The Fool On The Hill
Some things are so easily parodied that one does a double take when they read, or see, something that is straight from the source and not a hilarious send-up of the source's most mockable qualities.
Like, I just read Twilight1 and when I got to the parts where vampires sparkle in the sun and are also gifted at baseball, I called my Twilight reading friend immediately and screeched, "I thought you were making that up!" ("Why would I make that up? HOW would I make that up?" "I DON'T KNOW, BUT IT WAS THE EASIEST EXPLANATION!") Like, I know that the book has some ridiculous moments, but I honestly figured that the sparkly baseball stuff was some elaborate, fandom wide inside joke, but the joke, it turns out, was on me.
The same thing happened with the comments Brian Frons made to The Wall Street Journal (big thanks to Kimber and Lucille for passing the interview along!). When I first saw a quote, I giggled gleefully at the uncanny lampooning of Frons and his tendency to be arrogant and dimwitted at the same time. Until I realized that it wasn't lampooning him at all, because the arrogant and dimwitted words were all his. And then the giggles turned to tears as I realized, yet again, that he is a high-powered network executive and I am, in the words of a disgruntled reader, "some chick with a blog".
WSJ: Is there much industry nostalgia for the legacy of “Guiding Light”?
Frons: It was actually my first creative executive job, from 1979 to 1983. That was a great time for soaps. This was when the Rider case was in the news, one of the first times a woman sued her husband for rape, and we introduced a story to touch upon that. Television is a today business. From an ad sales perspective, “Guiding Light” hasn’t won the 18-49 women since 1991.
Really? It was a "great time for soaps" because real life circumstances at that time let them do a story about rape? That is his touchstone golden soap moment? The man is warped.
What happened in 1991?
Frons: That’s just as far back as our records go. But if I told you we had a primetime show that hadn’t won its slot in 18 years, you’d ask why it’s still on the air.
Yes, I probably would ask that question, but I'm the naturally inquisitive type who is always asking questions. Right now, the biggest question on my mind is how, after showing no aptitude at your job and causing your shows to hemorraghe viewers, do you still have a job?
So it’s not a big deal that “Guiding Light” is ending?
Frons: We’ve gotten used to soaps lasting so many years, the death of one takes on all this drama. But “Guiding Light” has been a poor performer for many many years.
Hear that, people who have watched Guiding Light for decades, and are sad that a show you may have grown up with is ending? You are being a bunch of drama llamas, and Brian Frons has had enough, especially because your show was a poor performer for many many years. As opposed to the shows Frons currently oversees, which have been poor performers for merely many years.
What about personally for you? It’s kind of like your old high school being demolished, no?
Frons: No. It’s taking a patient off life support, not a sudden tragic death in the family or anything.
The Wall Street Journal interviewer gave him an out here, in an attempt to steer him in the direction of not being a callous dick, and he completely ignored it. Like, why take the opportunity to be tactful when you can instead make a snide remark?
Frons: I was sadder when I heard about production changes, lots of technical behind-the-scenes stuff that starts to affect talent and quality.
REMINDER: This is NOT a parody. This is a REAL quote from an obviously unhinged man who is allowed to walk the streets without supervision AND gets compensated handsomely for being terrible at what he does for a living.
There are so many snarky jokes to make about Brian "I ineptly meddle with things I have absolutely no reason to be a part of, just because I can and, if we're being honest, I get my jollies from watching things fall apart" Frons expressing sadness that behind-the-scenes changes impacted the talent and quality of a show. I thought of at least ten immediately and simultaneously, and it short-circuited by brain, leaving me only with the weak, "That's like Mrs. Voorhees judging someone else's mothering skills".
Primetime soaps are huge, telenovelas are huge, so what’s going on with daytime soaps that they’re hurting badly enough that they start dying off?
There’s a mentality in network culture that fears change in programming. When we expanded everything into hourlong time slots — except “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which is half-hour — we had this great system that flowed really well from one to another. It wasn’t broken up by game shows or talk shows. And, really, it worked so well for so long that people just didn’t want to change it. I mean, why would you?
So what do you do now?
Change is good. You have to remember that “General Hospital” didn’t do well for 10 years until they started adding new characters. And those, of course, were Luke and Laura.
Change IS good, which is why I think we'd all gladly welcome a change in the writing and production staffs of All My Children and General Hospital. Am I right, folks? High five!
Further, nobody is denying the greatness of Luke and Laura, but when you have to go back to the late 70s in order to find a change that one of your shows implemented for the better, there is a serious problem. I know that the interview wouldn't have ended on a high note if he spoke the truth and said, "There was that time that we...oh, right, viewers ran away screaming when we did that" or "Well, just recently we brought on Charles Pratt and...um, nevermind", or "How about the time I suggested...nope, we almost got a class action lawsuit because of that one on the grounds of severe emotional distress", but come on!
1I know that you are all judging me (either because it has taken me this long to read it, or that I have read it at all) but I am taking a YA Lit class in the fall and it is one of the required SciFi/Fantasy books, along with The Hunger Games, which is awesome.