Our August Soap Opera Digest Column
We hope that you all managed to check out the 8/21 issue of Soap Opera Digest via a subscription, or rifling through it in line at the grocery store, if only for the small picture of James Scott enjoying a vacation in Vietnam and Cambodia that appears on page 74. In our My Take/My Take, Too column appearing in that issue, we tackled some of our favorite targets: Days of Our Lives, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless.
Becca did the time warp again as she wondered why GH is so insistent upon living in the past and she praised Days for its mid-summer fabulosity. The rapid downturn of the show's quality coinciding with the publication of our column embarrassed her greatly and she's currently on the lam, living under an assumed name. Mallory imagined a nefarious plot between the GH and Y&R writing staffs to introduce and forget as many plot points as possible over the course of a year. She is also far, far too thrilled about the tiny Jason Gerhardt photo that appears on her page.
By Becca Thomas
When I became a Semi-Professional Soap Complainer last year (I had maintained amateur whiner status, but the draw of sneaker deals and role-model status was too powerful), it wasn’t challenging to mock my two soaps. There was DAYS OF OUR LIVES, which was pretty terrible. Among other things, single conversations that went on for weeks and coma-inducing “romances” were quickly draining my will to live. Plus, we weren’t too far removed from an island of undead people and a talking dog. And GENERAL HOSPITAL, which in general has more realistic, less campy storytelling, was – as has been the case for years – woefully lacking in hospital-related stories (the title is so misleading!), and packed with tales of mobsters who are heroic and brave, plus smarter and more interesting than all those doctors, cops, lawyers, spies, and other people who apparently inhabit Port Charles, too.
It’s about a year later, and both shows seem to be employing an “everything old is new again” strategy, with different results. DAYS has smashingly resurrected and updated classic characters, rivalries, and supercouples, while GENERAL HOSPITAL has apparently decided to tell the same stories from the past few years again, hoping for a more interesting result.
The players haven’t even changed in most of GH’s recycled plots. Jason gets arrested for murder, again. Carly makes Jason’s troubles all about her, again. Sonny and Carly bicker and flirt, again. Jax left town and Carly’s peeved, again. There’s a new woman in town who is falling for Sonny, again. (Kudos to Megan Ward and the writing for Kate, though, because I adore the character.) Luke’s out of town for a long time, doing…something, again. (The twist this time is that he’s with the broomstick and a wig they’re trying to pass off as Laura.) Alexis is mostly relegated to participating in the occasional, riddled-with-factual-errors courtroom scene, again. And longtime characters have little of interest to do, again. The destruction of the once-interesting characters of Sam McCall and Lucky Spencer is new, so…congrats on that bit of originality, I suppose?
In contrast, DAYS is now mostly fabulous. But since I am a Semi-Professional Soap Complainer and therefore see the glass not as half-full, but as half-empty with a tacky pattern and detergent spots, I’ll mention my main beef: the early 20s set. It seems detached from the rest of the canvas, and involves uninteresting romances (Belle and Shawn), stupid jobs (an airline that flies only between Salem and Vegas, seriously?), and dimensionless newcomers (Jeremy “Horton” -- in quotes because I will need much more convincing that this jerk is the child of Mike Horton). Salem needs new young faces that aren’t Bradys or Hortons, especially to avoid any more cousin -- or niece -- dating. I’m not sure who implemented the “They’re adopted so it’s totally fine!” rule, but I say we retire it.
However, the rest of DAYS is great. The return of the DiMeras has energized the whole show, and the cast integration happening around the Brady/DiMera feud is awesome. The actors seem to be having a blast, which is fun to watch. The writing is largely fast-paced without feeling rushed, and some of it is even intentionally funny! Good, intentional comedy on DAYS. What’s next, a week without a shoot-out on GH? I might have to adjust my entire world view.
My Take, Too
By Mallory Harlen
The second greatest thing about soap operas (the greatest being the awesome names. Greenlee Smythe? Antoinette "Skye" Chandler Quartermaine? Ridge Forrester?! Amazing!) is the fact that, due to the nature of the genre, storylines can span weeks, months or even years before they end. It's completely frustrating when you're watching and you feel like it's never going to happen, but when the story is finally resolved, the emotional payoff is unbelievable.
Unfortunately, it seems like soaps are moving away from that form of storytelling. GENERAL HOSPITAL and YOUNG AND RESTLESS have been wrapping storylines up so quickly that it's almost like they're producing standalone episodes. If I were a total conspiracy theorist, I'd think that their writing staffs have a bet on who can introduce the most storylines over the course of a year. Winner gets prime seating at next year’s Emmys!
If there is such a bet, YOUNG AND RESTLESS is the winner. Plots are routinely introduced and then never mentioned again. Remember Cane's shady "I'm in" call to his uncle? How about David Chow gaslighting Dru with Carmen's identical cousin? They were hinted at and forgotten so quickly that I wonder if the writers got distracted by something shiny. Nick was presumed dead and then stuck in the wilderness for a little while, and then he's reunited with his family and back to work after a handful of episodes. (I don't know why he's gunning so hard for Employee of the Month; he is the CEO of the company!) I wanted to see more of Nick coming to grips with how much his life has changed. Or maybe the repercussions of Victor leaving town right after the plane crash. (And how harsh was that? "You lost your only son, but I actually have another son, so I'm going to go find him while you grieve. I'll try to write!") The fallout from this should last for months, not minutes.
GH is no better. Logan Hayes was revealed to be Scott Baldwin's son in about thirty seconds. I know I shouldn't be surprised, since the show doesn't seem to think of Scott at all unless the script calls for someone smarmy to say something funny and/or mean (anything more would take too much time away from scenes in which Jason is right about something), let alone the ramifications of having a long-lost son, but I was disappointed all the same. They hit the casting jackpot with Josh Duhon, who looks uncannily like Kin Shriner and has the ability to share a scene with stellar actors and not get overshadowed. The story started and ended far too quickly. Similarly, Cooper started off with a great introduction, but the writers haven't gotten around to giving him any sort of depth. How is Maxie’s dreamboat boyfriend the same person who participated in the crisis at the Metro Court? What ever became of the girlfriend he claimed to have become a mercenary for? When are we going to find out how he’s related to Brenda? I have too many questions and no faith that they will ever be answered. It's hard to care about something when it's obvious that the writers don't.