CAUTION: My girl, Carol, speaks her mind in a strong, brassy and vibrant fashion. If you are offended by straight talking, adult oriented language (sometimes, there's a "very" in there), please be aware that you may well find it here. Carol shoots from the hip and tells it like it is, pulling no punches and taking no prisoners. That's why I love her & why I hired her. If it's not your bag, let's part still friends and salute our differences in tastes (I'm sort of a strong strawberry flavor...) ~*~Katrina~*~
Preserve the Collective Soul of Soaps
There was never anything wrong. Yet daytime today tries to look more like cable and primetime, when it should remain true to its own heritage and history.
Over a recent weekend, out of boredom and a coupla hours to kill, I skimmed over a message board, where posters – equally bored and restless – decided to reminisce about their favorite memories of the best in daytime drama. One poster wondered aloud why these have remained for the history books, instead of playing out in the present.
If it worked then, why not now?
On another recent weekend, I tried to get through another episode of GH, after being thoroughly entertained by OLTL. My husband Eddie sat in the bed with me, trying to get through the very same episode, a hostage to my habit, but this time, an unwilling one growing more disgusted and perplexed by the minute until finally, he could take no more and burst out, “I can’t watch this! There’s something wrong with GH. It, it doesn’t –“
“Spit it out, Eddie, c’mon. I might write about this. I’ve been trying to come up with a one-liner to encapsulate the problem not just with GH but soaps in general.” (Yes, I really do talk like this in everyday conversation.)
After the show was over, teeth brushed, fan on, sound box turned to white noise, we turned over in our respective favorite sleeping positions and out of the blue, he blurted, “Collective Soul.” Then promptly began snoring.
Back then, soaps all carried this collective soul. A regular viewer could depend on them to provide her (usually a she, since producers created the genre to appeal to the average housewife stuck at home) with the following entertainment values:
· A community of familiar faces, places and predicaments
· Predicaments made melodramatic in their intensity and in their eventual triumphant resolution
· Cliffhangers at the end of the week to keep watching past the weekend
· Core families around which the substantive stories of the human condition were written
· Each of the core families represented a microcosm of a real-life family out there in America struggling with perhaps some of the same issues
· Love in the afternoon focused on compelling couples who fought odds and grappled with personality conflicts to come together
· Such love, however, always had consequences. Rash, irresponsible sex always resulted in an unwanted, unexpected pregnancy, one abortion (Erica Kane), or, in the case of GH’s Robin and Stone, contraction of a deadly disease, AIDS and HIV. Nobody in soaps got away with screwing around for long, and the screwing around was done in a tasteful, inferred way, never overt, in keeping with the fact that soaps aired during the day when children often watched alongside their caretakers, often their grandmothers and mothers
· People who weren’t too outlandishly glamorous or too perfectly finely beautifully chiseled, but looked like the people the viewer might see on the street in her small town or big city and were just as flawed
· Yet these same people were allowed on occasion to parade in fancy garbs, attend fancy parties, and gossip afterward
· Every story remained character-driven, in that no plot moved too fast, no plot took over, no plot meant more than what the characters were thinking and feeling and how they interacted, and every plot counted for something
· Plot moved at an almost realistic pace, as illnesses and diseases, for example often lasted until a character died, and when the character died, that character stayed dead and mourned by the entire community
· Evil and criminality were dealt with summarily, as in real life, regardless of societal whims. The villain or vixen went to jail for breaking the law (and stayed there for a long time), died as a result of breaking the law or reformed
· As with love in the afternoon, murders in the afternoon also stuck to the PG rating, often hinted at, but never used gratuitously as an excuse to show off gore or glamorize the act of taking a life (tsk, tsk at DOOL’s Marlena, daydreaming about stabbing her lover to death with that “Xena, the Warrior Princess” look of orgasm on her face)
That’s a helluva long criteria, huh. Broken down, daytime offered the equivalent of a one-hour play of Shakespearean range on an Ivory Soap budget, and eventually became more than a way to while away the hours doing chores and burping baby.
Soaps became a contender.
As Kin Shriner (ex-Scott, GH) – veteran soap actor for well over 20 years and victim of recent downsizing – once told the press, after years and years of making fun of soaps, now Hollywood producers have taken to copying soaps’ basic playbook outright, making money off the very aspects of soaps they (and their cohorts) once mocked derisively on late-night talk shows and at their sushi bar equivalent of water coolers while haggling over the next movie deals.
The FOX-TV hit nighttime drama, “24,” starring Kiefer Sutherland is but one example. “24” is about the 24 hours of a government agent, Sutherland, and what he does in each hour of every week, set in real time. It’s about as serial as one can get without shouting “Luke and Laura are battling the Cassadines on the Haunted Star!”
Primetime sitcoms went from half-hour, self-contained units of wackiness, wrapped up by episode’s end and on to the next wacky batch of hilarity the next week ... to a running serial, incorporating a lot more drama to rival a “Practice” or a “Joan of Arcadia.” Take the outgoing NBC cult hit, “Friends,” where the issues of the week revolve around a clique of ‘90s hipsters, their love lives, who will Rachel choose as the father of her baby, natural father Ross, who’s loved her since high school, or lovable dim-witted doofus pal next door Joey, who suddenly realized he loved her too? Their friends try to help ease the tense situation, laugh it off, Rachel keeps her feelings to herself, debates whether to even choose in the first place, Ross and Joey wrestle with their own guilt, while Monica and Chandler struggle to conceive...the very stuff of soaps, and hardly just another “Barney Miller.”
Cable used to be a running joke, worse than soaps, until HBO’s original series, “The Sopranos,” and “Sex in the City” (now ended) kicked off a whole slew of copycats, feasting pathetically on their leftovers.
Enter, Brian Frons, newly appointed president of ABC Daytime, who comes from the reality-TV mindset of the international world, fixing to revolutionize soaps by basically mirroring primetime, cable and cutting edge film.
AMC followed up with its own lame version of “Sex and the City” in the incorporation of the small cosmetics company, “Fusion,” and the rapid-fire friendships of the young, hot sexy chicks on the show, Simone, Mia, Greenlee and Kendall. Instead of becoming the talk of the town, they ended up looking like dime-store hookers and “Sex and the City” wannabes, turning off legions of loyal fans who wanted to see more of the veterans like Erica and Tad, and more of them interacting in major stories of their own that were about more than just lipstick and tough (forced) talk about feminism and girl power, and involved more of the cast, instead of all these newbies thrust in front of the camera.
GH took its own lame version of Al Pacino in Martin Scorsese’s blockbuster movie based on Mario Puzo’s novel, “The Godfather” – Maurice Benard in a conflicted supporting role as small-time thug-turned-hapless-mobster Sonny Corinthos—and went “Sopranos” on everybody’s ass. A twisted, fucked-up “Sopranos,” for an inappropriate genre in an inappropriate time and coming away with inappropriate reactions in the impressionable audience. Unlike “The Sopranos,” GH didn’t cause audience members to shudder with relief that they only caught a glimpse of the so-called humanity of hit men and con artists and drug dealers. GH did manage, however, to incite many of the female audience members to cream their bulging size 16 Victoria Secrets over a chance to screw and get screwed over by the likes of Sonny and his enforcer Jason Morgan, while thoroughly warping young minds everywhere as to the meaning and cost of true love, mistaking dysfunction and misogyny for attraction and soul mate connection.
It’s like “Sesame Street” got revamped by Quentin Tarantino, to keep up with the growing maturity of the younger crowd, that all-so-important youth demographic, the ones who used to develop TV habits from their grandmothers and mothers and the ones now left to their own devices.
As soaps undressed and sexed up, armed and shot off, in a dubious nod to cable and primetime, the FCC took measures to clean up television across the dial, 24/7, after radio shock jock Howard Stern took his sexually-obsessed fetishes one step too far on the air of his morning rush hour show and “singer” Justin Timberlake performed a “wardrobe malfunction” on Janet Jackson’s considerable right breast during a Superbowl half-time special.
Presumably having never viewed daytime’s fare in his life (or paid much attention), FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps had the chance recently and reacted with shock, amazement and disgust at the decidedly R-rated smut currently being peddled by daytime’s roster of creative cheats. Copps fell short of officially announcing an investigation to include daytime, but he did suggest that the FCC should, citing a number of times where he personally witnessed scenes that bordered on the forbidden airing of “sexual and excretory functions” on a number of soaps.
I personally didn’t realize just how warranted Copps’ worries were until last week’s OLTL, when young gigolo type Rex took his own ex-mother-in-law Lindsay in his own closed nightclub. One particular scene had me seeing blue and checking my remote to be sure I hadn’t landed on a Spice channel or Skin-e-flex. He pushed her against a pillar, opened her blouse, and in the dim light, as he clearly was going down to lick some blonde pussy (FINALLY! NO CENSORS!), it looked to me like Lindsay was naked, her full breasts just out there trembling in the air conditioning. I almost reached for my adult toy...
Primetime and cable had already slowly but surely pushed the envelope of good taste in the last 10 years, somehow getting away with including several curse words in their characters’ vocabulary, allowing ass shots in love scenes and God knows what’s next.
Probably soaps tagging along, trying so desperately to shed its own embarrassing image as the stupid, corny, lame goody-two-shoes stepsister to the real adult stars—the popular mainstream entertainment industry.
Maybe tomorrow on GH, I’ll see Nikolas licking Mary’s nipples in the shower while Emily enters him with a dildo from behind. Or Paul jamming his considerable cock between Natalie’s considerable breasts while jammed against his helicopter in the dead of night on OLTL. Perhaps some girl-on-girl action at AMC’s Fusion office would do.
That’s all well and good on two either/or conditions:
1. Daytime starts airing at night on pay-per-view as another cable channel
2. The gratuitous sex (and violence) go somewhere, like, a part of a very involved, very interactive, very substantive, very personable story the audience can readily relate to, follow, learn from, escape to, and rejoice with. ...
... like soaps used to be before they forgot the very essence that made it special (and damned, and ridiculed) in the first place, and got very carried away while keeping up with the “Sopranos” and the Carries and the “Friends” (shows which have successfully lifted liberally from the soap genre without giving credit).
The problem isn’t contemporary relevance, it’s neglect.
Soaps cannot and should not compete with the outside world. Instead, soaps should embrace the very characteristics that made them worth watching, that developed into a tradition, handed down from (female) generation to generation, that turned into a Luke & Laura craze the mainstream has never shaken off since, that they’ve yet to cash in on while the beneficiaries of their mainstream-envy continue to plagiarize without attribution.
Let’s return to that collective soul so many of us remember fondly and so frequently rehash in posts on a boring and restless weekend, contemporized with today’s dialogue, fashions and increasingly complex, often life-threatening issues, without giving in to the peer pressure of an increasingly soulless shock value society.
Soaps have nothing to be ashamed of.
GRAPHICS BY SCOTT BILSTAD
April 20, 2004 - GH
April 14, 2004 - OLTL