The New Look of Daytime - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

The New Look of Daytime

05/09/2008

The nominations for the 35th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards were announced on April 30. The ceremony will be televised on June 20.

CBS leads the pack with 56 nominations in the various 58 entertainment categories. PBS follows with 50 nods, and ABC trails with only 38 hat-tips. FOX provided no daytime entertainment programming, so received no nominations.

The stars set to take center stage at spring's end when the show airs will include talk show hosts like Ellen Degeneres and Dr. Phil, as well as soap opera veterans like Anthony Geary and Michelle Stafford.

Stafford headlines the CBS program "The Young and the Restless," which racked up the most award opportunities for any show with 17 nominations. Geary leads the ABC program "General Hospital," which is currently celebrating its 45th year on the air, but sadly is the one drama with the least nominations at only six.

Last March, producers of "General Hospital" ended their text message killer storyline with a spectacular car crash scene that utilized a wealth of special effects. The show incorporated green screens and 3-D animation to create very life-like digital imagery.

No other daytime drama has implemented 3-D computer visuals to this degree. Regular use of these kinds of visuals is usually limited to major Hollywood blockbusters not only to simulate car crashes but also to invent fantasylands or give characters super powers. Yet, shows like "General Hospital" have been slowly but surely bringing in these movie effects.

Despite the effects, those soap operas are still produced and directed in the rather traditional way that TV shows on a stage or in a studio are produced. The shows are filmed as if in a proscenium and the cameras, two or more, but sometimes three cameras, are placed in the apron area, just beyond that fourth wall, and all the action is performed in a picture frame box against essentially theater flats.

Recently though, the CBS stalwart "Guiding Light," the program that got the second most Emmy nominations this year with 13 nods, has opted to break out of that picture-frame box, and do more than just adopt a few movie special effects. This daytime drama has given itself a whole new look and feel.

It's somewhat ironic that "Guiding Light" has taken this radical new look, which began on this year's Leap Day, February 29, being that according to the Guiness Book of World Records, this CBS serial is the longest running drama in history. Originally aired as a radio program, the show is now in its 71st broadcast year.

"Guiding Light" centered around a minister and his church. Over the course of seven decades, the stories and characters built upon that have evolved and changed. Some have even permanently ended. Yet, a lot of the show is still about love and faith, as it affects four main families and their extended loved ones in the fictional town of Springfield, Ill.

The story structure remains pretty much the same, but even that was rather unique. Most soaps will have anywhere from three to four plots going at any one time. In any one daily episode, the show will juggle those plots by intercutting back and forth, running those separate plots on parallel tracks.

"Guiding Light" rarely does that. It has several plots, but it will focus on each one individually and sometimes all at once, not cutting or rarely cutting away. It makes each chunk like a short film, setting up the episode like a collection of succinct movies. Occasionally, it would intercut, but it wasn't a regular occurrence.

Answering low ratings and critics who said the show didn't feel real, the producers and directors have gone beyond shooting the program on a stage. "Guiding Light" now films in outside and more often real locations in New York and New Jersey, rather than some picture-frame-box stage.

The CBS show has also changed to shooting on smaller digital cameras with a lot of the scenes done totally hand-held with odd angles from odd camera positions in natural and sometimes harsh lighting. The odd angles surround the characters and their actions, no longer limited to that apron area, just beyond the fourth wall. This does require one camera to be used at a time, instead of the traditional two or three.

In short, "Guiding Light" is now essentially produced and directed like a movie, a documentary in fact and not a drama. It's strange and jarring, and, to a lot of the older fans, it's ugly.

Nevertheless, I respect it. As ratings for all the network shows continue to drop, shows should strive to be relevant, bold and innovative. All of the daytime dramas have taken steps toward the end, but I feel that "Guiding Light" is probably the one show that's taken it to the extreme. It's a gamble. Perhaps it's helpful that the show is sponsored by Proctor & Gamble.
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