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September 1, 2009

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Questions over the future of daytime television

IT was pushing 37 degrees Celsius as nominees made their way down the red carpet before entering the restored - and gloriously air-conditioned - Orpheum Theater for the 36th annual Daytime Emmy Awards.

"I feel like a roast chicken," noted a glistening Emily O'Brien, nominee as outstanding younger actress in a drama series for "The Young and the Restless." "This is like an oven. I'm almost done."

A bit of heat is one thing daytime television's longtime mainstay, the soap opera, could use these days. Overall viewership has been declining, and CBS' "Guiding Light" leaves the airwaves this month after 72 years of production, first on radio, then on TV.

The future of daytime TV was on the minds of many attendees.

"Daytime television has been evolving," observed Alex Trebek, who was nominated as outstanding game show host for "Jeopardy!"

"Talk shows are still great. ... I look around here and I see Dr Phil is here, Montel (Williams) is here and Ellen (DeGeneres) is going to be here. These are all very successful daytime talk shows."

Soap-opera veteran Susan Lucci said fans shouldn't take the cancellation of "Guiding Light" as a sign the entire daytime-drama genre is in trouble.

"I think it's like nighttime TV. Just because one show gets canceled doesn't mean nighttime TV is out the window. But ABC is showing a huge vote of confidence by moving (the New York-based) 'All My Children' to LA, they wanted to expand not contract. So I think our situation is a very, very positive one."

"The Bold and the Beautiful" won the best drama award, the CBS soap opera's first such victory in 22 years on the air.

It was a poignant victory for executive producer Bradley Bell, whose late father William J. Bell co-created "The Young and the Restless," a show that was honored seven times in the same category.

"It's incredibly exciting because I grew up going to visit that show," Bell said. "It's sweeter after 22 years, it didn't come in five or 10 or 15 years. I think my dad is here in spirit. He would probably say, 'It's about time.' I took out the expletive."


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