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~*~
VIRTUAL WATERCOOLER? (OR DEN OF EXTREMISTS?)
The military domain of the Internet became accessible to a populace in the mid-‘90s, opening up every avenue of communication, and chances for abuse. In the online soap community, it’s often a terrifying glimpse into the worst of the human psyche, as well as the best of the truest sense of humanity.
In either 1995 or 1996, I met the acquaintance of the Internet after dabbling a bit in the conference chats of CompuServe. I admit, however, to a bit of confusion. Where to start?
The only search engine at the time was Netscape or something like that. I sat there for a good 15 minutes staring at the blinking monitor thinking, “Okay, here’s the all-fired great Internet everybody’s been raving about at the neighborhood coffee shop in Manoa. Now what am I supposed to do?”
I couldn’t come up with any hobbies or interests to search and visit sites about. Finally, as I wracked the last of my brain cells for clues as to my inner psyche, I remembered watching Luke and Laura on GH – or at least hearing the buzz on the way to 10th grade French class at Aiea High School. I then typed in “GH,” and the only site that popped up, besides a whole other listing of actual general hospitals in the area of L.A., was Port Charles Online owned, operated and run by a big GH fan (whom I’d soon come to know as my big brother, in every sense of the word), Jeff Jungblut.
I clicked onto the first and only online community I would ever regularly visit, post occasionally and lurk at, a dysfunctional second home of embarrassed fellow soap fans and outcasts; some of those posters I still “chat” with from time to time, but most of them have since left and moved on with their lives.
As did 90 percent of the online community, I found myself caught up in the socio-politics of a clique-natured cyber world, our common bond being the fictional antics of Port Charles’ characters, with a few measured doses of news and gossip, not nearly the life-and-death, fan-based struggle of today’s attention-getting interns and wannabes.
I engaged in a handful of board wars, joined online fan clubs (Ingo Rademacher/Jax, S&Believers), played one against the other, took every swipe from a stranger over a misinterpreted declarative personally to heart, did my passive-aggressive stance, talking in the third-person narrative about a regular poster as if she were inhuman and an object of acceptable ridicule... the usual.
I watched as the board posters got even crueler, more organized and professional, about the furtherance of their soap celebrities’ agendas than their own paltry lives, as other soap sites capitalized on the mild success of Jeff’s PCO, and soon became, as of about two years ago to my estimation, a business unto themselves, selling spoilers and rumors for the price of attention, hits and possibly an intern mention to the network honchos.
I also watched the fellow fans I always adored talking soaps with slowly fade as a new brand of soap fan took over the message boards on every soap site available. This new soap fan didn’t so much care about the day-to-day happenings on their favorite show, as they did about pushing a fan-based agenda and promoting a fan-based celebrity (for more frontburner stories, for a better on-screen love match, for the firing of any distractions and detractors).
These professionals – I’m so loathe to call them fans in any way – sought to control and conquer the boards as one giant, unrelenting series of commercials, under the guise of innocent fan expression. They tracked the movement of their celeb du jour with the tenacity of a stalker and reported back every burp, nipple and fart, true or untrue, but always with an eye toward advancing the celeb’s (or their own?) career by attracting notice from GH interns, actors and industry executives.
The second a few from the industry made their presence known on Jeff’s PCO, retitled Soap Zone as of only a few years ago... it was all over, the innocent fan postings, the shared viewer observations, sitting and waiting and watching for what actually occurred on-screen instead of what would happen because of the nasty dealings backstage and behind-the-scenes. Soon, those were replaced with board-wasting proclamations that a soap character or actor ruled, or when would that soap character or actress ever see more airtime, frequently degenerating into chatrooms about personal issues worked out disingenuously in a public forum, complete with “Did you get my e-mail?” “E-mail me!” “Oh if they only knew!”
Worst for me, nobody left over seemed interested anymore in just talking about the soaps, without the socio-politics and what one of my readers referred to as this disgusting “jaded” sense of entitlement, that crosses over from fan into boss. Soap Zone’s reputation as a den of extreme terrorists made the rounds, fan to fan, fan to actress, and on and on.
A terrific example of this is in the controversial increase of detailed spoilers, ever since some S&C fans erected the tribute site (now defunct), “No Ordinary Love,” taking their Soap Zone spoiler postings over there, prompting others to wonder if some dumpster diving or ebay bidding was going on to receive such advance notice, as if lifted directly from weeks and weeks’ worth of scripts. The popularity of such detailed spoiler reporting encouraged more of the same, from other sites.
Eye on Soaps’ very own gossip columnist Sage Bourland had to be convinced to go into the spoiler business – when he’d rather have just talked soaps in his inimitable ingratiating style as he had in real life – by boss Katrina Rasbold. The spoiler demand clearly existed and, wanting to please her readers, Katrina followed suit. I’m sure by now she’s regretting her choice somewhat, as the mere paraphrasing of available spoilers has grown into this uncontrollable monster, where you’re judged for providing too little, too late, too much, too soon, or accused of plagiarizing.
Sage has been so successful in reporting advanced spoilers, sometimes months in advance, through the kindness of insider sources and smitten fans, that he’s caught the unwanted attention of the industry bigwigs secretly worried that too much spoiling may finally be their soaps’ undoing. GH’s co-head writers Bob Guza and Charles Pratt have never made any bones about their obsession with surprising the audience, almost at any cost.
Despite recently going on record with ABC SOAPS IN DEPTH as being okay with the spoiler leaks and rationalizing that it helps lure viewers to watch despite ruining the cliffhangers, Guza and Pratt must feel a bit put off by the fact that online fans almost always learn of spoilers way in advance, and even more hilarious, scoops and gossip way before they do.
It’s no secret the soap magazine editors and reporters are frequently combing the Internet for their major source of news, gossip and spoilers, whether they’d like to acknowledge it in print or not. Before, slightly pre-mid-‘90s, this stuff was THEIR bread and butter, THEIR domain. Fans waited for their weekly fix, and the editors provided it, about two to three weeks in advance. Breaking stories, though, had to wait several more weeks.
Not so with the advent of the Internet loosed upon the greater public. Now, anybody with a connection can find out instantly what’s going on in soaps, or anywhere else. Posting fans find out and share; half the time even I don’t know where they get their information from. But more than half the time, and this must be truly frightening for TPTB, they are often right, as they were about Sarah Brown (ex-Carly, GH) leaving the soap in less-than-lovely circumstances. And as Super Soap Weekend wrapped up at Orlando, Florida’s Disney/MGM Studios this past weekend, these same fans were vindicated when it turned out that their rumor of a romance brewing between GH’s Tyler Christopher (Nikolas/Connor) and Natalia Livingston (Emily) – discussed on the boards MONTHS ago – was not just wishful speculation gleaned from the pair’s convincing, on-screen make-out sessions, or from SOD pictures of them lookin’ a little too chummy together. Christopher told fans at SSW that yes, he and she were seeing one another. They even did an episode of ABC Family’s “Knock First,” where a crew goes in and renovates a part of a house (in his case, the swimming pool area), and she was there to help out with all the necessary tasks, even carpentry, which she tried to avoid.
With the vindication of rumor-mongering inevitably comes the oft-overlooked drawbacks, namely, the hurt caused by the recipient of such casual speculation and commentary ... about one’s job longevity, acting chops and physical appearance. I mentioned earlier engaging in board wars, an instigator and victim of attacks above- and below-the-belt, from an online posting soap fan’s side. But, soap actors and actresses also check out the board postings and sometimes receive the e-mails – ALL of them, not just the prettified praise publicists preview.
Many soap actors and actresses visit the boards, some by chance while doing background work on their roles, others through references from fan club members, friends and family. Almost all of them walk away from the experience feeling burned a hundred times worse than one or two bad in-person fan encounters.
Another facet of the Internet’s access by the wider populace, besides the immediacy, is the intimacy – a facet most stars can’t handle. Stars in general demand a certain distance from their audience, they on the stage, us down in the rafters clapping when appropriate, helping to pay the bills but otherwise, stay away. Soap stars, however, especially with the Internet around, dubiously enjoy a closer status with their fans, sometimes too close. Fans presume relationships that don’t exist, manipulate stars with tribute sites and tribute mentions for bragging rights (and vice versa, as stars have been known to use adoring fans to keep their fading name in lights) and online, simply stop thinking with their hearts when they mouth off about what they think they know.
I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We all have to some extent, even those fans who insist they’ve maintained only a positive outlook (with some exceptions, they’re perhaps the worst perpetrators of passive-aggressive, duplicitous, ungrateful, agenda-obsessive behavior, IMHO).
Soap stars like Terri Ivens (Simone, AMC) and Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL) – and, I’m sure, a lot more where they came from – spoke out in that same ABC SOAPS IN DEPTH report the GH co-head writers did about the effect of the Internet on soaps, fans and themselves. Ivens jumped headlong into the www. world of message boards and e-mails, innocently expecting the excitement and camaraderie of shared, glorified soap interest (like I did once and only sometimes experience today via primarily e-mails with soap friends and like-minded fans). After one thoughtless opinionating post after another, she backed off slightly, still doing the e-mails and checking the feedback, but not in the volume and not with the intensity from before.
Known in the industry for her fashion sense, friendly welcomes and gregarious, easy-going accessibility, even she had a few harsh words of criticism for the posters who spew their opinions like it’s absolute and righteous. She’s all for expression opinions, but that doesn’t mean every opinion expressed should be accepted as truth.
Hickland addressed the lies masquerading as truths about her status on OLTL. Right along with former co-star Ty Treadway (ex-Colin/Troy), she’s been the frequent target of rumor-mongers placing her at the nearest exit. She’s been at that exit for years now, and the rumor still goes on strong. Hickland wished the firing rumor would cease, but resigned herself to just deal with it as part of doing business in soaps.
Further curious, feeling generous and open to suggestion, I asked a few soap fans (plus one former) and colleagues who’ve been around for awhile what they had to say about the Internet’s influence on soaps, and in particular, what they thought about GH co-head writers Charles Pratt likening it to a gigantic gathering around the proverbial water cooler and Bob Guza declaring the rampant spoiler leaks a cool thing for increased soap viewership.
Of note, the women I talked to all pretty much panned Guza’s putting up a good front on the spoiler situation and Pratt’s ignoring the deeper issue of fans trying to alert them to the fact that soaps overall need help, never mind the cheerleading section.
And, they all acknowledged the mostly dangerous aspect of how very compelling, addictive and time-consuming the Internet can be on the average person who somehow has gotten caught up in a complete work of bad fiction.
My best friend Mae-B and I were among the first to frequent the premiere (and still reigning supreme) soap site, Port Charles Online, now Soap Zone. We went through our share of board wars and board boredom (one summer, creating a Camp SLAP with other regular posters, pretending the GH characters were communing with us over an open fire with the s’mores and crickets). Mae-B was the original fashion connoisseur, offering up her reviews of the latest runways on GH, especially post-Nurses’ Ball gala, as PCO’s official Commissioner of Haute Couture. She sometimes catches AMC when she’s not busy in higher education and juggling about 50,000 assorted other jobs. I admire her insight and her wit, rivaled only (by a hair) by EOS’s own cynical Kate Brown (who does the AMC spoiler commentaries here).
Mae had plenty to say about how the Internet allows a soap-viewing hobby to ratchet up to the next level, into a cataclysmic, absurd event of epic proportions:
“IMO, the internet has relieved a lot of the stigma attached to soap watching. People don't need to hide their fetish, instead they can seek out like-minded individuals and revel in it. This congregation gives soaps and their characters a gravitas among fans that they didn't have when people were indulging in the privacy of their own homes, embarrassed to be hooked on such low-brow entertainment.
Of course, the internet not only lends credibility through numbers to soap operas, but allows fans to use the sheer size and scope of the online community as a means of justifying their own over-commitment. If everyone else is analyzing each tic and twitch of fictional beings, why not join in? Eventually it doesn't even seem odd to be passionately defending a potential supercouple pairing in a flurry of back and forth message board posts or to begin categorizing and dismissing those faceless strangers whose preferences don't align with your own.
That much of this can be (and often) is done under the grip of the online equivalent of a state of advanced road rage makes it all the more ridiculous when one comes up for air and attempts to survey the situation with some measure of objectivity.
Some of your war stories illustrate this point perfectly. The internet makes people feel as if they're not alone. It also allows them to shed their inhibitions. It doesn't matter if we're talking about soap fans or foot fetishists; the same principle applies.
Of course I can say all of this with the smugness of someone who no longer watches soap operas and hasn't been a message board regular since her late teens;-)”
Another Soap Zone poster who’s been around for almost as long as Mae-B and I were with PCO is HNR, aka Jenna. HNR is renown as a harsh critic of GH’s Alexis Davis and a devout fan of Tamara Braun’s Carly. She contributes commentary to other soap sites and spoofs on SZ almost every day. When the rumor about Tyler Christopher and Natalia Livingston (as an item IRL) was confirmed over this past weekend, HNR naturally had her “I told you so” handy.
While I’ve disagreed with her vehemently in the past and feel her assessments of Alexis’s Nancy Lee Grahn and SOD columnist Carolyn Hinsey were off-base and unnecessarily personal, I can’t ignore her command of the online soap community’s ever-fluctuating mood swings. She does indeed often have the pulse of the latest batch of soap fans, from sheer daily exposure.
Typically, HNR – who had the most to say – doesn’t buy Pruza’s innocent act regarding the Internet, that watercooler comparison or the la-de-dah, another spoiler leak, but fans still tune in:
“I think the watercooler comparison is a bit outdated. For G&P to suggest that soap sites exist as random, effortless, unorganized think tanks is naive. Quite simply, the net for soaps is a lot different than a net existence for fans of cult shows like X Files, Lost, Angel, Alias or Buffy. Those are net experiences, by and large, where the fans actually love the show, aren’t looking to actually CHANGE the show and want to enthuse about the show. There is a genuine ‘tune in tomorrow’ enthusiasm. Only in soaps will you find a collective group of unhappy people with a bone to pick, or a tired group who are searching for better for their soap but somehow ‘can’t break the habit.’ They usually outnumber the enthusiasts by far.
What drives people to actual watercoolers in corporate America is not what drives soap viewers to the net. The online soap community has been taken hostage by one thing: Agenda. People know the power of the internet. They know they are being read. They know even the stars take a peek. They are always waiting for that phantom ‘intern’ of sorts to read their post and declare ‘Eureka! This is it! The storyline I have been waiting for!’ Soap internet fans have taken things to a new level. They know by coordinating buzz or nixing buzz they can make or break any newbie on the show (especially if they dare interfere with their couple or threaten their favorite character’s place on the show). For the most part, new men fare better than new women on this show by this very dynamic. Quite honestly, finding a truly fair, balanced, internet poster on the net is like finding a needle in a haystack
As for spoilers? I don’t know what the official stats are, but I would be willing to bet that the number of soap viewers who are online (and have access to spoilers) are actually larger than anyone from ABC will admit. 10-15 years ago, those with computers and internet privileges were more exclusive, if I had to guess, working class, ‘puter geeks, and college kids. Now, everyone & their brother has a computer. All ages, all demos, all walks of life. And that is great. But, as addictive as soaps are, you better bet soap sites are one of the first places soap fans will go if they have the net (and really, who doesn’t?). So I simply don’t believe that advanced spoilers and leaks don’t affect ratings or enthusiasm for a show. I think that is ABC trying to spin away something they will never be able to contain; leaked info.”
As invested as HNR seems to be in the daily occurrences of the online soap community, even she acknowledged the double-edged sword in being such an active participant.
On the one hand, she and other active fans get to feel a certain sense of superiority in knowing before TPTB and the soap media know and in being able to see right off the bat what’s wrong, right, working and failing in a particular soap story or scene... then pointing out every flaw for the whole www. to click and view.
But on the other hand, she does realize that criticizing every aspect of soaps, inconsistencies, gaffes, every mountain to molehill... tends to dilute the enjoyment of soaps. Turning a harmless TV interest into practically a business, she explained, with the science of nitpicking amassed for a high-volume online community, can easily spell trouble with fan-based demands, stuffing ballot boxes and the sheer number of fanatic attention to detail in the latest fictional couple’s viability. The professionalism with which some of these fan bases approach the formerly innocent sharing of a TV interest has, HNR added, served to perhaps put one over on ABC’s executives. Like, maybe they’re buying the fanfare, without really paying attention to its sources and motivations:
“Soaps have a shelf life and they are desperate to hang on to as many viewers as possible. They are at mercy to the net at this point. All a fan base has to do is make some demands, threaten or boycott, and most of the time, they’ll get their way. Hollow victory of sorts, but soaps don’t feel they have luxuries anymore. Collective, loud fan bases can be the most misleading & manipulative group of viewers out there. Leading writers down a path that oftentimes is never rewarded in ratings or general viewer satisfaction. But, with no other alternatives left, networks follow the trail of breadcrumbs...
... Finally, all soaps have to keep a weary eye on the net. This is the same medium where people post in multiple monikers/identities to further ‘spread their message,’ stack & alter voting to show inaccurate fan support, or campaign for one actor just to spite another. Can you imagine how easy it is to be misled? And here ABC is, taking this stuff to heart, relying on it as the proverbial watercooler. For a medium that finds itself held hostage by the net, the least networks could do would be to adopt a ‘Can’t beat em, join em!’ mentality & try to get to the belly of the beast. Have an intern spend a week within a fan base. They might be surprised at what they find.”
A fellow columnist colleague, Max of “GH Chronicles” over at SoapTown USA, admitted that she’d missed the ABC SOAPS IN DEPTH report, but didn’t seem all that surprised by what Guza & Pratt said in relation to watercoolers and spoiler leaks.
Like me, she tends to sound the alarms rather than quietly sit in the background taking whatever TPTB shovel out. Also like me – in case you missed her column last week about the wonderful acting in the Kristina reveal – she knows when to appreciate soaps when they’re ON and when to hold back favor.
Max – whom I frequently steal material from when at a brainstorming loss – submitted the following short, smart and succinct warning for those two with their heads in the clouds, while giving online soap fans so much more credit than I would:
“Yes, I do think the Internet has become the ultimate virtual ‘watercooler,’ but its effect are much more far reaching than the basic ‘office watercooler’ discussions because it reaches millions of people. If TPTP were smart, they'd pay very close attention to this ‘watercooler,’ they now have free market research that they should listen to in directing their storylines.
Certainly there are those on the net whose sole purpose is to stir up trouble or further unappetizing agendas but I think that those opinions are easily filtered. The brunt of discussions out there are from the viewing audience who have watched these soaps for years and years and absolutely know what they want, what they like and what they feel works. It’s an instant barometer of how a show is doing and if TPTB think it’s harmless and useless they're living in the last century, this is a tool they should be seriously looking at using and perhaps even more importantly reaching out to their audiences with.”
Honeycat, aka Julie Porter, provides a comprehensive website of the latest soap links, with the latest soap information and bursts of commentary in between. She’s been doing this for about two years, I think, saving countless soap fans the time and trouble to go individually searching for a related topic.
When she’s not updating Talk! Talk! at least once a week, she’s checking the boards for more information and posting a lot lately about politics, feeling the sting of a second Republican presidential win.
Her commentaries, rare but potent, can be brutal to read, (you think I pull no punches?!), but always worth every carefully chosen, strongly pronounced word. I knew I could count on her for something pithy, pointed and pertinent to the specifics of the spoiler obsession. The beauty of Honeycat, whom I have been posting alongside for forever, is she always thinks outside the box, never taking any party line at face value, always looking for the inner motivation. She found plenty:
“My main concern about the spoiler leakage: I think they increase the sense of entitlement. That is, if people know ahead of time how the storylines will play out, they feel they have the right to comment on that, or have a hand in altering story. I think it creates greater discontent.”
Whether you agree with any of my sources, quoted above, or with myself, it’s clear that the Internet (for the people, by the people) isn’t going away any time soon and can present for most of us quite a lure away from our jobs, our families and friends and our responsibilities in the outside, real world -- right or wrong.
From my vantage point, and I’ve been online since the mid-‘90s, the Internet can be a scary, seductive place, but it’s only as monstrous or as wonderful as one’s own personal, offline state of being, a reflection of something fulfilling or lacking.
I know, too, that the longer I stay, the less invested I become to the drama going on online in those many soap communities, and the more inured I become, in taking with a grain of salt whatever the multitude of fan bases have to say on behalf of their favorite celebrities and fictional soap characters.
On the bright side, I’ve learned through the years to appreciate the truly warm, vibrant truthful voices out there who manage to still enjoy whatever good’s left in soaps (as well as the few and the rare people from the industry who leave supportive, praise-filled feedback for the struggling volunteer online columnists out there with no expectations other than “You’re welcome”), can share all manner of pros and cons without feeling an urge to check the masses on the message boards constantly for a fantasy check, and most importantly, can turn off their computers, and tune out with their equally, if not more vibrant, warm, truthful lives offline.
I fear there aren’t many soaps fans like this left.
UPSTAGED BY BABIES
You’d never know it from the nasty, belligerent way JR’s been acting lately (with a few exceptions), but the twins playing baby Bess – in real life, they’re twin boys, not girls – simply adore portrayer Jacob Young most. The crew must put honey and crumbs of Cheerios on the young actor’s chest before filming any scenes with the engaging tykes.
The dichotomy is astonishing, distracting and hilarious to behold.
There’s JR snarling at Kendall to leave him and Bess alone, after turning down her request for a few millions between former bed buddies, but little baby Bess just keeps staring at him with a smitten smile on her face.
In every single scene with baby Bess, Jacob’s unconscious actions belie his character’s motivation and dialogue. JR is supposed to be railing against Babe for being a slut, pushing Adam away for pushing his own nastier agenda, and generally fighting that feeling of loss (assuming Babe was right in the letter, and their son died in the helicopter crash), transferring such feeling to the surrogate baby he unknowingly bonded with off-screen while fighting all comers for sole possession.
I’m supposed to hate JR’s guts, ever since he worked to ruin Babe’s life behind her back, working up to removing their baby from her presence permanently, completely, legally. And I do. Yet, what I see and what I’m supposed to feel are also studies in dichotomy, mainly because he seems so good with that baby, so parentally doting.
Fifty bucks Jacob Young is the picture of the Romper Room lady right before filming to help himself and one of the twins get in the proper father/daughter frame of mind.
That’s another thing. I can’t seem to pay attention to anything else BUT that baby and how well-behaved (he) is around the adults, and their constant yelling and cursing.
Case in point, JR tries to hide the fact that Babe might be telling the truth in the letters, by warning Tad, David and Bianca that the letter he received was full of “four-letter words” better left unsaid in the presence of adoring Bess. Not five seconds later, JR is cursing like a sailor in front of adoring Bess, who could care less about her father’s insane inconsistency and lousy ideas of appropriate grown-up behavior.
JR could shoot David in cold blood, wipe up the remains, lick his fingers and cackle hysterically – and baby Bess would still be staring up at him adoringly, half wanting to laugh herself.
The twins playing Bess/Miranda are the cutest babies I’ve ever seen next to my own son James (who has them all beat, amen). They’ve got big brown eyes, an infectious grin, and can’t seem to keep their hands off JR’s beautiful face. The babies are content to sit in his arms and watch as he rants and raves and flails about like a maniac. I don’t think I have ever seen them cry, not once.
The twins playing Ace/James, however, are another story. And yet, I still enjoy watching them to the exclusion of the supposed real stars of the runaway in hiding scenes, Babe and Jamie. I’m not distracted by the cute factor, which surely exists here – props to casting for picking out babies that resemble the on-screen mothers – but by the tantrum factor.
I can’t pay attention to Babe hitting on Jamie with her curling iron-made French toast or Jamie joking about getting hit dead-on with some baby pee, because I’m constantly waiting for the baby to go off. I usually don’t have to wait long, because that baby is either crying, about to cry, or looking off-camera to probably his mother or his twin brother, wanting to play with them and losing his cues to stay in character.
A couple of times I caught the baby smiling off-camera, looking away, then looking back, looking disappointed, maybe his mother went away for a second, then looking about ready to pull the mother of all tearjerkers. I’ve caught myself mentally telepathing Babe or Jamie to hold the baby differently, let him look over their shoulders more, don’t cradle him as much, maybe he doesn’t like to feel smothered, and walk around with him, maybe the kid’s hungry again, DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! DO IT FAST BECAUSE HE’S READY TO BLOW!
The baby-switching story has managed to capture the interest and personal investment of a multitude of fans, including one famous horror novelist, Stephen King, who recently came out via “Entertainment Weekly.” The reveal is being passed around from one interested, outraged party to another, as impressive performances flow almost too easily in a collective cathartic effect — and it’s about to get even better as the reveal slowly dawns on Miranda’s mother herself, Bianca.
I’m into it all unfolding, trust me. But those babies...
I just hope that when Bianca finally lets the truth sink in and reacts accordingly, the babies will be sound asleep in another room upstairs.
COLUMBO, THIS AIN’T
Two mysteries have taken over Llanview of late: the Santi connection with Cristian and Paul’s murder. I can’t say I’m at all interested or impressed.
I raised myself on mysteries, ranging from Agatha Christie to Columbo, and this crap on OLTL is anything but. I doubt the cast of characters involved in either mystery really cares about the outcome or the journey, but is just trying to finish up some really awful story ideas (shot down and redone by ABC Daytime Brian Frons, most likely) by recently departed head writer Michael Malone, so they can get to the better, human relationship stuff promised by successor Dena Higley, from DOOL.
Higley promised to restore attention back on the familiar faces that made OLTL a nice, but wacky place to visit in the first place. And I plan to hold her to it. One of the first orders of her business should be to review past episodes of OLTL, specifically the unscripted scenes that showcase the cast of CHARACTERS, as opposed to mind-numbingly bored strangers trying to earn a buck reciting repetitious, nonsensical lines driving them forward from one cliffhanger to another.
Of all the soaps out there, I think OLTL has the best improvisational actors in its cast, as proven when then-executive producer Gary Tomlin put on musical numbers and that live series of episodes before taking the “Outstanding Drama” award at the 2002 Daytime Emmys.
It’s often what the characters are NOT scripted to do, how they veer off course and refuse to play by the book that raise the level of my interest in this show above watching the clock and FFing.
Ironically, it is this very trait, colorful characters doing and saying oddball things that launched the Agatha Christie-form of murder mystery into PBS productions with British accents and the butler did it with the matron.
Last week, I paid more attention to Ms. Bigelow’s trench coat, suit and tie, hat and the shades taken off to reveal her thick-lensed glasses, and the odd but endearing repartee she shares with her boss Todd... than to what they were together in “The Sun’s” office about, something to do with Tico and Flynn.
The actors on this show play into the unscripted acts, none better and with more finesse than Michael Easton (John), John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex), Ilene Kristen (Roxy) and Tuc Watkins (David), sometimes Robin Strasser (Dorian) and Trevor St. John (Todd) – to excessive distraction. The official party line from the executives may insist on no ad libs, but behind the backs of the stuffed suits, these cast of characters are acting up, if only to break up the monotony of misguided character directions and storyline hang-ups.
Kristen admitted she messes with her Roxy-isms somewhat, fine-tunes them until the writers catch the hint. In a recent, painfully uninteresting scene designed merely to move plot instead of highlight character, Kristen’s Roxy – in a throwaway scene with Shannon – messed with the line “The Power of Now,” a book she’d read, to “The Power of Wow,” but said some people may not have gotten the reference.
Easton is forever messing with props and his own expressions, just as Lavoisier and Watkins do, to liven up an otherwise boring talkie scene. He’ll twiddle a pen with his fingers, do a little backtracking move or make a face when the other person isn’t looking (but I am). In a memorable scene with Antonio or Bo months ago, I forget which, he threw in a line about hoping not to find Asa at the quarry in a Speedo, which totally caught me off-guard and was the talk of the online town.
The writing leading toward Malone’s exit has deteriorated so badly that it’s been almost painful to watch Watkins milk his scenes out of nothing. It’s not that the actor’s jokes fall flat, it’s just quite obvious the actor is tired and doing the best he can to lift up the dead.
There’ll be more miracles forthcoming this week as David and Kelly go off on their cross-soap adventure, seeking answers from AMC’s resident town tramp Krystal, but winding up getting an audience with Pope Bianca, all the while trying to fight that growing attraction.
A little of the colorful characterization would’ve come in handy for Lisa LoCicero (Sonia), whose character is about to be written off due to writer neglect, and apathy, hers and the audience’s. Had the writers seen fit to transfer some of the actress’s known quirks – such as the ability to reenact everything from Monty Python to Kamar de los Reyes’ (Antonio) amusement – over to her strait-laced, uptight character, merely used as Antonio’s afterthought and Jessica’s cause-agita... well...
LoCicero, rumored to be the honoree in a cast good-bye party at Robin Strasser’s (Dorian) home, drove home this point even further, as I laughed at her comment about the failure of the Santis: “I guess we can all agree that the Santi storyline was sort of a lead balloon [laughs]. ... I guess there was really no salvation for what was sort of the Ishtar of daytime [laughs]. [SOD, Nov. 16, 2004]”
No greater indictment to the failed mysteries exists than the criticism from some of the actors trying to make their involvement believable, in a vacuum, with no help from above. Take the Paul Cramer whodunit, please.
John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex) and Jessica Morris (Jennifer) both agreed that not knowing who really killed Paul hampered their acting ability to turn in a fully-realized performance. They mused that a new head writer might be the perfect impetus for cleaning house, via the final suspect, but getting to that point has been a challenge. “If I’m lying, I want to know I’m lying. There’s very little subtext to play [in] something like this [SID, Nov. 23, 2004],” Lavoisier said.
And that is why Ms. Bigelow’s Coke bottle glasses are more interesting than whether Jen, Tico, Rex, Nat, Dorian, or the rest of the town is hiding anything.
DON’T SHOW THAT
Early on last week, Jason had to go in the operating room, close the curtains and say good-bye to Sam’s and Sonny’s stillborn baby. I dreaded the moment, not because of the emotional impact it might have on me, as a parent and as a viewer who remembered the weepy fallout from the B.J.’s Heart story of the ‘90s... but because suddenly, I was gripped with the sudden (inexplicable?) fear that I would undergo a repeat of what happened with David’s and Anna’s baby over on AMC following a failed surgery to repair her heart.
“Oh God no, they’re not going to show me the dead baby, are they? Oh God, please no.”
Consciously, I knew it was a doll Jason held in the shadows, then tenderly kissed, as Elizabeth watched, wincing. But subconsciously, the image threatened to take hold of my nightmares, and for what? A few seconds of kamikaze emotional bloodletting, the next best thing to actually jerking my tears the straightforward way, through inference and imagination?
It reminded me of how forward NBC’s camera crew was during its coverage of this past Summer Olympics in Greece. After a bad dive, a medal contender went off by herself to cry with disappointment, knowing she blew her only chance after months and months of hard training and high buzz. Instead of letting her grieve in private, those camera guys followed her, ignored the rest of the competition, and stayed there focused on her sobbing sorry heap for way too long. They should never have filmed her in the first place.
I’m sorry, but certain moments in a human being’s life should not be fit for public consumption, least of all for TV and film profit.
Showing a dead baby is one of them.
Forcing me to watch yet another unrepentant sinner bow down before God’s altar to show the character’s vulnerability (and give the actor a chance at another Emmy), when the character should spontaneously combust before even getting through, “Father in heaven...,” is another moment better left inferred.
In this case, I don’t care if the character is Sonny Corinthos, a mobster, or one of the nuns in South America who helped Sonny escape the arm of a rival mobster. Don’t blaspheme the Lord’s name and the holy, private act of speaking to Him for His holy intercession, just to raise some ratings and prove to me how deep down inside, this person’s really sorry for the bad he’s done, or she’s really torn about how she lit into a pregnant woman but can’t bring herself to talk to another human being about the struggle.
Despite being a Christian and lapsed Catholic, and even a conservative Republican, I believe in the separation of church, state, and soaps. Please. Leave God alone, He has enough to worry about what with the sorry state of affairs in the Middle East and with homeless families about to face the hypocritical farce known as the holidays, without being further burdened by Sonny and his incessant need for affirmation.
Since I’m on the subject of the few flaws of last week’s Kristina crisis – and they ARE few – let me go on record to officially condemn Carly in any of this. I understand she must tag along as Sam’s and Sonny’s baby dies following birth and as Alexis and Ric beseech Sonny to sign over the baby’s stem cells right away to save Kristina, since she kept the secret from Sonny for Alexis and is a major part of the story.
However, that does not mean I have to care or like that Carly is in on these pivotal, poignant scenes making sad, compassionate faces one minute (for Sonny’s benefit), and ragging on Alexis as a selfish shrew, as she always does, because Alexis can’t be bothered with blindly worshipping Sonny as the perfect man (when we all know better).
Carly won about 10 points with me for admitting she would’ve pulled the same stunt on Sam had she been in Alexis’s place. But 10 points doesn’t account for the 90 demerits she earns for admitting this with about the same amount of sad compassion she would in telling a telemarketer where to put his free penis enlarger and neglecting to own up to the many times she actually did scream, threaten, manhandle and browbeat two pregnant women in the past two years (and anyone else getting in her way).
I could not take her noble pretense any longer and screamed a few sinful epithets of my own.
Nevertheless, what I’ve seen of last week’s Kristina story has been enough to impress and keep me tuned in. It’s so clear to me how well Jason’s Steve Burton and Sonny’s Maurice Benard work together, based on their many years of friendship and trust. They spoke of the baby’s death, how to handle her memorial service, Sonny’s gratitude and regret, and the feelings were right there, right on the surface. If anything, the two actors had to forcibly reign themselves back for fear of overflowing and losing the direction of the scenes and losing control of their characters’ next moves that may not have required total hysterical meltdown. Not easy for these guys, as they’re both fathers IRL, and it shows.
“Northwest Afternoon’s” “Queen of Soaps” talk show co-host Cindi Rinehart had the chance to travel to L.A.’s Studio City, where GH is filmed, and interview several of the key actors of this storyline. She testified personally to the emotional heaviness at the studio, felt by the entire cast and crew, many of whom were so moved in particular by the scenes shared by Jason, Sonny and Alexis that they wept.
Sonny’s Maurice Benard told Rinehart that he hadn’t wept like that, so uncontrollably even after the cameras stopped rolling, but one other time.
And Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis), who was supposed to talk with Rinehart too, just couldn’t even bring herself to talk after her scenes wrapped, so moved was she, another parent who braved the pain of going there for the story.
There’s a lot I’d change, more build-up involving more characters, leave Carly out of it, let this be the inspiration for Jason and Sonny to leave the mob and work for the FBI, involve Drs. Monica, Alan and Tony, and head nurses Bobbie and Audrey, the original GH core, instead of throwing newcomer Dr. Disco Doogie, Steven Webber in there to make his dire pronouncements with a goofy grin on his face...
But hey, at least the writers are TRYING for a more human-interest, emotionally-based storyline that brings out the best dramatic chops...
...even if they sometimes go overboard and try to show too much.
I just wanted to say how much I loved the GH section of your latest column [week of Nov. 8, 2004]. I've been in awe of Nancy Lee Grahn's performances lately, and I love how you analyzed the situation.
Also, thank you for addressing the arguments on the soap boards - it's getting vicious out there!
I must concur completely: We need more mythological themes of good and evil in the media [“Good Riddance,” week of Nov. 8].
One of the problems with the entire, wholesome, American notion of being the "good guy" is the inherent fear of the dark side, something that we all possess and should willingly be ready to embrace everyday. The whole Judeo/Christian motif of our country forces entire communities to shun this contrast--we all want to be good all the time! That's insanity!
The truly great heroes of mythology and literature are always flawed as we are. Why else would the authors of such great works as varied as *The Odyssey* or the Batman "Dark Knight" series create these complex and tortured protagonists?
Even Agent Mulder was addicted to porn. "Embrace your doppelganger" is my daily cry.
[CBW: As promised and because I forgot the correct name of last week’s letter writer – hey, I got her right in the first mention! – below is her follow-up, a review of soaps LISA watches.]
Hi Carol, Thanks for putting my letter into your Channeling article. I am sure there are many disgruntled fans out there that have switched to ATWT like myself and can agree with a couple of my statements.
Sorry for not getting back to you right away, I was waiting for this big Kristina reveal on GH before I wrote back. I must say I haven't liked Jason until I saw him holding the baby and crying at Sam's bedside - WOW!!! Sam has also gave a great performance too when she learned she lost the baby. They are my new favorite couple on GH (hopefully TPTB won't mess things up with them!).
But the thing is, what is next? From what I have gathered around the net is that GH will be the Sonny Show even moreso after this. Plus more newbies will be coming that we won't care about and what about GH vet's like Alan, Monica, Bobbie, Mac, Felicia...? And the big one is that John Durant will be leaving by May, which I think, is a crime as he has been one of the best new characters to come to GH in a very long time! (I think Skye or Dillon were the last.)
So with that, I think I will be taking a little break from GH and completely switch to ATWT who again has hired another great GH actor Kin Shriner (ex-Scotty)!!! GH has lost touch with its audience and ATWT has picked up on that and benefited from it greatly (Sarah Brown, ex-Carly for example).
As for AMC and OLTL, well same again - what's next? Hopefully AMC finishes off this stupid baby-switch storyline and goes into a completely different direction for the show. It seems to have stagnated for way too long on the Cambias and baby stories. I say give Adam and Brooke front burner material and throw Mary into the mix and there you go - big story that everyone will like.
I must also say JR has grown on me and I personally think he needs to explore the Dixie-side of him more and maybe find himself a new girl who won't shag his brother Jamie. Babe is ok but definitely needs to pay for her crimes, then maybe I will warm up to her a little. And Krystal is definitely not the next Dixie in my books. I would personally like to see Krystal off my screen for good - the sooner the better!!!
OLTL has not been good for a while but I hope that the new head writer will be able to pull off something fantastic and bring back the great family-based stories and characters we know and love. Although I am not too sure about Jessica becoming the next Viki? Maybe if it were Erin Torpey but not Bree Williamson.
Well overall, I am just keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that my soaps will learn from their mistakes (especially you GH!) and be a LOT better in the coming months. Well sorry for rambling a bit, I'm a disgruntled soap fan here!
Thanks again Carol!