By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 17, 2003 12:24 PM

There was no mid-life crisis for the 40-year-old “General Hospital” at Friday’s 30th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in New York.

The venerable old medical soap picked up the three top honors: For outstanding lead actor in a drama (Maurice Benard), best supporting actress (Vanessa Marcil) and for the show’s writing team.

CBS’s “As the World Turns” — which, at 47, is even older than “Hospital” — claimed its fourth Emmy as best drama, with the show’s Benjamin Hendrickson also named outstanding supporting actor.

But it was the winners in the chat divisions that caused the most jaws to drop, according to published reports. “The Wayne Brady Show” and its affable host (the improv comic who called himself “the new kid on the block”), beat out the expected winner, “Dr. Phil” McGraw, to take home the gold for best talk show host and best talk show — sharing that honor with “The View.”

The victory for “The View,” interestingly enough, marks the first Daytime Emmy for TV veteran Barbara Walters, 71, in nearly 30 years. She is co-anchor and co-creator of the program, which has been nominated for best talk show six times but never won — until now.

At the podium inside the cavernous Radio City Music Hall, Walters, as quoted by the New York Post and, told the crowd: “I didn’t write anything (because) we never win, we never thought we would win.

“We have shown, day after day, that we can have women who can argue, who can laugh, who can disagree … and that’s the way women are all over the country,” she said.

“I’m beginning to feel like Miss Piggy,” said Susan Flannery, 59, who was named best actress for the second year in a row (all told, she’s collected four Emmys) for CBS’s “The Bold and the Beautiful.” “This is an embarrassment of riches.”

In other categories: “Jeopardy!” took prizes for game show and game show host (Alex Trebek); “Reading Rainbow,” won as best children’s series (bringing its total Emmy haul over the years to 19); and, in no surprise at all, for the 10th consecutive year the outstanding preschool children’s series Emmy went to “Sesame Street.”

The “Sesame” cast paid a moving tribute to the late Fred Rogers, of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” who died earlier this year.

On a nostalgic note, long-running video pioneer Art Linkletter, whose “House Party” and “People Are Funny” were as symbolic of 1950s TV as “Ozzie and Harriet,” was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Amazingly, Linkletter, at 90, looks and acts as lively as ever. Whatever his secret, get him a talk show.