Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
Well, "latest" is relative, apparently. Belatedly, below is our column from the August 19, 2008 edition of Soap Opera Digest. Becca wishes she could trade her current shows for the ones she watched 20 years ago, while Mallory wishes to swap the "heroes" on AMC, GH and Y&R for characters who are, you know, actually interesting.
By Becca Thomas
I recently found several videotapes of the NBC soaps I watched in junior high and high school. And instead of just putting them back in the box of random nostalgic items and doing something productive with my time, I of course pulled my VCR out of storage and watched each and every one of the old episodes. Soaps were such fun back in their heyday: Supercouples! Improbable but entertaining adventures! Evil yet redeemable villains! Bangs that inspired me to spend hours in front of the mirror with hairspray! Clothes with so many sequins that you should wear sunglasses while watching!
Late-80s and early-90s episodes of DAYS OF OUR LIVES, and virtually every episode of the fantastic SANTA BARBARA and ANOTHER WORLD, made me all that much more disappointed in my current shows. DAYS has such potential but it lacks the great couples it used to have a surplus of. These days, we’re lucky to get one such couple in any given installment of DAYS, and most likely it’s one of those I was intrigued by 20 years ago.
Chelsea and Daniel? Ew. This couple has never worked and has no chance of working in the future, thanks to absolutely zero soapy build-up and horrible writing of the new character of Daniel. (Though I still think Shawn Christian is gorgeous and seems like he could be a great addition to the cast, if his character were just more appealing.) As for the latest “twist” of Daniel sleeping with Chelsea’s grandma Kate, I don’t know or like him well enough to find this revelation anything other than dirtbag-ish. Plus, DAYS should not provide another reminder of how stupid it was to let Julie Pinson go by giving yet another storyline that was perfect for Billie to someone else, let alone her mother. Max and Stephanie are on less often and are more appealing than Daniel and Chelsea (that’s damning with faint praise; Max and Stephanie are actually quite cute), but they’re not exactly setting the world on fire with exciting storylines. Then there’s the Morgan/Phillip/Chloe story, which…sorry, I dozed off. It takes a lot for me to find something in which Jay Kenneth Johnson is front-and-center to be boring, so I guess what I can say about this triangle is that it has “a lot.”
GENERAL HOSPITAL is doing no better in the couples category. Robin and Patrick are still occasionally adorable, but I am considering sending assorted calendars to forcibly remind the writers that it is no longer 2007 and therefore, perhaps these two should have a new conversation. Lulu and Johnny bore me to distraction, despite the fact that I like both the actors. I have no use for Spinelli with anyone, let alone the awesome Maxie, until they start writing him like an actual human being instead of a caricature. And don’t get me started on how pairing Alexis with psychopath Jerry – without any effort to redeem him – is ridiculous, or about how much I don’t want Sonny and Carly version 65.
Phew, that was a bit of a rant. I need to go watch DAYS’ Cruise of Deception and calm down.
My Take, Too
By Mallory Harlen
What do Rick Hearst (Ric, GH), David Canary (Adam, AMC), and Peter Bergman (Jack, Y&R) have in common? If you guessed “they’re far too good for the storylines they have right now,” you’d be correct, but another common thread: the characters they play are complicated, layered, and, above all, riveting. You may not always like what Ric, Adam and Jack do, but you want to watch them do it, which is more than I can say for the “heroes” they share the screen with.
If Ric, Adam and Jack’s unpredictability is what makes them so entertaining, the “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” approach to storytelling the writers take when it comes to Jason Morgan (GH), Ryan Lavery (AMC) and Victor Newman (Y&R) is part of what’s causing daytime viewers to tune out in droves. When every story is about these characters being the strongest, most perfect heroes to ever exist, is there really a need to stick around and see how a story ends? You already know that Jason, Ryan and Victor are going to come out on top.
GH’s efforts to shoehorn Jason into every possible storyline to maximize his hero potential are legendary. Just think—when is the last time Port Charles had a catastrophe that didn’t end with Jason storming in and saving the day? When was the last time a character had a problem without running to Jason for counseling? It’s utterly predictable. The counterfeit drugs story going on now has potential to be interesting, since it’s giving Sam and Lucky much needed screentime, but I have a nagging feeling that Jason is going to swoop in and save the day. Where’s the fun in that?
I was never a fan of Ryan’s relationship with Annie on AMC, and I figured that the writers would try to pair him with Greenlee, but I thought they’d do it with a little more finesse. I’d have loved a story about Ryan grappling with love for his wife and a rekindled love for Greenlee. Since the writers apparently can’t bear to have their golden boy exhibit any shades of grey, it led to not one, but two hackneyed ways for Ryan to get out of his marriage. The convenient amnesia that left Annie a virtual stranger was bad enough, and just in case viewers didn’t buy it, they turned Annie into an insane, obsessive harridan. That’s just lazy writing, and all the more disappointing since I feel like Cameron Mathison could do a great job bringing some darkness to the character.
I may not trust people like Ric, Adam and Jack if I knew them, but I’d much rather watch them than the perfect characters they share the screen with.