequence, a Passions-like scene, featuring "Passions" duo Tabitha (Juliet Mills) and Timmy (Josh Ryan Evans) contemplating more mischief and magic, although perhaps not enough to enliven the rest of the show;
-- The ever-ebullient Darlene Conley (Sally, B&B), showing she is every bit as Mae West and Bette Midler as a gorgeous woman could ever be without causing the Palladium roof to cave in;
– Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH) whose acceptance speech for "Favorite Actor" included words of encouragement for other manic depressives, "To anyone who's manic-depressive, don't give up.";
– A clip from a past SOD Award broadcast where Carol Burnett had the audience in stitches at the expense of a good-natured Susan Lucci, who's previous numerous Emmy loses, coupled with Erica's loves and failed marriages, was ripe fodder for the talents of this comedienne and long-time fan of AMC;
-- Ben Masters (Julian Crane, Passions), who was seen wiping away tears of joy as Josh Ryan Evans took to the stage to accept his award as "Favorite Scene Stealer."
One particularly disappointing aspect of the SOD Awards was the failure to really distinguish and honor the long-running Another World, whose 35-year existence surely provided plenty of stories to fill the pages of Soap Opera Digest. However nice the clip highlights of AW might have been, it was lumped into the "so long, farewell" files with Sunset Beach, another cancelled soap whose lifespan was just a bit longer than Gilligan's Island. AW should have been recognized for its outstanding work, and a more fitting tribute could have included participation from some of its long time stars as homage to the passing of a great soap classic.
Still, the SOD Awards is necessary to highlight and feature what is the best about daytime television. For as much as this industry is often treated as some one-eyed stepchild to other allegedly respectable avenues within filmed entertainment, soaps are a much loved and cherished commodity to its audience. The SOD Awards, while still a popularity contest voted upon the huge subscriber base of Soap Opera Digest, is a necessary affirmation of the love and care that fans provide to each show, as evidenced by the genre's popularity over the internet. Even among the castmembers, the Soap Opera Awards were effective in showing the camaraderie, encouragement and respect for these hardworking actors who, for one night, might be able to relax and bathe in the glory of their popularity.
The Soap Opera Awards nominees are selected by the editors of Soap Opera Digest Magazine and the winners are voted on by the magazine's subscribers. Too bad the fans were not in the audience this year to round out this picture.
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