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The latest issue of Soap Opera Digest is on newsstands now, and features several interesting pieces, from the Sam/Jason cover story (The cover reads "Fans won't be disappointed!" We...seriously doubt that), to an article on AMC's move and an interview with Bryton James (Devon, Y&R) about his friendship with Michael Jackson, as well as our latest My Take/My Take, Too column. This month, Mallory appreciates that General Hospital and All My Children at least tried to be creative with their latest front burner romances, but is so unhappy with the Spinelli/Maxie, and Adam/Annie pairings that she wishes they hadn't bothered, while Becca asks the GH and Days of Our Lives writers two questions: (1) what's with all of the miscarriages and pregnant women in peril? and (2) why do you find these things entertaining?
The economic recession has hit the soap world. Major stars are being fired or forced to take pay cuts, sets are being consolidated and now, in what appears to be the latest cost-cutting measure, soaps are even sharing storylines. Right? Both ALL MY CHILDREN and GENERAL HOSPITAL have simultaneously introduced twin sisters of now-dead characters who were sold at birth. I have to assume that the writers went to the Soap Opera Cliche Factory and decided to split the cost of the cheapest one available.
Krystal Carey selling one of her children at birth is not at all surprising to me; after all, she uses every child she comes into contact with as currency. The woman sees babies as meal tickets, not tiny humans. What IS surprising is that AMC felt we needed a replacement Babe on canvas so quickly. I was downright gleeful when she was written off the show, though my joy was short-lived, as she was eulogized on a daily basis for moths afterward. I'm reasonably sure that if you added up all of the times the show mentioned her, she'd still probably have the highest episode count of all AMC characters. The writers have decided to compound this Babe overload by introducing her twin. And having every conversation about her twin mention Babe in some way. And set up a romance between her twin and JR, Babe's ex-husband. The only thing saving this story so far is the introduction of Brittany Allen (Marissa), a fantastic actress who has great chemistry with virtually every character in Pine Valley. And Marissa is markedly less awful than her sister, although she does share Babe's self-righteous streak: I can't help but be annoyed when she lectures people about their hatred of David. Sure, parental devotion is nice and all, but maybe she should check out dear old dad's criminal rap sheet before she starts defending him.
Our latest My Take/My Take, Too column is in the newest issue of Soap Opera Digest, which is on newsstands now. Mallory questions the wisdom in two ABC soaps featuring the same "A popular character died. Don't despair, though: her unknown twin, who was sold at birth, is now in town romancing her love interest!" story at the same time. Her biggest query, as ever, is...how does anyone, anywhere, find this entertaining? Meanwhile, Becca worries that Days of Our Lives and its penchant for slow-moving stories and poorly paced romances will botch the returns of the ever-awesome Wally Kurth and Crystal Chappell.
I am not anti-villain. I love a soapy bad guy or girl. I have adored DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ Victor Kiriakis and his malevolent deeds since acid-washed jeans were popular the first time around. And one of Victor’s worst enemies, Stefano DiMera? Who doesn’t root for him, at least a little bit, every time he comes back from the dead to wreak havoc? Then there’s GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Helena Cassadine, who is a kidnapper, brainwasher, and murderer many times over. Yet I love her! I could go on for pages with examples of my solidly pro-villain stance. And I also understand that even good guys have to have some villainous qualities now and then, to keep things interesting. But lately with Luke Spencer, GENERAL HOSPITAL has replaced what was a layered and interesting sometime villain with an unrepentant jerk who has lost all rootability in my eyes.
During many dark days, when watching and entire episode of ALL MY CHILDREN and GENERAL HOSPITAL was physically painful (that sounds like a melodramatic thing to say, but I swear that those shows caused some killer headaches), I said to myself, "At least I have Zach/Kendall and Patrick/Robin. They could never disappoint me."
I suppose it's my fault for putting that out into the universe, because the writers seized upon that like a dare. "You'd think that, wouldn't you? But you'd be so very wrong." It's gotten so bad that I involuntarily shudder when I see either of those couples mentioned in the episode description on my DVR.
Zach and Kendall imploding, again, after some random, ridiculous threat to their marriage is worse this time than it usually is, and since I've spilled a lot of ink complaining about how bad it usually is, this is saying something. Zach, put off by the fact that his wife wasn't her usual self after coming out of a coma during which Zach fathered a child with her sister, and killed her brother, seemed to resent being in the same room as Kendall. Kendall, for her part, fell headfirst into one of her Ryan obsessions and became a curly-haired bundle of neuroses and desperate declarations of love. Throw in Zach and Liza's sleazy dalliance and you have a recipe for viewers tuning out. Charles Pratt seems to have an understanding of some Pine Valley residents--his writing for Adam and Erica is truly inspired and, unlike his predecessors, he's giving Aidan actual storylines, which is nice to see, but his writing for Zach and Kendall is bizarre. Why he decided that these hugely popular characters just weren't cutting it and needed to be rewritten is completely beyond me.
The latest issue of Soap Opera Digest is on newsstands now and features our latest My Take/My Take, Too column. This month, Mallory recalls the pain of two of her favorite couples in all of soapdom being ruined by All My Children and General Hospital because of the writers' ineptitude, while Becca compliments GH and Days (for real!) for their expert character rehabilitation and is grateful that Sam McCall and Sami Brady are watchable again.
Also in this issue: a summer preview, interviews with David Canary and Julia Barr, a retrospective of Stuart Chandler's history in Pine Valley and an amusing look at soap characters born in May, made all the more hilarious that AMC's Amanda and Colby, and Y&R's Adam were born in 1992, 1999, and 1995, respectively. Oh, SORAS, you crazy devil.
SOD editor's note: This month, we asked the My Take columnists to watch shows they normally don't. Here's what they had to say.
My Take By Mallory Harlen
GUIDING LIGHT has been broadcast for more than seventy years, and it has a great cast—a great cast that it actually utilizes. Imagine that!—and yet all I could focus on at the beginning of my experiment watching it were the horrible production values. The cheap-looking sets, random outdoor scenes and handheld cameras look, at best, like a public access channel and at worst, like home videos filmed by a toddler with a shaky hand.
Once I got over that, and the accompanying motion sickness, I was impressed by the much-buzzed-about Natalia/Olivia relationship. Part of it is a love of all things Crystal Chappell-related, sure, but I also think it’s well-written and realistic. I also found myself really enjoying Shayne and Dinah. Something about the tried and true “two damaged people bond over being damaged” trope works when strong actors are involved. And Jeff Branson, in a handful of scenes, already got better writing here than he did on ALL MY CHILDREN.
The rest of the show is sort of all over the place. The pacing is a mess; so long was spent dramatically gearing up for Philip’s trial and talking about Philip’s trial and then the trial lasts a whopping eight minutes? O…kay. Mallet and Marina bring new meaning to the word “boring” and the less said about Reva’s pregnancy, the better. Kim Zimmer is certainly a force of nature (that’s diplomatic, right?), but the story is so poorly written.
Our latest My Take/My Take, Too column is on newsstands now, and this time around, our editors asked us to do something a little different and take a look at the rest of the soap world. Probably on the off chance we could find uniformly nice things to say about a show. Aren't they cute?
Anyway, Mallory tried out The Bold & The Beautiful and Guiding Light, while Becca watched As The World Turns and One Life To Live. Did we gawk in horror at the production values on the Procter and Gamble soaps? Did Mallory find B&B cheesy yet perfect for short attention spans? Will Becca incense internet-dwellers worldwide by not nominating the OLTL writers for sainthood? Are we capable of being anything other than overly critical and unduly bitchy? The answers to all these questions should be clear, but check out the column anyway, please?
So make sure to pick up a copy of SOD to see our verdicts, and check back over the next couple of weeks for some Soaps We Don't Watch recaps here on the blog.
I can't make it through a full episode of AMC without hearing a crazy line of dialogue or seeing an offensive plot twist. Actually, that's being generous; there are some days when I can't make it through a full minute without bad dialogue and plot twists. My respect for the tremendously talented cast grows every day because I'm quite impressed that they manage to film their scenes without laughing or breaking the fourth wall and apologizing to the audience.
The biggest problem of late has been forsaking the show's history to facilitate quick plot twists. Zach fathering Gabrielle behind Kendall's back has generated a lot of discussion amongst AMC fans, but for all the wrong reasons: It was another insane obstacle for the already-tortured Zach/Kendall pairing, and the list of obstacles they have already faced is long enough to defy reason. It ruined Kendall and Bianca's deep bond, which was one of the most fascinating relationships on any soap. Remember their bonding over Miranda, and Kendall sacrificing herself for her sister? And on top of all that, it was just...creepy. Remind me again why Bianca was so desperate to have another Cam bias baby. She is aware that the family's gene pool includes a rapist and serial murderer, right?
Be sure to check out the March 31st issue of Soap Opera Digest, on newsstands today, as it features our latest My Take/My Take, Too column. This month, Mallory wonders how All My Children can get so much so wrong and counts her blessings that The Young and the Restless is around to ease her soap-related pain with its awesomeness. Becca updates her "Things Days Of Our Lives and General Hospital Cannot Do" list and adds, "write off characters in believably and/or soapy ways".