Our First Soap Opera Digest Column!
Hopefully you've already seen it in the issue that arrived in your mailbox or that you bought at the newsstand, but if not, here's our first Soap Opera Digest column! (text after the cut)
New Feature: We’ve got an office full of experts on every show, from ALL MY CHILDREN to YOUNG AND RESTLESS. But we know we’re not the only people with strong opinions about soaps, so when a pair of witty, insightful blogs caught our eye, we thought, the more the merrier! Introducing our two newest columnists . . .
By Becca Thomas
There are many things in the world that I don’t understand: the popularity of professional wrestling, the resurgence of gaucho pants and trigonometry to name just a few. But GENERAL HOSPITAL prompts more questions for me than all the world’s conflicts and pop culture trends combined. And the powers-that-be can only distract me for so long with the increasing number of hot men in Port Charles before I demand answers! Well, that’s not really true, both because as a longtime soap viewer I’ve developed an extremely high tolerance for unanswered questions and because ... have you seen how many cute guys are on this show right now? Pondering such hotness takes time. (Perhaps this is a good time to mention that I am a co-founder of SASS, the Society for the Appreciation of Shallow Stuff. The meetings are, of course, super fabulous.)
While I am distracted, it would be really great if the writers could consider answering some of my basic questions:
1) Where are the core families? Maybe it’s just because I grew up watching DAYS OF OUR LIVES at its 1980s best, but I thought good soaps revolved around a few core families. They provide history, dimension and endless possibilities for new characters and storylines. And GH has great families to spare: the Hardys, Spencers, Scorpios, Cassadines and Quartermaines just to start the list. So why do they all take a backseat to the myriad mob tales? Why isn’t there at least some balance between the families and the Families?
2) Why are mobsters the good guys? A great soap needs a few good villains. You have your good guys and you have your bad guys. The villains should have layers and redeeming qualities, but they can’t be the good guys. Mobsters, for example, can be an interesting part of major storylines; GH’s own history is a testament to that. But mobsters aren’t heroic. The “jobs” of the men that are held up as the heroes and moral center of your show cannot involve killing people for money! If you had told my 1987 DAYS watching, supercouple-loving self that about 20 years later I’d be tuning in to a soap to watch a romantic lead emotionlessly put a woman on a tarp to show how he’ll catch the blood spatter when he executes her, I would have said you were “Like, oh my God, so crazy!” (I really would have. I was, like, annoying.)
3) Why is the fashion so bad? Soaps are about pretty people! Why dress them in terrible clothes? Every time Laura Wright is forced to parade around in one of Carly’s hideous tops, or Kirsten Storms as Maxie looks like a PROJECT RUNWAY challenge gone awry, or they foist some dowdy ensemble on the super fierce and fabulous Jane Elliot as Tracy, a tiny bit of my fashion soul dies. GH hasn’t quite gotten as bad as the big blur of polyester, suntan pantyhouse and comfort pumps that made up the late 80s on DAYS, but if there’s one thing every American should agree on, it’s that we won’t let the fashion bar drop that low ever again.
What it all comes down to is: Why isn’t GH better? Great cast, fantastic history, devoted fans, decent time slot. Yet it’s not good, and sometimes it is offensively bad. Being bad for no good reason is the least understandable thing of all.
My Take, Too
By Mallory Harlen
I love soap operas. I always have, I always will, unless one of them names an unspeakably awful character after me (and even then, I’d probably be secretly pleased about it). But, as I’ve learned from soaps themselves, epic love doesn’t come easy. On any given day, I’ll be giddy (“Patrick and Robin are too cute!”), frustrated (“How can Jonathan Lavery live in the home of a man he killed without dying of shame?”), enthralled (“Jess Walton is genetically incapable of being anything but brilliant!”) and enraged (“They fired Stuart Damon just to bring him back as a sassy apparition in a track suit?!”).
YOUNG AND RESTLESS will do something I adore, like pairing Sharon Newman and Jack Abbott (out of left field, but much cuter than it has any right to be). And then they’ll do something boneheaded like make Brad the show’s new centerpiece. Guys, Brad spent two decades as a supporting character for a reason: He’s lame. No amount of secret pasts or using his thighs as deadly weapons will make me care.
The good folks at GENERAL HOSPITAL will entertain me with the wonderful Maxie/Lulu rivalry and, in the same breath, rewrite and ignore history. Jerry Jacks is now evil, British and blond? Okay! Nikolas is totally content attending the wedding of the couple who kidnapped his child? Sure! You can’t even keep up on who Sam really is; her past seems to change by the minute. Tomorrow, we could find out that she’s actually a nuclear physicist from Guam. What? Exactly.
DAYS OF OUR LIVES can’t be accused of ignoring its history; all they do is re-enact scenes from the past. If you didn’t see them in 1999, 2001 and 2004, now’s your chance! Did you like when Steve and Kayla were reunited last summer, except not really, due to his memory loss? You’re in luck — you can watch them continue to be separated due to his brainwashing. It’s almost frustrating enough to make you overlook the fact that James Scott as EJ has brought a much-needed spark into Salem. Almost. He’s brilliant and he makes the show for me.
ALL MY CHILDREN is the rockiest one of all. It ... actually doesn’t have anything I enjoy. It’s like watching a soap through a fun house mirror. The grand romance is the chemistry-free engagement of Ryan (rage machine who once tried to punch his pregnant wife) and Annie (the person with no personality for me to describe). The great heroine? Krystal, convicted baby-stealer, who lied AGAIN about the paternity of a child (third time in as many years, if you’re keeping track) because it suited her needs at the time. And by “needs” I mean “insatiable appetite for money.” An unaborted fetus roams about town. And Erica dresses like a teenager on her way to a beach party. It’s very confusing.
For more, check out http://serialdrama.typepad.com.