No. 10: Kirsten Storms - General Hospital
Not only is Kirsten Storms one of the best actresses in daytime, she's also one half of the genre's most enjoyable duos. It takes someone special to keep up with Bradford Anderson (Spinelli)'s wild energy and Storms definitely has what it takes. Maxie is the girl you love to hate, but at the same time can't help but root for, and that's all due to Storms' incredible skills. In the hands of a lesser actress, Maxie could have come off as a vapid, shrill mean girl, but Storms manages with every scene to give this character tremendous heart. They've thrown everything at Maxie, from killing off her sister and moral compass Georgie (Lindze Letherman), to the death of one boyfriend after another, to becoming Spinelli's very own mini mob moll, yet Storms delivers each time with the ease of a seasoned vet. Whether or not the Emmys make it to the airwaves in 2009, the name Kirsten Storms better be on the ballot.
No. 9: Melody Thomas Scott - The Young and the Restless
We already named Melody Thomas Scott our Most Improved Actor of 2008, but that qualification alone doesn't do this woman justice. In 2008 she didn't just improve, she broke out. We have never been more impressed with Thomas Scott than we have this past year. As Nikki Newman battled to save the man she's always loved from himself, fell off the wagon, finally found a sense of dignity and independence and even embarked on a less toxic (re: one that doesn't involve Victor) path to love again with teenage sweetheart Paul Williams (Doug Davidson), an actress we long thought of as merely a successful hair model became so much more. Welcome to the ballgame Mrs. Scott, we can't wait to see what you do in 2009.
No. 8: Adrienne Frantz - The Young and the Restless
We often joke that Adrienne Frantz has been stuck in teen or young adult storylines for her entire 10-plus years in daytime on three soaps, but in all honesty it should be a testament to this ageless actress, who with her infectiously-giddy voice and eternally youthful spirit, has anchored the young crowds on Sunset Beach, The Bold and the Beautiful and now The Young and the Restless. This past year Frantz's Amber was finally given a grown up romantic storyline when she fell head over heels for her BFF Daniel Romalotti (Michael Graziadei). No longer stuck doing all the heavy lifting in scenes with her younger leading men, in Graziadei, Frantz finally met her equal and the results were orgasmic.
Let's forget about the tangible sexual chemistry between Amber and Daniel for just a second and concentrate on the sheer heartbreak Frantz managed to convey as the wickedest of evil mothers Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) orchestrated a breakup between Daniel and Amber. Not since Victoria Rowell (ex-Dru) have we seen an actress capable of going toe-to-toe with the formbidable Stafford in scenes. Frantz didn't just bring it opposite Stafford though, she also held her own up against Jess Walton as Y&R's other Mommy Fiercest Jill Abbott. We guess all those years sparring with Brooke Logan Forrester (Katherine Kelly Lang) on that other Bell soap came in handy. Outside of her connection with Daniel, Amber's relationship with kindred spirit Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) is what officially cemented this B&B transplant firmly to the Y&R tapestry. Kay and Amber's bond is reminiscent of Stephanie Forrester (Susan Flannery)'s affection for the character back home in L.A. Let's see, lickable chemistry with her equally sexy leading man, and the ability to form bonds with even the most daunting of vets, we'd say Frantz is definitely a keeper.
No. 7: Maura West - As the World Turns
Imagine As The World Turns in 2008 without Maura West. It's too frightening to even consider isn't it? Without West as a mother lioness who only wanted what was best for her children, the blonder half of a smokin' hot, yet illogically abandoned, pairing with cousin-in-law Holden Snyder (Jon Hensley), a foil for her G-Man (Michael Park)'s budding romance with Janet (Julie Pinson), a fashionable thorn in the sides of one-time friends Katie (Terri Colombino) and Lily (Noelle Beck), or as simply the delicious, volatile, modern day Maggie the Cat we love, or love to hate, As the World Turns would have been even harder to sit through for 60 minutes a day— give or take 20 minutes of commercials about people with STD's going kayaking—than it was last year.We're beginning to think it's impossible to find an onscreen partner who West doesn't have chemistry with. As 2008 came to a close, West was accomplishing the Herculean task of helping the audience accept ATWT's umpteenth Craig recast (Jon Lindstrom), and whaddya know, for some of our editors it's working. If Chris Goutman was smart, he'd rename the show How The West Was Won.
No. 6: Marcy Rylan and Kim Zimmer - Guiding Light
Kim Zimmer and Marcy Rylan were arguably the best weapons in Guiding Light's arsenal as the near-flatlining soap struggled to stay on the air in 2008. Too bad TIIC shoot with about as much accuracy as an inebriated Stevie Wonder. Despite being wasted in one ridiculous, plot driven, poorly-crafted story stinker after another (The AARP Pregnancy Diaries, Confessions of a Kidnapped Fashionista) Zimmer and Rylan managed to keep fans tuning in. Okay... not many fans (21 percent of the core audience for daytime's eldest stateswoman turned off their light in '08), but this show needed each and every eyeball the Nielsens could miscount.
For years fans have been clamoring for a sustained reunion between Josh (Robert Newman) and Reva, and during the filming of the wedding scenes for GL's movie-within-what-was-once-a-soap-turned-vapid-reality-clone, we were allowed a brief taste of the old Jeva Magic, thanks to Zimmer and Newman's proven, trademarked abilities to rise to even the most implausible of occasions.
Like Zimmer, Rylan somehow manages to prevent long-abused GL viewers from turning the channel with sheer grit, talent and a keen sense of who her character is, even if the writer's don't seem to have a clue. Whether Lizzie is being held hostage by skeevy five-day-a-week airhogs, fighting for what is rightfully hers, or defending the man she loves, Rylan delivers time and time again. The actress literally sizzles with onscreen love interest Daniel Cosgrove (Bill), and shares the kind of visceral connection with Jordan Clarke's Billy fans haven't seen since GL's other spunky blonde heiress, Melinda Sue Lewis (either Krista Tesreau and Kimberely Simms' versions), last visited town. Together, these two dynamic women are the cornerstone on which Guiding Light should be rebuilt. Well, right after some new sets of course.You lighten up Bloom!
No. 5: Elizabeth Hendrickson - The Young and the Restless
Elizabeth Hendrickson was the double shot of espresso the young crowd on The Young and the Restless desperately needed in 2008. The All My Children grad perked things up the moment she arrived in Genoa City as snarky, stylista Chloe. This past year the energetic Hendrickson managed to make the saccharine-sweet Cane and Lily (Daniel Goddard and Christel Khalil) love story bearable. Chloe provided the rebound pairing with a much needed obstacle and prevented them from becoming the biggest snorefest on CBS Daytime.
The reveal that Chloe was really Kate, the daughter of Chancellor housekeeper Esther (Kate Linder), and namesake of the legendary Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper), smartly fastened Chloe to the framework. Hendrickson never so much as flinched during the plot twist. She quickly made you understand how Esther's sweet little bambina could grow up to be a bitter, bitchy glam goddess, by balancing Chloe's venomous reaction to the mother she felt abandoned her, with the young woman's painfully obvious feelings of hurt and abandonment.
Chloe is a throwback to classic soap vixen archetypes like All My Children's Erica Kane, Another World's Rachel Davis and Y&R's own Jill Foster, women who came from nothing, and who will stop at nothing to have it all— much to the chagrin of their long-suffering mothers and generally less-than-fab rivals. A delicious new layer to this confection was added when fellow fire cracker Billy Miller made his debut as Billy Abbott, Cane's half brother, who just happened to share a past with Chloe. With Hendrickson and Miller to add the right balance of spice to an otherwise bland mixture, the Billy/Chloe/Cane/Lily triangle is poised to be daytime's hottest quadrangle in '09.
No. 4: Debbi Morgan - All My Children
A soap opera character being shocked to learn the "dead" person who once held his or her heart is still very much alive is right up there with evil twins and amnesia on our list of soap stereotypes we wouldn't mind seeing retired, but in the capable hands of Debbi Morgan (Dr. Angie Hubbard), even the most cliched of soap storylines turn into Watercooler TV.
Morgan's performance during the scenes at the train station where Angie first spied her beloved Jesse (Darnell Williams) were the most heart-stopping, hauntingly romantic moments in daytime in 2008. Flash forward to Angie's jaw-dropping, helicopter kidnapping, immediately following her splashy wedding to Jesse, and Morgan once again proved how lucky daytime is to have her back to grace us with her presence.
No. 3: Erika Slezak - One Life to Live
Betting on Erika Slezak's acting chops is one of precious few safe investments these days. There's a reason this woman has eight zillion Emmys on her mantle place. In an age when so many of her peers are just coasting along, collecting a check until the last soap is booted off the broadcast airwaves to be replaced with a reality show where Roseanne Barr teaches etiquette, Slezak proves daily what a consumate, dedicated professional she is to this genre, by pushing herself to the absolute limit in order to turn out the most authentic performances imagineable as Victoria Lord Gordon Burke Riley Buchanan Carpenter Davidson on One Life to Live.
Long before Katherine Chancellor's refreshing romance with old Murph on The Young and the Restless, Viki and Charlie's starcrossed, senior love affair proved, contrary to Madison Avenue logic, life doesnt end at 50, or even 60 for that matter. While Slezak is one of those actors who is flawless in practically every scene she turns in, the two sequences that secured her place on our list—Viki coming undone at Victor Lord's crypt and the debut of the Buenos Dias Cafe— were brilliant displays of dramatic acting even by Slezak's standards. We predict this year's Emmy battle wiill be one hell of a soaptastic fight between Slezak and Cooper. Too bad SOAPnet would rather run the movie Clue than air it.
No. 2: Finola Hughes - General Hospital: Night Shift
General Hospital doesn't exactly have the best record of bringing back legacy characters and giving them storylines worthy of their past glory, or their fans patience. If you don't believe us, check the Nielsens. The once utlra-confident 18-49 demo champ doesn't have much to be so smug about these days. We firmly believe this is because fans are finally getting sick of seeing vets put out to pasture in favor of dayplayer mobsters, or being written so far out of character it makes fans stop caring all together and simply tune out. This has definitely been the case with much of Finola Hughes's returns to GH in recent years. Having 80's superheroine Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) return to play referree as Patrick and Robin (Jason Thompson and Kimberly McCullough) argue, or go all fan girl over Noah Drake's goofy rocker lookalike was a waste of Hughes talent and our time.
Thank the Soap Gods, novice soap writer Sri Rao grew up a fan of the real Anna Devane and decided to bring that character with him to the table when given the opportunity to pen the second installment of General Hospital: Night Shift. In the capable hands of Rao and his team, Hughes finally had material worthy of her salt and her character's legend, when the Night Shift writers opted to give Anna's soulmate Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) colon cancer. None of Anna's highly-specialized WSB training had prepared her for this mission. How could a woman who had literally helped save the world on numerous occasions come to terms with the fact that she was powerless to save the love of her life? In her subtle, nuanced way, Hughes gave us a front row viewing of Anna's pain, and more importantly, her unwavering love for her man. Wouldn't it be great if General Hospital actually put this phenomenal actress on contract as opposed to actively seeking out yet another offspring for Sonny or Scooby Doo Mobster of the Week? We sure think it would.
No. 1: Entertainer of the Year - Jeanne Cooper - The Young and the Restless
The Young and the Restless gave its most powerful, heartbreaking, romantic, front burner storylines to veteran actress Jeanne Cooperthis past season. As Katherine Chancellor, the character she's played steadily since 1973, Cooper was handed the most carefully crafted storylines she's seen in years. First as Kay struggled with the early stages of dementia, then in the best dual role since Martha Byrne last played ATWT's Lily and Rose, Y&R resurrected Marge, the Southern Fried waitress who had famously kidnapped Kay many years ago. Only this time, Marge wasn't a cartoonish, comic villain. She was a tragic, broken spirit, who in a twist of fate, had picked up her doppleganger's most devastating vice– booze.
Old Marge was hitting the sauce even harder than Kay had been when she literally drove her cheating hubby Phillip Chancellor II to his death. Not even her adorable Papa Smurf-esque buddy Murphy (Michael Fairman) could help her give up the liver rot.
When Kay learned of her one-time tormentors fate, she didn't scoff, instead she offered to help, leading to a tragic case of mistaken identities that left Marge dead and Genoa City reeling from the loss of "Katherine Chancellor". Cooper's ability to make the audience suspend our disbelief and totally buy that Kay and Marge were two separate, unique people put her in the company of the aforementioned Byrne, David Canary, Eileen Davidson, Anne Heche, Ellen Wheeler and Erika Slezak, in terms of being one of a select few actors who can pull off a dual or multiple roles. From the fallout after the Chancellor will, to Kay's amnesiac, twilight years romance with Murphy, Y&R has told some of the most life-affirming tales this genre has seen in decades, all driven by the 80-year-old Cooper. Somewhere Bill Bell is smiling.