A 'view' to an awards upset

Several real soap operas loom over the Daytime Emmys, which will be telecast Friday (9 p.m. ET/ PT).

Will "The View" be vindicated by the TV industry's top prize after being widely perceived as a sensational slugfest -- with Rosie O'Donnell doing most of the slugging, at Elisabeth Hasselbeck and other cohosts internally, and at Donald Trump externally?

And can the legendary Laura of "General Hospital" -- Genie Francis -- finally win her first Emmy 26 years after tying the knot with Luke (Anthony Geary) during the most-watched event in the history of daytime TV? Francis was gone from the show most of the intervening years since 1981 but returned this past year -- miraculously, rallying from one of those notorious soap opera comas -- to rekindle her famous liaison.

Francis has got some catching up to do on the Emmy front. Geary has won five for best lead actor. Many pundits think Francis has an edge now, being an overdue lead star competing in the supporting race. Some experts pick her to prevail at last, including Mala Bhattacharjee of Soap Opera Weekly and Daniel R. Coleridge of TVGuide.com.

Surveying the category comprising six contenders, Bhattacharjee harrumphs, "Come on, it's Genie Francis!"

Still, Francis faces tough competition from Lesli Kay ("The Bold and the Beautiful"), Gina Tognoni ("The Guiding Light") and Heather Tom ("One Life to Live").

Speaking of "Bold and the Beautiful," it's one of the few major soaps never to win best drama series, possibly because of timing. Many Emmy gurus believe it's disadvantaged as a half-hour program competing against one-hour rivals.

This year it has an edge, though: a strong, emotionally pitched story line pitting four-time best-actress champ Susan Flannery opposite Betty White as her headstrong momma.

"Betty White and Susan Flannery going head-to-head has to land 'B&B' a Golden Girl!" insists Bhattacharjee.

"'B&B' had it all: raw acting, smart writing, great directing and a socially relevant story line," adds Nelson Branco of In Touch Weekly, Hello Canada and TVGuide.ca (Canada's TV Guide online). "Oh, and Betty-freaking-White and Susan-freaking-Flannery doing battle Bette Davis and Joan Crawford style!"

Speaking of diva battles, nothing on TV topped those celebrated smackdowns on "The View," which has a disadvantage while doing battle at the Emmys. Multiple-host programs seldom win.

One rare exception: "The View" did claim the prize as best talk show in 2003, but that was its only top triumph. So far it hasn't won the separate prize for best host. But the addition of Rosie O'Donnell may be a big Emmy plus.

After all, years ago the old "Rosie O'Donnell Show" won best yap program five times. Rosie herself snagged the host award six times when she was in that category solo back between 1997 and 2002, even beating Emmy queen Oprah Winfrey once and tying her another time.

But don't expect Rosie to be on hand at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles to accept alongside her clashing costars if they all win. Rosie says she can't attend because she's busy with her kids' school activities back east.

Rosie could be missing a triumphant evening. There's good reason to believe that "The View" may win the program and/or host awards. Producers submitted the same, excellent episode for each -- one that features interviews with actors James Brolin (discussing his marriage to Barbra Streisand) and "All My Children" star Jeffrey Carlson (dishing his role as a pre-op transsexual).

The episode also includes, according to Branco, "all the elements that made the bitch-fest the best thing on TV this past year. Although Barbara Walters struggles during the opening monologue (even at one point bringing the show to an uncomfortable halt when she felt the need to talk down to the audience by explaining what 'couture' means), the episode hits all the right notes in the second segment when Rosie finally takes control. Hot topics include gay adoption, transgender children and the John Kerry speech faux pas."

However, watch out for Dr. Phil, who has never won either race. This year, in the host contest, he submitted a particularly powerful entry: his gutsy interrogation of a man accused of molesting his 3-year-old daughter.

All contenders must get around Ellen DeGeneres, who has dominated these races recently. Her episode entries include riffs on "Everything I Like" and an interview with "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell.

This year Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa made a gutsy decision to drop out of the talk-show races in favor of entering the new category of best morning show, which pits their "Live" against "Today" and "Good Morning America."

Episode submissions to Emmy judges are curious. On GMA, Diane Sawyer visits North Korea to probe its nuclear development plus the daily life of citizens.

On "Today," Meredith Vieira interviews President Clinton and Matt Lauer tells viewers that it's OK to ask their doctors if they washed their hands before conducting a medical exam.

On "Live," Reege and Kelly have a three-minute chat about his necktie (he loves it, she hates it, of course) and a long gab with Ashton Kutcher plugging "The Guardian" and his marriage to Demi Moore.

There's no clear favorite to win.

That's not true of the game show races, where "The Price Is Right" may have an edge. Sentiment runs high for Bob Barker as he says goodbye after helming the show for 35 years. In fact, his final episode is a special one-hour program telecast immediately before the Emmycast.

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