Vanessa Williams to put on a show at Daytime Emmys

LOS ANGELES - August 30, 2009 Singing, dancing, comedy and a touch of pathos set against the glitzy backdrop of a historic theatre are on tap for the 36th annual Daytime Emmys in an attempt to lure an eroding audience for award shows.

Sunday's live broadcast relocated to the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles this year, leaving its recent home at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Opened in 1926, the venue has hosted everyone from Judy Garland and Jack Benny to Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder.

"It's a smaller venue, which has that real glamorous look," executive producer David McKenzie said. "We want to call attention to the fact that downtown has these incredible theaters. I hope to restore a lot of the glamour to the awards and make it a really memorable event."

Honoring everything from soaps to talk shows to game shows, the ceremony airs 8-10 p.m. EDT on the CW, the first time the awards won't be on one of the major three networks. It had alternated between ABC and CBS the last four years.

"We've tried to make it very fast-moving this year so it doesn't seem like two hours," McKenzie said.

He landed his self-described "dream hostess" in Vanessa Williams, who plays fashion diva Wilhelmina Slater on ABC's prime-time "Ugly Betty." She's also a daytime nominee for performer in an animated program for her voiceover work on the PBS show "Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies."

Williams' singing and dancing chops will be on display in the show's opening number, a parody set to "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" from the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" in which she is comically inserted into scenes from the soaps.

"I never auditioned for any daytime," she said, recalling hershow biz beginnings. "I used to watch `Days of Our Lives' way back in the day. I got caught up in the whole Luke-and-Laura scene back in high school in the late '70s and early '80s."

The Daytime Emmys will pay tribute to "Guiding Light," which CBS canceled after a 72-year run that predates television. The low-rated soap will air its final episode in September, leaving just eight daytime dramas on the air. CBS and ABC will have three weekday soaps, with NBC having one.

Betty White will introduce the tribute, with more than 30 past and present "Guiding Light" actors participating, McKenzie said.

The lifetime achievement award goes to PBS' "Sesame Street" for 40 years of educating and entertaining children. Sandra Oh will help salute the show, joined by Big Bird, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster.

A "Daytime Gives Back" segment features a visit to Kenya by Susan Lucci, Anthony Geary, Kelly Monaco and Montel Williams.

"If this part of the show doesn't make you cry a little bit, I'll give you your money back," McKenzie vowed.

Lucci will also be seen in a runway photo shoot, with actors modeling outfits from their shows.

Williams is taking a no-nonsense approach to her hosting role, a job she's handled previously at the TV Land Awards and the Essence Awards.

"It's live TV. I got a lot on my plate and I just want to make it through without any glitches and give people a good show," she said. "They'll be tuning in to see their favorites. The bottom line is they want to know who won."

PBS garnered the most network nominations with 56, followed by ABC with 50, syndicated programming with 49, CBS with 30 and NBC with 20.

Among programs, ABC's "All My Children" received a leading 19 nominations, although Lucci was not among them. PBS' "Sesame Street" had 15 nods, followed by NBC's "Days of Our Lives" with 13, Ellen DeGeneres' syndicated talk show with 12, NBC's "One Life to Live" with 11, and CBS' "The Young and the Restless" with 10.

"All My Children" will compete against "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless" for drama series honors.

"The View" was overlooked in the talk show-entertainment category, though the ABC show's five panelists will compete against DeGeneres, Rachael Ray, and "Live!" co-hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa for talk show host.


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