No. 10: Erika Slezak, One Life to Live
She only had a few precious weeks to entertain us in 2012, as One Life to Live ended its network television run early last January. Erika Slezak definitely made the most of her time. As Viki Lord dealt with the return of one of her deadliest foes, Alison Perkins (Barbara Garrick), and admitted that she still loved ex-husband Clint Buchanan (Jerry verDorn), Slezak displayed the same above reproach acting chops that made her a Daytime Emmy darling.
The woman who gave us Niki Smith also proved she could still be quite hilarious, portraying a highly-reactionary foreign maid during the Fraternity Row soap-within-a-soap arc. With OLTL possibly returning, we just might be putting Slezak on our "Best" lists for years to come.
No. 9: Heather Tom, The Bold and the Beautiful
WIth Susan Flannery having left The Bold and the Beautiful after 25 years of solid service, it's now up to Heather Tom to provide meaty, gut-wrenching performances to offset some of the frothy sudser's sillier offerings. Tom proved she was up to the task at hand in 2012, as Katie Logan Spencer—the long-suffering heroine she portrays—dealt with a surprise, life-threatening pregnancy, an ever-scheming husband and postpartum depression.
Tom has a way of inspiring visceral sympathy pangs in viewers, as we watch Katie suffer and suffer and suffer some more. While we wouldn't mind seeing the scrappiest of the Logan sisters in a few lighthearted stories in 2013, Tom just might be the greatest tragedian currently working in daytime soaps.
No. 8: Tricia Cast, The Young and the Restless
Jesus of Nazareth managed to feed the multitudes with only a few measly fish. That's akin to what Tricia Cast was able to do with her handful of scenes and story fillers on The Young and the Restless in 2012. Last year, Cast's Nina Webster continued to fight for a relationship with Detective Ronan Malloy (Jeff Branson), the son who was stolen from her as a baby. She also did her best to be there for pal-turned-lover Paul Williams (Doug Davidson), despite his obvious reconnection with her best frenemy Cricket Blair (Lauralee Bell).
Cast as Nina gave viewers two of Y&R's best scenes of 2012: First, when Nina confronted Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) for slutting around with her son — ending in the slap heard 'round Genoa City! Second, when Nina confronted Paul and Christine about slipping each other the tongue behind her back. If Y&R's new regime really wants to prove they know what they're doing, they will bring Cast back to the canvas like yesterday.
No. 7: Kelly Monaco, General Hospital
Kelly Monaco was one busy lady in 2012. In addition to her front and center role on General Hospital, she entertained millions by returning to Dancing With the Stars.
In new GH headwriter Ron Carlivati, Monaco finally found a scribe willing to flesh out the character of Sam McCall beyond simply existing as Jason Morgan's (Steve Burton) ride-or-die chick. When Jason began to pull away from Sam, following her rape and the pregnancy they believed resulted from it, Monaco was allowed to display a range of camera-ready emotions. The shock, disappointment and fury Sam felt for Jason—impressively conveyed by Monaco—was enough to win over even DC's most ardent Sam haters.
By the time Sam's son was switched at birth, we were already shocked to find ourselves rooting for her, but it was the explosive connection the character and her portrayer made earlier in the year with Michael Easton's John McBain that cemented Monaco's spot on our Top 10 Female Entertainers of 2012 list.
No. 6: Jane Elliot, General Hospital
Jane Elliot’s Tracy Quartermaine has been the lynchpin of General Hospital’s Quartermaine family in recent years. As the legendary TV clan continued to be trimmed down, Elliot managed to almost solely keep the spirit of the Q's alive. In 2012, with a new regime on board, Elliot received a little help in resurrecting the Q's, both in front of and behind the camera, and man did she rise to the occasion!
After getting past Luke’s (Anthony Geary) crush on Anna (Finola Hughes) and almost chafing under the yoke of her marriage to Anthony Zacchara (Bruce Weitz), Tracy found unexpected romance with Joe Scully Jr. (Richard Steinmetz). This tender-but-short-lived arc allowed viewers to see the softer, more vulnerable side of the Q battle axe. It also caused plenty of drama between Tracy and her sister-in-law/mortal enemy Monica (Leslie Charleson), as Tracy's dalliances with the sexy made man kept happening in Monica's living room!
When Tracy wasn't bringing danger home to the Q mansion in 2012, she was dealing with the mortality of her precious "Daddy". While the family almost lost Edward (John Ingle) during the poisoned water scare, the Q patriarch took a turn for the worse later in the year.
As the only surviving member of her family of origin, Tracy didn't know how she would go on without Lila (Anna Lee), Alan (Stuart Damon) and now Edward. Elliot broke viewers' hearts into a million pieces as she made Tracy's anger, remorse and sorrow over losing her father all too palpable. Sean Kanan better be prepared to keep bringing it as Tracy's naughty nephew and rival AJ in 2013, because when it comes to Elliot, it's already been brought.
No. 5: Florencia Lozano, One Life to Live and General Hospital
Florencia Lozano wasn’t on our TV screens as much as we would have liked in 2012, but the One Life to Live star and General Hospital special guest made the most of her time as Tea Delgado on both soaps. While OLTL ended with Tea pregnant and mourning the loss of a very-much-alive Victor Lord Jr. (Trevor St. John), the story didn't end in Llanview.
Tea arrived in Port Charles, New York to defend beloved, former stepdaughter Starr Manning (Kristen Alderson) on charges of attempting to murder mobster Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard). Once in Port Charles, Tea came face-to-face with Starr's dad, Todd Manning (Roger Howarth) — the man Tea held responsible for Victor's "death" back in Llanview.
Todd wanted desperately to make things right with "Delgado", and found the tragic opportunity to do so when Tea's baby was stillborn one stormy night. At the urging of a deranged Heather Webber (Robin Mattson), Todd agreed to switch Tea's dead infant with Sam McCall Morgan's (Kelly Monaco) son. This set off a chain of events that resulted in Tea ultimately having the son she raised for months being kidnapped by Heather, only to later be ripped away from her for good by Sam and Jason (Steve Burton).
Lozano's performance at the climax of the baby switch storyline cut a swath of volatile emotions into the General Hospital tapestry. We don't know if she'll ever be able to return to GH, or if she'll reprise Tea on the web version of One Life to Live, but we definitely hope to see more of Lozano in 2013.
No. 4: Robin Mattson, General Hospital
No soap character was more deliciously-diabolical than General Hospital’s Heather Webber (Robin Mattson) in 2012. Reaching back to his fanboyhood, head writer Ron Carlivati crafted an over-the-top tale for Heather, hitting on many of her historically-wicked beats.
The obsession with son "Steven Lars" (Scott Reeves), her relationship with cousin Susan Moore and penchants for baby-snatching and LSD were all present and accounted for. We couldn't have been happier! Okay, we could have been happier, if the brilliant Mattson was on Mon-Fri and twice on Saturdays and Sundays, but bloggers can't be choosers.
No 3: Melody Thomas Scott, The Young and the Restless
In what might have been the worst year creatively in the history of The Young and the Restless, Genoa City's faithful viewers had to hang on desperately to whatever felt familiar. Thank the Soap Gods for Melody Thomas Scott and her iconic character Nikki Reed Newman.
As the love of her life, Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) made an ass of himself by courting their daughter-in-law, Nikki proved a rock for the Newman clan, even while reuniting with paralyzed old flame Jack Abbott (Peter Bergman). While that reunion didn't last as long as we would have liked, Scott sparkled opposite Bergman as if it were 1990 all over again.
Scott as Nikki also proved the ferocious-yet-stylish mama lion, anytime she had to give Sharon (Sharon Case) a smack down, literal or figurative. Ironically, it was the denouement of daytime's worst storyline of 2012—the Shictor romance—that saw Scott at her best. Desperate to find a missing Victor, Nikki left Jack and went off searching for the man she will forever love. We don't know what Victor ever did to deserve Nikki, but thanks to Scott's bravura performance in 2012, we cared enough to keep watching and find out.
No. 2: Susan Flannery, The Bold and the Beautiful
One of daytime television's greatest treasures since the early years of Days of Our Lives, Susan Flannery has been the living, breathing embodiment of The Bold and the Beautiful from its first week on the air back in 1987. This is why we still can't believe she's gone.
Before she and her character Stephanie Forrester said their goodbyes, Flannery provided B&B fans with one last stellar season of incomparable performances. When La Forrester's lung cancer came out of remission, Flannery came out swinging.
There would be no limping across the finish line for this Lady of the Lake. Right up until Stephanie coughed her bloody, last breath, Flannery offered up a master class in acting. B&B and the soap opera in general will never be the same.
No. 1: Finola Hughes, General Hospital
Hey Madison Avenue, the sexiest, most cerebral (Okay, when she wasn't being duped by Faux Duke!) female character on a soap opera in 2012 didn't fall into your precious 18-49 demo. Let's here it for the vets!
After several return stints that only served to spoof her beloved superspy character Anna Devane, Finola Hughes returned to General Hospital in 2012 to mourn the "demise" of her daughter Dr. Robin Scorpio Drake (Kimberly McCullough). This time, GH got it right. Hughes was offered the kind of meaty material as Anna she hadn't been afforded since the second season of General Hospital: Night Shift.
As Anna lashed out at Patrick (Jason Thompson) over his indiscretions and bonded with old pal Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) over the enormity of a child's death, Hughes managed to kept Anna teetering just on the verge of falling off into an abyss of eternal grief. Anna busied herself by going back to work at the PCPD, assisting former trainee John McBain (Michael Easton) in trying to find out how his sister really died. She also tangled with whacked out Heather Webber (Robin Mattson), who sent her reeling with the revelation that Robin wasn't really dead after all.
The rest of the year saw two of Anna's ex-husbands return to her life, and one deadly foe masquerading as one of said ex-husbands. And some women complain about juggling carpool duties with that Power Point presentation that's due at work on Monday!
Through it all, Hughes kept Anna's every action and reaction grounded and believable, displaying an old school grace and sense of humor that's been missing in a generation of cookie cutter soap starlets. Welcome home, girl.