Passions and the Daytime Emmys: The Precious Problem
With the 35th Annual Daytime Emmys fast approaching and the often controversial and critically snubbed Passions‘ reaching its end, it seemed like a good time to cast a nostalgic glance back at one of the series’ most acidly criticized ventures. Creator, Producer and Head Writer, James E. Reilly, displayed his usual zest for outlandish controversy early on in the show’s history when he created what may have been the most widely talked about primate character on TV. In March of 2003, Precious was introduced to the cast and into the annals of TV history falling somewhere between the strange charm of Arnold the pig on Green Acres and the otherworldly charm of puppet alien Alf on Alf. For just over two years, the orangutan served as the helper to elderly eccentric and booze hound Enda Wallace. In her time on the show, she bonded with various characters, most profoundly Edna, but also dim-witted hunk Luis as he moved about in the orbit of the Wallace women. There has been nothing else in soap history that quite compares to the elaborate soft-focus romantic fantasies which Precious had for Luis, providing viewers with dollops of the cuteness and creepiness that the show has always done so well.
To up the ante of the entire thing, Passions submitted Bam Bam, the orangutan who played the role, for a Daytime Emmy Award, a move which infuriated animals rights activists, soap actors and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences who give the awards. PETA protested, Jane Goodall protested and so did the Centre for Nursing Advocacy who argued that the series was not only degrading to primates, it was degrading to health care workers as well. The protests only pushed the show’s producers to argue further for the inclusion of the primate in the proceedings, a move which some suggest may have fueled the general slighting the show has come to receive by the Academy and the soap press in general.
The Academy ruled that they “…must draw a line of distinction between animal characters that aren’t capable of speaking parts and human actors whose personal interpretation in character portrayal creates nuance and audience engagement that uniquely qualifies those performers for consideration of television’s highest honor.” It was precisely such an attitude that Reilly seemed to be skewering in what may heave been a publicity stunt, but may equally have been a pointed attack on the talents of the human professionals in the business. Whatever it was, it’s the sort of thing more common to performance art or punk than Daytime TV.
Precious left the series in April of 2005 to take care of a sick aunt. Since then, she’s received occasional mention and appeared in more than a couple of flashbacks. Currently, Tabitha plans to go and live with her to avoid the coming apocalypse.